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Easing access to land for Africa’s youth: Are community land lease arrangements the answer?

Addressing structural constraints that discourage young people from joining the agricultural sector

by Washe Kazungu | 2021-09-09

Easing access to land for Africa’s youth: Are community land lease arrangements the answer?

In a widely discussed image taken at a 2018 conference on Youth Employment in Agriculture in Kigali, Rwanda, Tamara Happyface Kaunda passionately argues that, despite massive unemployment levels, countries are still failing to attract more youth to agriculture. Holding up a cover of a typical publication, Tamara suggested that the images used to depict African farmers neither resonate with how young people see themselves, nor do they help to change attitudes among decision makers in the sector.

In calling for more “attractive” photos and stories of young people who are succeeding as farmers and agripreneurs, Tamara unleashed a social media storm. While some agreed on the need to make agriculture “sexier” for youth, others considered her views to be an oversimplification of a complex matter.

Structural constraints

Beyond the debate of how agriculture is portrayed lie deeper structural constraints that, arguably, play an even greater role in deterring more youth from agriculture-based livelihoods.

The resulting uncertainty also discourages young people from making the necessary longer-term investments to enhance productivity, for example, improving soil health or water infrastructure.

Portia Phiri, a young farmer from Malawi featured on Kenya's "Mkulima Young" (Young Farmer) online platform

Securing land access

Kenya’s land ministry has developed a sample land lease form to help landowners and lessees to avoid such scenarios. In most cases, however, those involved are reluctant to use this approach as it involves downloading and filling out the form and seeking an endorsement from a lawyer to validate the transaction.

One way to ease this process is to “localise” land leasing agreements by supporting communities to develop procedures that are informed by the realities they face. Lease forms developed through such a process can subsequently be made available at the offices of local administrators, such as chiefs and ward leaders. This formal endorsement at the county and sub-county level can offer added security for young people, and others seeking to lease farmland.

Back to the challenge thrown by Tamara. It appears that some policy makers are convinced by her case that appealing images can help attract more young people to agriculture. In this podcast, Zandisile Luphahla, an official of the Department of Agriculture in the Northern Cape, South Africa, explains that her department has offered internships to 75 young people to learn entrepreneurial skills as well as other professional skills in the agricultural sector.

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