YOUTH INCLUSION IN AGRICULTURE

The world is currently dealing with a number of issues, including food scarcity, global warming, and low crude oil prices. Africa, as a continent, is not immune to these global crises, given its role in crude oil exportation and grain importation. Youths now account for approximately 60% of Nigeria's population and have made significant contributions to national development over the years (Vision 2010 report, 2005), talking less of Africa. Unfortunately, the current environment makes it even more difficult to realize their full potential in agricultural production and encourage youth involvement in agriculture.

With Nigeria's current development agenda, agriculture is undoubtedly recognized as a significant economic pillar contributing significantly to the country's GDP. Agriculture development and the nation's ability to meet food and national security goals are inextricably linked. Agriculture is critical to the development of any nation, and this includes encouraging youth participation in the agricultural sector. Youth are the farming generation's successors, and thus the future of food security in Africa.

Aging smallholder farmers are less likely to adopt the new technologies required to sustain agricultural productivity growth. This initiative aims to change youths' negative perceptions of actively participating in agriculture, as farmers are perceived as uneducated, unskilled, and physical laborers with extremely low economic returns. Modern agriculture is more than just tilling the soil and raising animals; the industry now offers youths career opportunities in research, the environment, financial management, engineering, and technical fields.

According to the United Nations, "by 2030, six out of every ten people will live in a city, and by 2050, this proportion will increase to seven out of ten people," implying that more young people than ever are moving to cities and towns to find work, leaving few behind to work in rural areas. With the predicted concentration of the global population in cities, it is easier to understand why the number of young farmers is declining year after year. There is an urgent need to increase and sustain young people's interest in and participation in agricultural production activities.

The ACP-EU Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation (CTA) creates policies, markets, and an Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) program to show young people the value of agricultural innovation. Agriculture gives the next generation the opportunity to make a difference by producing enough food to feed the entire world. Those who become farmers now have the opportunity to be the generation that ends world hunger and malnutrition while also assisting the agricultural sector in adapting to climate change. The increase in technological advancement and mechanization can also help deter young people from stereotypes of traditional farming and change their perceptions of agriculture, allowing them to see it as an exciting and innovative industry. RiceAfrika is one of such hub that helps farmers triple crop yields while ensuring product offtake through their data-driven mobile platform. We assist farmers in gaining market access while ensuring product traceability by connecting them with manufacturers, produce buyers, and input buyers.

Passion and interest are two interconnected states of caring, emotion, and feelings for something. According to the findings, the majority of young people have no interest in farming. They instead develop what is known as a "quick money mentality," which stems from the high pay in the oil and gas sector of the economy and instills skepticism toward long-term investments such as agribusiness. It has been discovered that farming activities were perceived as a low-wage, illiterate, elderly, and rural jobs, and thus denigrated. As a result, regardless of the efforts/incentives attached to the empowerment program to attract youths, a small number of them still believe that participation in such a program is demeaning and thus not appropriate for an enlightened youth; this has a negative impact on the rate of youth participation in agriculture.

Attention should be paid to the factors that lead to youth migration to urban areas in order to improve youth participation in agricultural production and processing in Nigeria. Furthermore, the economic constraints that young farmers face (lack of credit, low profitability, capacity constraints, etc.) should be thoroughly examined. Initiatives such as agro-based contests and exhibitions/fairs to encourage already budding agriculturists within this youth demographic must be developed and implemented to drive interest by celebrating winners and grooming them as solution providers for the sector's identified challenges. The importance of advocacy through media channels relevant to youths cannot be overstated. This will typically include the promotion of reputable personalities from popular industries such as entertainment, business, and technology who are involved in agricultural activities in order to encourage and champion the cause of youth participation in agriculture.