Determinants influencing youth engagement in agribusiness

12 October 2021

With agribusiness gaining more attention in entrepreneurship development, youth-operated small enterprises in agriculture can contribute significantly to growing Africa’s economy and reducing poverty. These enterprises can help address the issue of youth unemployment across the continent.

 Determinants influencing youth engagement in agribusiness
Youth farmer spraying a maize field.

Despite growing concern about the lack of interest in agriculture among African youths, engaging them in agriculture has become a prominent topic and has risen in the development agenda. According to Larissa Nawo, a young researcher with the IITACARE project, agriculture—the developing world’s single most significant source of employment—plays a pivotal role in Africa’s economic development, and Cameroon, in particular.

With the necessary support, policies, and infrastructure, small-scale agriculture practiced by youths in rural areas, can offer a sustainable and productive alternative to the expansion of large‐scale, capital‐intensive, labor‐displacing corporate farming.

Following the IFAD-sponsored study carried out in Cameroon’s central region, Nawo identified factors that drive choice for youths among the three common types of agribusiness models—plantation, commercial, and contract farming. According to the survey, the semi-urban and rural areas of Cameroon’s central region show that, regardless of gender, youths are mainly engaged in commercial farming rather than plantation or contract farming.

Also, the level of education (from primary school to tertiary), size and ownership of land (for inherited and rented land), have considerable influence on the youths’ decision to engage in plantation and contract farming. At the same time, gender and access to white-collar employment have a negative and significant influence on youth’s decision to engage in agribusiness.

With the COVID-19 pandemic worsening youth unemployment across the globe, the shortage of decent work in low- and middle-income countries is a pressing global issue facing young people now. Hence, the study proffers several recommendations that can help policymakers create sustainable policies that will engender systems to initiate an enabling environment for youths to thrive in agribusiness.

According to Larissa, increasing female youth participation in agribusiness models can initiate inclusive growth and better results. Policies can also be put in place to ensure market systems enable affordable or subsidized costs of agriculture tools and machines, among other things, to encourage youths in agribusiness and plantation farming.

While education level had a significant impact on the annual revenue generated among the youths, the study also suggests the importance of encouraging financial institutions to lend a greater percentage of their portfolio to youth agripreneurs through public-private partnership schemes.

According to the project Communication Officer, Timilehin Osunde, the IITA-CARE project is exploring ways to engage policymakers to adopt some of the recommendations being proffered by the research, as this will ensure youths become beneficiaries of a sustainable system that provides employment and reduces poverty.

IITA is working with young researchers in 10 African countries under the IFAD-sponsored Enhancing Capacity to Apply Research Evidence (CARE) in Policy for Youth Engagement in Agribusiness and Rural Economic Activities in Africa. The project seeks to enhance the understanding of the poverty reduction and employment impact, including the factors influencing youth engagement in agribusiness and rural farm and non-farm economy.