A television programme on ZNBC TV1 on 18th May, 2017, presented a success story for young farmers, which was obviously meant to inspire young people to take up farming. However, my observation is that the development of the story might have not achieved it’s intended purpose due to various reasons. I have discussed my opinions in brief.
Selecting appropriate role models
Young farmer Success Stories have more impact when they are developed with the focus on how an ordinary youth get inspired, learn about how to get started and understand the process, and grow from basic production to commercial levels. This entails crafting the success story in form of a brand that is gradually built. It should be a process of branding agriculture while tackling some of the critical challenges young people face and how the subject survived.
The youth have to see themselves in the shoes of the role model right from the beginning when they were aspiring. They need to relate their story with the state the role model was in at the beginning of this farming journey. Anything less than that puts the youth off. They weigh themselves against the role model's initial story.
Success stories targeting the youth of this country should not pick highly educated young people from wealthy backgrounds. There is a difference between encouraging young people to undertake careers in agriculture and encouraging them to take up farming. This difference guides the approach that should be undertaken when developing success stories. This kind of selection of role models leaves out the most important basic steps and learning points young people need to get inspired.
Learning points youths want from successful young farmers
It needs to be understood that young people need land, skills and knowledge on crop selection and production of the same, how to find market for their produce, and value addition, among other critical issues. Where capital is required, it has to be understood that young people have little to no borrowing power and banks are not a financing option for these beginner farmers. Not even micro finance institutions can risk their monies on young farmers in most cases.
The success story chosen has to showcase how the role model acquired land, came up with a viable agribusiness plan and how they financed it without collateral. Key people they involved and departments that helped them would be good learning points.
Skills and knowledge in crop selection is another important aspect. Young people need to learn from the role model how they acquired that as well as tactics they use to continuously improve.
There are a number of young farmers who have failed to continue farming because they could not find a viable market for their produce. From improving stands of their produce to creating market linkages, young people need learning points on how their produce can meet market standards and gain access to viable markets.
Every success story of a young farmer that feature these critical issues and also seek the voice of young people who aspire to get into farming, while providing answers to their challenges and fears with the role model’s success story, will present re-branded and attractive agriculture.
Involve those who understand the challenges
Agriculture extension officers and youth development practitioners are a good source of information that can help to understand the challenges young people face in relation to their engagement in agriculture. Consulting them can help the developers of these success stories to come up with real challenge cases that ought to be answered by the success stories.
Well researched and crafted success stories of young farmers have the potential to re-brand agriculture and help transform young people’s perception. The transformation can help young people to make informed decisions to take up farming. Those privileged with opportunities to develop such stories should therefore pay attention to how they do this and commit to producing truly inspiring stories beyond marketing individuals and their businesses.