‘Make agriculture attractive to young people’

09Oct 2021
Kenneth Simbaya
The Guardian
‘Make agriculture attractive to young people’

​​​​​​​THE dream of creating a perfect future for youth is completely unrealisable. With that understood, it is completely possible and imperative to equip children with the knowledge, skills, and support necessary to create their world a better place, simply put the future they want.

Hamis Amer Bakari (R) in his pineapples farm in Donge area of Zanzibar recently. He’s with SOS Children's Village Tanzania, Zanzibar Coordinator Juma Shekhe. Photo: Correspondent Kenneth Simbaya

This is what you see and hear when you talk to SOS Children’s Village graduates, mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters. Many youth have passed at SOS Children Village, who spoke to ‘The Guardian’ recently have income generating activities—a clear testimony that they were prepared to create their own future and, better than that of their parents.  

There is no shortage of activities that can make our youth productive and lift them out of poverty, what is in shortage is the right mindset among our youth, and meaningful engagement of youth to chat their best future on the part of decision and policy makers as well as stakeholders.

Despite its potential of absolving the mushrooming backlog of unemployed youth in both Tanzania Mainland and Isles and that is agriculture. 

Children growing up in SOS Children’s Villages in Zanzibar and Mwanza are able to exercise leadership, take ownership of their future and turn around their families’ disadvantaged lives into opportunity to lead better life than that of their parents.

Visit at SOS Children’s Village in Mwanza, Arusha and Zanzibar shows that many youth who are products of SOS Children’s Village are engaged in productive undertakings, some are civil servants, some works in the private sector, others have employed themselves. The Guardian was particularly inspired by Hamis Amer Bakari (25) from Zanzibar and Yusuph Said (25), Renard Benald (21), Hadija Yasini (20), Witness George (19), Albert Athuman (20) and Halima Said (18) from Mwanza, who have ventured into this rarely ventured territory by young people, due to the fact that agriculture is not something appealing to young people as a means of livelihood.

 Asked what motivated him to venture into agriculture, Hamis says: “The skills, and attitudes we are taught at SOS Children’s Village and linkages with other stakeholders done by SOS Children’s Villages are integral to youth development competencies, they help us to question who are we and who do we want to become and hence make the right decisions to create the future we want.”

 “Apart from supporting our education, we are also taught skills that help us to lead healthy life style, prepare us for the world of work and to become active citizens,” says Hamis who is growing pineapples in Donge area of Zanzibar.

In it, the 25-year-old man is expecting to get between 6m/- and 7m/- after harvesting his pineapples in December this year.

Agriculture is a road less travelled to many young people, surprising these SOS Children’s Village products, unanimously agree that agriculture has the potential to employ many youth, but before youth takes agriculture as their livelihood option, the government has to make agriculture appealing to them.  Available plans, policies and strategies need to be known by young people, as well as making sure that young people are meaningfully engaged in designing, implementing and evaluating the interventions.

“Agriculture is the largest employer in Tanzania,” says Yusuph whom together with his five colleagues are engaged in horticulture farming in Mwanza.

“We chose horticulture, because we strongly believe that agriculture is the only immediate means of catalyzing economic growth and employment for young people.”

According to David Mulongo, SOS Children’s Village Tanzania National Director, youth unemployment has long and lasting scarring adverse effect on the society and young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds like the ones SOS Children’s Village takes care of.

 “SOS Children Village, recognizes that unattended youth unemployment and underemployment carry very high social and economic costs and threaten the fabric of our societies, as youth without jobs can easily be manipulated,” Mulongo says.

He adds: “Our young people represent the promise of changing their families and their societies for the better. Yet, there are not enough jobs for young people, thousands and thousands are also not transitioning into decent work and are at the risk of social exclusion.”

He says: “SOS Children’s Village is proud that young people graduating from their villages do not wait for jobs rather than they create jobs for themselves and others as well.”

Investing in youth is investing in the present and future of our societies. A great deal has been learned here at SOS Children’s Village about how to address barriers young people face to transition into the labour market.

While young people at SOS Children Village are free to choose their livelihood options, Mulongo see potential in agriculture.

“As farmers are ageing in Tanzania both Mainland and Isles, fewer young people are going into farming. Surprisingly even farmers are discouraging their children from going into farming, portraying it as a life of poverty and hardship, this has to change.” Mulongo says

He adds that in order to attract young people and avoid letting down champions like Hamis, Yusuph, Hadija, Albert, Witness, Halima and Lenatus who have dared to ventured into this rare chartered venture by today’s youngsters, agriculture will need to be more dynamic and appealing than it is now, and young people will need to view the sector more positively than they do now.

“This is an outcome of upbringing that starts at childhood, a reason of which SOS Children Village Tanzania provides not only education and skills, but education and skills for self-reliance.”

SOS Children’s Village Tanzania according to Mulongo, inculcates a developmental mindset into children something that continues until they graduate or leave the village to start their own lives.  SOS Children’s Village Tanzania ensures that by the time a child leaves the village she or he can be self-reliant.

“We give high priority to education and continuous learning, so as to transform the mindset of the children under our care,” he says.

The Zanzibar Minister of Information, Youth, Culture and Sports, Tabia Maulid Mwita says: “The government has begun giving a greater acknowledgement that if Zanzibar is to have any hope of realizing her development goals including ending poverty, Zanzibar must sustain and intensify its focus on investing in youth to make them productive, given that it is the young people of today who will be the adults of tomorrow.”

She said that her ministry is collaborating with other stakeholders to create enabling environment for youth to thrive and transform their own lives, that of their parents and their communities.

“We are grateful to SOS Children Village Tanzania, for instilling in children a development oriented mindset, especially considering that children under their care are those who have lost parental care or are about to loose parental care,” he says.

For youth in Isles, land remains one of challenges that discourage young people from engaging in the agricultural sector.

Hamis is one the youths in the Indian Ocean Archipelago who have no access to land. But, for him rented a two and half acre farm at 350,000/-, something that allow him to venture into agriculture.

Zanzibar Minister for Agriculture Dr Sudi Nahoda Hassan said that there is a mechanism for land acquisition and accessibility for agriculture investment. All people like Hamis need to do are to start at the local level (shehia/village).