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Young, educated, and choosing to become farmers

Mamata Pokharel's picture

As part of the upcoming World Bank Open Forum on the food crisis, we have been asking everyone for ideas on how to put food first for the almost 1 billion people who go to bed hungry today.

A lot of the solutions offered center around increasing agriculture productivity, improving distribution networks, and making sure we don’t waste food.

But one of the ideas on the World Bank facebook page made me pause. Julius Ayi wrote: “I believe governments must also encourage youth to work in agriculture.”

Now that is hardly something you hear every day. Taking up farming as a profession has rarely captured the imaginations of upwardly mobile young people whose dreams and search for opportunities takes them to mostly white-collar professions, mainly in cities.

In fact, I don’t think I have ever heard any of my peers aspire to farming, except when they are feeling exceptionally frustrated. 

Which is why the story of two young “urban mushroom farmers” from Berkeley, California is so surprising. Alejandro and Nikhil graduated from university with business degrees, and went on to grow gourmet mushrooms on recycled coffee grounds. You can hear them talk about their journey here.

While they are accidental farmers, they met quick success, innovating with new products such as grow-your-own mushroom kits and figuring new ways to use the waste generated in their farming process. Their story shows how young ideas can help reshape something as old as agriculture - making it not only profitable, but also cool.

With food security as big a problem as it is today, does agriculture deserve more of our youthful energies and innovation? Do you have a story of  young people taking up farming as a profession, by choice? What kind of incentives would make it worth their while? Do share...

Photo: Back to the Roots Ventures


Submitted by CTA Ardyis Programme on
Thank you for this article. It's encouraging to read that perspective from young people. We are running a youth programme that also contribute to improving opportunities for youth in agriculture and ICT at CTA (Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU). The initiative is called ARDYIS (Agriculture, Rural Development and Youth in the Information Society). We have just added your blog post on our website and inserted the poll on our facebook page You may be interested in reading and sharing this "call for stronger support for youth involvement in agriculture and ICT" that several youth launched recently at the end of an activity we organized. Check here - Best regards - KL

Submitted by Anonymous on
to overcome the food crisis going on, their is no any immediate solution with us, so we built long term planning for it, one way can be involving the youth in this sector by providing them the skills and oppurtunity for commercial farming. people can be asked initiate their idea by supporting in this sector , as in long term it can be very effecctive..

Submitted by Ganesh Kumar shrestha on
To be a farmer is very low status among the educated youth.But this article inspire the young people to think about food production & security for future of world population.We are also supporting the youth who want to become a successful farmer with knowledge & skill of technical ideas.Junior Technical Assistant (JTA) course being run for youth and encouraging them to become a commercial farmer instead of traditional way.This is a appreciative article.

Submitted by Anonymous on
I believe that most young adults strive for independence and although it may not be as financially rewarding as other opportunities, agriculture is a career that is mentally and physically rewarding, especially in terms of independence. While we learn to rely upon ourselves through time management, hard work and perseverance, we also lose our dependence on other parts of society that we forget we are tied to. Agriculture is a dying skill and it is important for young people to learn from the experts in this field before they are gone, or replaced with gmo technology.

Submitted by Purvi Vyas on
Dear Mamta, I agree with your Article that there is very little incentive for young people to become farmers. Even farmers children(in rural areas where they have no other options) do not want to be farmers anymore.. there is no dignity in being a farmer.. its something that uneducated people do - so is most people's perception.. I became a farmer by choice and I have found it the most humbling and rewarding experience of my life.. Have you heard quote " If you have eaten today - thank a farmer!!" Farming is hard work and requires a lot of commitment and is not always very financially rewarding!! However, farmers provide for our basic survival.. if we do not have cars, we can survive .. we can survive without mobile phones.. but without food ..not so A lot of times I think it has to do with the attitude and priority people have towards farming that makes it less attractive and so, if and when, farming and farmers receives due credit for all that they do.. things will change!!

Submitted by Anonymous on
Becoming a first generation farmer is nearly impossibly for young folks. My husband and I are struggling to break ground on our small farm simply because as young people we don't have access to the capital funding for such development. Additionally, even with a Master's in Business I'm not able to generate enough renewable cash flow for our farm to support ourselves meaning that I must continue to work outside the farm. If we truly want to allow young farmer to grow and sustain communities and bring a renewal in the farming traditions and profession then we have to find ways to provide monetary funding for these people. I cannot acquire the capital funds to purchase the land and my plow and ox (let alone tractor) if our lending systems do not allow for it.

Submitted by Dr, Arshad Masood on
I being the President of Johar Foundation Welfare Association started Talent Hunting Campaign to unveil hidden potential of youth in Pakistan. We have provided a formrum where youth can present their creative and innovative ideas and we want to create an research institution to be known JOHAR UNIVERSITY. I invite and request all the youth to send their talent and research work and project. We will arrange event where youth can present their work in front of experts and media. Finally they will be awareded with JOHAR AWARDS.

Submitted by Rogers on
In the developing world, agriculture is the occupation most readily available to all youth. Youth may chose to embrace it or ignore it. To make it a choice, deliberate efforts should be made to pass modern agricultural skills to youth, expose them to how youth elsewhere have applied to same skills for success and provide those interested with the requisite start-up capital. Capital is quiet the challenge. Most youth do not have the collateral security to secure start-up loans as required in most developing economies, and this is where interventions should put emphasis.

Submitted by Arefin Sajan on
Thank you for this article. I am from Bangladesh and about 75% people of our country are involved in agriculture, but they are very poor. So, I want to involved in agriculture for improved cultivation process & which also help to reduce the poverty in my area. But it is a great problem of financing for my investment.

Submitted by jide on
I have practiced both organic and inorganic farming for the past 3 years plus now, i discovered so many wonderful thing in farming that is extra-ordinary, the fact that that there is no enough finance has made me a handicap farmer. please what do upcoming inventors like us do? We really need help to grow.

Submitted by Adrain on
Thanks so much for your cmmoent! I super value your opinion on that.I agree with you completely on your vitamin supplement example.But what does it mean to “create your own inputs?” If I get composted manure from my neighbor, I didn’t create it, but surely that could fall under create your own. I know we run into issues of scale as we go upward from that, but we also gain the benefits of economies of scale.I guess I don’t see why industrial farming necessarily disregards inputs. Certainly in its current form it does. But if the incentives were different? If the demand were different? If nutritional labeling were fundamentally changed to include source-level measurements for produce and other whole foods, and the education system embraced and treated food as being important as it is?I know that those are a lot of hypotheticals, and I am talking about fundamental change of The System, but I feel like we may be throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Industrial farming as it stands now, imo, is evil. And unless that changes, I am a local, small farm girl. But I think we might benefit from looking towards redesigning industrial agriculture in a way that works.I’d be interested in your thoughts on aquaponics – no dirt there, but providing your own inputs, yes?