Rwanda: Only 18 Percent of Youth in Agriculture Use Agri-Tech Innovation – Survey
By Michel Nkurunziza
A new report dubbed “The Future of Africa’s Agriculture – An assessment of the role of Youth and Technology” has established that despite having 45 per cent of youth being engaged in agriculture, only 18 per cent of them use agri-tech innovation in Rwanda.
The survey conducted by Heifer International interviewed 29,954 youths, 299 smallholder farmers and 110 agri-focused organizations in eleven countries namely Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, Uganda, Nigeria, Ghana, Senegal, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
In Rwanda, the survey was conducted on 3,362 respondents.
The survey says that innovators have begun to rely on technology such as artificial intelligence, remote sensing, geographic information software, virtual reality, drone technology, application programming interface technology and precision technology to provide an accurate measure of rainfall, pest control, soil information, soil productivity, and farm size and productivity potential.
However, on a large scale, the findings showed that despite the potential of technology to change Africa’s agriculture sector, the continent’s smallholder farmers continue to face challenges in incorporating technology in their agricultural practices.
The survey found that only 23 per cent of youth engaged in agriculture use any form of agricultural technology such as an Apps, SMS, website, software among others in surveyed countries.
“Overall, technology adoption in Africa is quite low. Ghana, Senegal and Zambia have the lowest Agri-Tech adoption rate, while Zimbabwe, Kenya and Nigeria have the highest adoption rates,” says the report.
Lack of access to land
The survey found that access to land or ownership is a major cause of concern as 59 per cent of youth surveyed indicated they lack both in 11 countries.
The report shows that 70 per cent of youth have no access to land in Rwanda.
“Most youth in Africa do not have access to land for agriculture. Fifty-nine per cent of youth surveyed do not have access to or own land. Land ownership amongst young people is lowest in Ghana, Zambia, Senegal and Rwanda. Youths in Malawi seem to have access to land with only 14% having no access, the lowest among countries surveyed,” reads part of the report.
Funding, training and access to agriculture technology are the three key areas to support youth to encourage their involvement in agriculture, recommends the report.
At least 39 per cent of surveyed Agric-focused organizations said that the best way to engage youth in agriculture in Africa is through technological innovation, 32 per cent suggested government support for young farmers 21 percent suggested inclusion of youth in agric policy.
It indicates that 37 per cent of youth surveyed reported that access to finance as a key barrier to youth engagement in Agriculture in Africa while 14 per cent and 12 per cent respectively say that lack of access to land and lack of training are key barriers.
What causes low adoption of technology?
Smallholder farmers and agric-focused organizations surveyed suggested that literacy, socio-economic status and inadequate as well as lack of extension services are the key reasons for the low adoption of technology.
Smallholder farmers indicated that enlightenment, information and affordability will encourage them to embrace technology innovation.
At least 30 per cent of respondents said that adverse weather conditions have negatively impacted farmers’ productivity as 17 percent attributed poor yield to insects, pests and disease while 14 percent attribute it to technology barriers.
The coronavirus outbreak affected 40 per cent of agric-focused organizations as they had to temporarily close business, 38 per cent experienced a reduction of average purchase amount per customer and 36 percent do not have the financial capital to grow back their businesses.
Ten out of 11 countries, with the exception of Tanzania agreed that the most important support required is funding.
When placed in context, training and mentorship are seen as more important than funding in Ghana, Kenya, Tanzania, and Zimbabwe.
More youth stressed the need for support in the area of access to market in Tanzania, Uganda and Zimbabwe.
Youth in Senegal, Kenya, Nigeria and Ghana prioritized the need for support in Agric-Tech while access to land was an acute need in Zimbabwe, Rwanda and Zambia.
“The role of youth participation as well as the adaptation of smart, African centered Agri-Tech is a key determinant to supporting the agriculture sector. Encouraging innovation by supporting programs geared towards accelerating agric-tech startups, youth-owned agriculture businesses, and other business stakeholders along the agriculture value chain will catalyze economic development in Africa,” recommends the report.
Dr. Octave Semwaga, the Director General for Agriculture Modernization in the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources reiterated that youth are needed on board to boost agricultural productivity adding, ” If not we could reach where we have no farmers.”
“Agriculture is the backbone of the economy, when it grows other sectors also grow,” he said explaining why youth should be engaged.
Due to shortage in land availability, the Government of Rwanda is promoting intensification as a strategy to increase production and farmers’ incomes according to officials.
According to the Strategic Plan for the Transformation of Agriculture (PSTAIII), the long term goal is to move Rwandan agriculture from a largely subsistence sector to a more knowledge intensive, market-oriented sector, sustaining growth and adding value to products.
Need for hands-on skills
Semwaga said that in order to increase youth’s hands-on skills in agriculture, the government is sending some to Israel to learn how to transform Rwanda’s agriculture sector.
So far he said since 2012 at least 1,139 attended 11-months training and came back to Rwanda adding 193 youth are attending the same training.
“After coming back, some create their own companies to serve farmers,” he noted.
Elisee Kamanzi, Country Director for Heifer International Rwanda said that addressing the barriers expressed by the youth could boost agricultural productivity in Africa to meet food demand and reduce unemployment among the youth.
“We are in a situation where our farmers are at an average of almost 62 years old. If we look at 2050 vision, then with this situation of aging farmers maybe we will not have people who may feed us. We believe if we understand what makes youth not find agriculture a desirable profession and livelihoods, we will have trouble in the future,” he said.
He said that youth need agricultural technological solutions that are easy to adopt as suggested by 30 per cent of respondents.
Ritha Tumukunde, the Agriculture Socio Economy Specialist at the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources said they are working with different stakeholders to develop youth employment in agriculture food system strategy.
“The study will inform what we are doing to develop this strategy,” she said.
Victor Muvunyi, the Emerging Technologies senior technologist at Ministry of ICT and Innovation said that more agricultural technological solutions are being developed although the uptake is still low.
“We want to become an ICT hub and need a vibrant innovation ecosystem,” he said, adding that Africa is a youthful continent and therefore should engage in agriculture with innovations.