Surprise: Africa's farmers are relatively young!
Farmer's Weekly|November 13, 2020
Thomas Jayne, a professor of agricultural, food and resource economics, and Felix Kwame Yeboah, an assistant professor of international development, both at Michigan State University in the US, say it is simply untrue that Africa’s farmers are mostly old and, on average, getting even older. It is also a misperception, they argue, that the continent’s young people are not interested in farming.

Over the past 20 years, sub-Saharan Africa has registered one of the highest growth rates for agricultural GDP in the world. There have been knock-on effects, with the region also seeing the fastest growth in off-farm employment and non-farm labour productivity.

There is a widely held view, however, that Africa’s agricultural growth trajectory could be jeopardised by an ageing farm population because young people are fleeing from farming. Several sources indicate that the average age of Africans in farming has risen to 60 years or more. But we are unaware of any empirical evidence to support this claim.

To understand what is really going on, we used nationally representative survey data collected by the government statistical offices of six African countries, namely Ghana, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, Nigeria and Tanzania.

Because these surveys were replicated many times in each country between 2000 and 2018, we could compute how much time people spent annually in farming and off-farm jobs. We could also examine trends in the age distribution of the labour force in farm and off-farm employment since 2000.

This was done as part of our research into young people’s access to land as well as their migration decisions and employment opportunities.

THE MYTH-BUSTER

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