ISSER/IFPRI Roundtable Discussion on Youth, Employment and Agriculture

The Institute of Statistical Social and Economic Research (ISSER) in collaboration with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has held a roundtable discussion on the theme Youth, Employment and Agriculture.
The roundtable, held on January 22, 2015 at the ISSER conference centre, gathered experts including academicians, researchers, students, policy makers and civil society to deliberate on how Ghana can realise the prospects of agriculture. There was special focus on how effectively the sector can serve as a provider of employment to the youth and the conditions under which the youth can embrace agriculture as a livelihood and a profession.
Main topics discussed
Panel presentations examined critical questions such as: the dynamics of the Ghanaian labour market; the perceptions and aspirations of the youth; how agriculture can provide the kind of lifestyle that usually attracts the youth to urban areas and the effectiveness of public interventions. Also considered wereglobal best practices.
Outcome of discussions
Presentations by the five-member were obviously well-researched, and provided for very enlightening discussions –which will be synthesized into useful policy documents.But it was clear that the youth-agriculture nexus was confronted with several fundamental challenges which need concerted solutions if agriculture is to become a viable employment alternative for the youth. Four challenges were predominant, however.
First, people’s perception of agriculture. It can hardly be said that people have a lofty or [at best] positive perception of agriculture. Obvious fact, the important role of agriculture as a viable business and career option is not always apparent to those outside of agriculture, the youth especially. In view of this, a recommendation was made to re-visit the methods used to present agriculture education to students. Cultivating in the youth an interest in agriculture can ultimately lead to not only a more agriculturally aware society but also a youthful workforce to keep the sector vibrant.
Second, the need for agricultural infrastructure,especially in the rural areas.Any government desirous of a vibrant agricultural sector must be committed to make the requisite infrastructural investments. Such investments should be preceded by research to establish the actual needs of farmers [different farmers at different locations may well have different needs]. It shouldbe a strategic and well-coordinated processthat willprovide solutions to real problems of the value chain. 
Section of Participants
Third, is the issue of land. The rate at which arable land is being taken away by other activities including mining and housing is frightening. There is the need for hard policy decisions, but also institutions in-charge must sit up and ensure that this phenomenon is reined in. 
Lastly, there isthe need for a market system that works, a system that will stimulate demand. If there is a good market system in place, farmers can sell their produce, they can generate income and be in a better position to invest in their work. Financial institutions, on their part,will be more inclined to fund farming activities – knowing that farmers can pay back loans contracted, the sector will see innovation and brighter prospects. Hardly much else will work if farmers cannot sell their produce on account of market unavailability.
The panel of experts was made up of Dr. William Baah-Boateng, Senior Lecturer, Economics Department, UG; Dr. Nana AkuaAnyidoho, Senior Research Fellow, ISSER, Alhaji Adam Mahama, National Coordinator, Youth in Agriculture Programme; Dr. Paul Dorosh, Director, Development Strategy and Governance Division, IFPRI and Dr. James Thurlow, Senior Research Fellow, IFPRI. Prof. Felix Asante, Director of ISSER, moderated discussions.

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