ISSER and IFPRI hold Roundtable Discussion on Youth, Employment and Agriculture

Panel (l -r):Alhaji Adam Mahama, Dr. William Baah-Boateng, Dr. Paul Dorosh, Prof. Felix Asante, Dr. Nana Akua Anyidoho, Dr. James Thurlow

The Institute of Statistical Social and Economic Research (ISSER) in collaboration with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has held a roundtable discussion on the theme Youth, Employment and Agriculture.

The roundtable discussion which was  held at the ISSER conference centre, gathered experts including academicians, researchers, students, policy makers and civil society to deliberate on how Ghana can realise the prospects of Agriculture. There was special focus on how effectively the sector can serve as a provider of employment to the youth and the conditions under which the youth can embrace agriculture as a livelihood and a profession.

The panel of experts was made up of Dr. William Baah-Boateng, Senior Lecturer, Department of Economics, UG; Dr. Nana Akua Anyidoho, Senior Research Fellow, ISSER, Alhaji Adam Mahama, National Coordinator, Youth in Agriculture Programme; Dr. Paul Dorosh, Director, Development Strategy and Governance Division, IFPRI and Dr. James Thurlow, Senior Research Fellow, IFPRI.

Prof. Felix Asante, Director of ISSER, moderated discussions.

Panel presentations examined critical questions such as: the dynamics of the Ghanaian labour market; the perceptions and aspirations of the youth; how agriculture can provide the kind of lifestyle that usually attracts the youth to urban areas and the effectiveness of public interventions. Global best practices were also considered.

Presentations by the five-member panel were well-researched, and provided for very enlightening discussions –which will be synthesized into useful policy documents. It was clear that the youth-agriculture nexus was confronted with several fundamental challenges which need concerted solutions if agriculture is to become a viable employment alternative for the youth. Four predominant challenges were discussed.

First was people’s perception of agriculture. It was noted that it can hardly be said that people have a lofty or positive perception of agriculture. In addition, the important role of agriculture as a viable business and career option is not always apparent to those outside of agriculture, especially the youth. In view of this, a recommendation was made to re-visit the methods used to present agricultural education to students. Cultivating in the youth an interest in agriculture can ultimately lead to not only a more agriculturally aware society but also a youthful workforce to keep the sector vibrant.

The need for agricultural infrastructure, especially in the rural areas was also emphasized. Any government desirous of a vibrant agricultural sector must be committed to make the requisite infrastructural investments. Such investments should be preceded by research to establish the actual needs of farmers as different farmers at different locations may well have different needs. It should be a strategic and well-coordinated process that will provide solutions to real problems of the value chain.

The third challenge identified was the issue of land. The rate at which arable land is being taken away by other activities including mining and housing was described as frightening. There is the need for hard policy decisions, but also institutions in-charge must sit up and ensure that this phenomenon is reined in.

Contributions on the need for a market system that works, a system that will stimulate demand were articulated. It was noted that if there is a good market system in place, farmers can sell their produce, generate income and be in a better position to invest in their work. Financial institutions, on their part,will be more inclined to fund farming activities – knowing that farmers can pay back loans contracted, the sector will see innovation and brighter prospects. 

A section of participants