Educating young people to mobilize agriculture
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Egbenayabuma, Friday. 1995. Educating young people to mobilize agriculture. Spore 59. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
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In the so-called developed countries, where agriculture and industrial revolutions occurred up to two or more centuries ago, there was an early awareness that education should be related to the needs of the population, including farmers. This...
In the so-called developed countries, where agriculture and industrial revolutions occurred up to two or more centuries ago, there was an early awareness that education should be related to the needs of the population, including farmers. This resulted in the development of agricultural societies, events for technical demonstration and judging of produce, animals and farming skills (agricultural shows), changes in school curriculum and the establishment of skills training schools. This was followed by extension-type programmes through which agricultural advisory and instructional services were offered to farmers. As a result agriculture developed, the majority of farmers prospered and national economies benefited either from developing a greater self-sufficiency in farm products, thus reducing the need for imports, or from foreign exchange generated by exports of agriculturally derived goods. This has now clearly failed in most African countries, many of which are rich in agricultural potential. There is no denying that ACP countries have had periodic national development programmes, usually designed to be completed within a specific period of time and within a financial limit. Agriculture has featured prominently in such plans. But whatever the constraint of time and money available, it has to be said that a very serious area of neglect has been in agricultural education. Moreover, the agricultural component of development in Africa has often focused attention on the adults and has failed to address (any or sufficient) agricultural educational efforts at young men and women effectively. Youth involvement in agricultural development takes place at a minimal level. In some countries there are Young Farmer Clubs and there has been some introduction of agriculture into school curricula, but it is not sufficient. The teaching of agriculture is not comprehensive enough: Young Farmers Clubs (YFC) are to be found in few schools and their scarcity begs the question whether agriculture is seen as a serious subject for the pupils. The role that YFC members can play channelling new ideas into development programmes cannot be over-emphazised, particularly where many rural adults are illiterate. In this situation parents and other relatives rely on their young people as a channel of communication. Indeed, it has been observed among the majority of farmers that they tend to trust messages on agricultural innovations from their children more than from official extension agents. Well-organized YFCs provide excellent opportunities for conducting 'method-and-result' demons/rations, either on school ground or on farms of pupils' parents. In such cases there can be very rapid adoption of new techniques or varieties by farmers. YFCs also provide the opportunity for arousing an interest in agriculture in the rising generation, and demonstrating that agriculture can be a satisfying and economically rewarding occupation. There have been examples where YFC members have been encouraged under guidance to raise small livestock (goats, rabbits) and fish in ponds, or to grow vegetables and fruit for sale. Experience has been gained of budgeting costs, of managing finances and of putting theoretical mathematics to practical use. But to reap the benefits of YFCs, a widespread participation of the youth in a country is necessary; the organization and administration of YFCs must be good and YFCs are best integrated into the school system. Two levels of educational institutions are particularly relevant to the formation and sustainable conduct of YFCs. These are the post-primary and post-secondary school levels. Formation of YFCs should be compulsory at the post-primary level in order to give all young people an introduction to agriculture and to provide them with the opportunity to put into practice what they should be learning about agriculture in the national curriculum. At the post-secondary level YFC membership may be voluntary, since by this stage some pupils will have decided on careers not connected with agriculture. Yet even these will have learned enough to understand better national rural development policies during their adult life and to tend home gardens in order to supplement income. A typical YFC should assume a simple organizational structure but should involve members in participative management of the Club. YFCs should also develop linkages with support service organizations including agricultural research, supply industries and credit institutions; and members of research stations, extension services, agro-input supply companies and banks should be invited to speak to YFCs from time to time. Some such individuals may be interested enough in youth work to play a more regular role in YFCs and to help supervise and guide the YFC office-holders who have been elected to office. Sustaining the interest of members is most important and activities must be planned that arouse and maintain interest. Interest can be sustained by the close links with institutions already mentioned, by visits to agricultural shows and film shows, by encouraging skills development and holding competitions, and by organizing social events. Agriculture must be recognized as a vital industry in Africa and it is essential that new generations are made aware both of its importance to our countries and of the basis of growing crops, raising livestock, buying and selling. YFCs can help achieve this by assisting with the rapid spread of agricultural technologies at grassroots; by enhancing the teaching of agriculture in schools; and by developing new generations of young people knowledgeable about agriculture and even motivated to take up agriculture as a career.
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