Africa has over the years been looking at ways to make agriculture attractive to its youth. Its farming populations are ageing and the young educated people expected to take over the occupation are dragging their feet due to the lack of necessary resources like land, inputs and technology.
Thanks to a new reality TV show in Africa, the trend is likely to change.
The show, “Don’t Lose the Plot”, which is the first of its kind in Africa and backed by the U.S. government trains young farmers from Kenya and Tanzania by giving them plots to cultivate, with a $10,000 prize for the most productive farmers.
Organisers say the aim of the project is to prove to young people that agriculture can be fun and profitable, and Leah Wangari, a contestant who placed second, could not agree more.
Born and raised in Kenyan capital, Nairobi, the 28-year-old said farming was the last thing she ever thought of doing. She, however, entered the competition after being unsuccessful in efforts to invest in agribusiness while she ran a fashion venture.
“Being in reality TV was like the best feeling ever, like a dream come true for me,” Wangari told the AFP news agency. She said even though friends made fun of her that she would not succeed, she still persevered.
Africa has more than 60 percent of the world’s fertile but uncultivated land and the continent imports $35 billion to $50 billion of food per year, reports the Alliance for the Green Revolution in Africa. The organization believes that empowering the smallholder farmers who produce 80 percent of the food consumed on the continent would bring the desired change.
A report by the African Center for Economic Transformation (ACET) in 2017 also said the agenda to attract educated young people into farming “has to focus on the challenges that discourage them from farming.”
Wangari after placing second in “Don’t Lose the Plot,” is now a full-time mushroom farmer in Nairobi and has so far made $1,000 as profit. She has harvested her first crop and is preparing for her second.
Wangari said: “When I see young men in the village now sitting idle I feel disappointed because there is a lot of idle lands and they can use it to make ends meet.
“They don’t require a lot of capital but they don’t have the information.”