Shiweda encourages youth to take up agriculture

By Aina Raiza Kweyo

DEPUTY Minister of Agriculture, Water, and Forestry Anna Shiweda says youth-related matters cut across sectors and demand sound coordination between sectors such as education, youth ,finance, agriculture, lands and the agriculture bank to enable the ministry to set up the required infrastructure and develop mechanisms to assist in making agriculture more attractive to the youth.

Speaking at the Agri4youth conference, which is aimed at inspiring the future of agriculture in Namibia, Shiweda suggested a way forward. “I would like to propose that a multi-sectoral engagement among these institutions and our international partners that are doing work on youth  programmes in agriculture should be initiated in order to jointly devise strategies and appropriate mechanisms to entice and make agriculture more atrractive to the youth.”

The minister believes in the notion that you cannot develop the youth without the youth.

“I am convinced that you cannot speak about active involvement and participation of young men and women in the development of the agricultural sector in Namibia without engaging the youth. It is imperative for us to solicit and hear their views on how best agriculture could be made more appealing and attractive to them. Therefore I’m delighted to listen to views and suggestions on the role that young people play to uplift the agriculture sector in Namibia, but most importantly to hear suggestions on how the goverment and stakeholders could entice the youth into agriculture for food security and job creation

“As you are aware, agriculture is one of the most important pillars of the economy. In Namibia specifically, seventy percent of the population depends on agriculture for its livelihood in terms of employment ,income and food security, particularly in rural areas. National demographics statistics have it that 66 percent of the 2.6 million Namibian population consists of young people. This implies that the majority of young people depend directly or indirectly on agriculture for their livelihood, ” she said last Friday.

In order for young people to stay on the farm a policy needs to be implementend that encourages and rewards them.

“In this regard there is a need for us to take a holistic policy approach that will allow the youth to explore and tap into the latent business and job opportunities that exist along the entire agricultural value chain. This, I believe, can only be achieved through a participatory policy formulation and implementation process which advocates for and accomodates a strong and active participation of the youth in the policy decison making process,” Shiweda remarked.

Due to urbanisation, many young people have moved from farms to towns in search for greener pastures, thus neglecting their interest in agriculture.

“There is a need for us to reverse this perception and resultant immigration process by, firstly , convincing the youth that agriculture is first of all a business that can be profitable, like any other business and which has the potential to be turned into a high income earning venture and a job creator.

“How do we do it ? Innovation and the application of modern technologies in agriculture, and agricultural mechanisation could be some of the tools that are at our disposal to lure youth into agriculture,” Shiweda explained.

The deputy minister further highlighted that the apparent lack of youth interest in agriculture is a global challenge.

“It is for this reason that different initiatives are being implimented at international, SADC regional and national levels to address this challenge. At a national level in Namibia you will realise that all our high level national policy documents, namely the Constitution, Vision 2030, Harambee Prosperity Plan, National Development Plans and sectoral policies, including the agricultural policy, put empasis on youth upliftment and participation in the development of the economy of our country. I would like to point out that the HPP has dedicated a chapter on youth development and empowerment.”

Shiweda also assured the youth participants that the she had studied their report. “I would like to confirm that I have studied your report focusing on the factors that hamper the participation and interest of the youth in agricultue. As a ministry we will study your report again with objectives of adressing those challenges whose solutions fall within the mandate of the ministry.”