Sixty percent of the population of Africa is under 24 yet the average age of farmers is 60 years old. The world’s population will reach 10 billion by 2050, with Africa’s population expected to quadruple in just 90 years. This means that future generations need to be provided early guidance, to choose career paths that will strengthen their future livelihoods including how to grow nutritious food.


Public and private schools therefore need to challenge the norm of a four-walled classroom and be more innovative. We should favor hands-on learning and building on a child’s capacity to critically analyze and solve issues that are relevant in their communities. Pupils should have a voice and be able to tailor their syllabuses to their own unique environment and interests.


Too many African school systems are underperforming. 60 percent of youths between the ages of 15 and 17 are not in school and the continent has the world’s highest dropout rate, with forty-two percent of children leaving school before the end of primary education. There are high repetition rates and children who leave school can barely read or write, especially in rural areas.


Young people should be taught about Africa’s rich history, culture and the kingdoms of Mali, Benin and Kongo, where learning and technology flourished. Learning about the innovative Songhai Empire, a self-sufficient African kingdom that was smelting iron ore before 476 A.D to make more efficient farming tools, can serve as inspiration. Students should be taught about the importance of biodiversity and reintroduced to ancient crops that are underutilized yet beneficial to the environment.


A great example of the benefits of engaging students in farming from an early age can be seen at the Sharada Vidynikethana Public School in India. The school has introduced agricultural science as a compulsory subject to give its student’s hands-on experience in agriculture, as many children, especially those from urban areas, are unaware of how crops are grown. The school has even prepared a separate agro-science curricula for each year group with students having one practical and two theory classes on agricultural science every week. Students now cultivate up to eighteen types of vegetables on a three acre plot of land with their produce mainly being used on campus for healthy school meals.


In Kenya, Farm Africa initiated a Youth Empowerment in Sustainable Agriculture (YESA) project where Students were taught how to grow high-value crops, keep livestock and how to market produce for the global market. The initiative helped over 850 youths discover more about agriculture as a profession.


Africa’s vast agriculture potential represents an economic opportunity for the continent’s youth. Despite this, more young people than ever before are turning their backs on fertile ancestral lands in favor of a move to urban conurbations with hopes of making it big but end up, more  often than not, trapped in menial jobs with limited options for future advancement.


Economic growth over recent years has not translated into job creation and prosperity for everyone. One-third of 420 million youths aged between 15 and 35 are unemployed.  Although a further 12 million youths enter the workforce every year, only 3.1 million jobs are created. Substantial investments are urgently needed to overhaul the outdated education systems and the agriculture industry. The private sector should work with Governments and International Organizations to implement these reforms.


Africa contributes the least to Climate Change but is amongst the most vulnerable to its effects.  We need to start producing more food with fewer resources. Engaging youths in Climate-Smart Agriculture from an early age and creating considerably more jobs across agricultural value chains over the next decade will be pivotal in ensuring Africa’s rapidly growing youth population does not become an overwhelming burden.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the Future Africa Forum.