Agric ‘cool’: Mahama to Africa’s youth
Former President John Mahama has encouraged young people in Africa to take up agriculture because the occupation can be “cool” and, with support from governments, profitable.
Using his life experience as an example, Mr Mahama told an audience in India on Monday, 22 May that “using the PF model, we hold up successful farmers to their peers and it encouraged them to follow”.
“When we worked on my dad’s farm, on Mondays to Fridays, we were on the farm ploughing, planting, and doing everything. And on Friday evening, we jump in our car and drive to town. We take off our farm clothes, we dress, we wear shoes and trousers and we hit the disco on Friday and Saturday evenings and Sunday we are back to the farm village and Monday we are back on the farm again and the young people in town loved it, and, so, they became interested in agriculture,” the ex-president said.
“Unfortunately, that phase in agriculture in Africa passed because of the Economic Recovery Programme and all that and governments were forced to abandon all subsidies to farmers, and, so, farmers were left on their own. Medium-scale farms collapsed and it was back to peasant farming,” the former Ghanaian leader recounted.
He was delivering a speech on the topic: “Agriculture is Cool: Engaging Africa’s Youth” at the 52nd Annual Meetings of the African Development Bank (AfDB) Group in India on Monday, 22 May.
He noted that there is an increased commitment by African leaders towards expanding agricultural production but there was the need to create an enabling environment for more investments into the sector.
Mr Mahama told the gathering: “There is an increasing commitment by African leaders towards expanding agricultural production and a lot of discussions have taken place in the African Union for a common agricultural development policy. But I believe that from country to country, it depends on the passion of a particular leader for agriculture.
“I do think that investments are going into the agric sector but they must have a multiplier effect on the economy, and what we need to do is to continue creating an enabling environment for investments to come into the sector. Most people who bring foreign investors are looking at the oil and gas sector, they are looking into gold mining because those are areas where the profits are almost immediate once you put in the investment. But agriculture has several challenges that must take governments and the investors to be able to resolve. For instance, land tenure. Just 3000 hectares of land for [Ghana’s Aveyime Rice Project] we dealt with 1700 families. I mean no foreign investor is going to come and go talking to 1700 families to get 3000 hectares of land and that is why there must be a commitment by government to ensure that we create the environment for them to be willing to put their money into agriculture.”