For many years, it has been widely believed that the average age of farmers in sub-Saharan Africa is over 60 years old. However, recent studies have debunked this myth and revealed a surprising truth: African farmers are actually much younger than previously thought.
Over the past two decades, sub-Saharan Africa has seen the highest rate of agricultural production in the world. This growth has also led to an increase in off-farm employment and non-farm labour productivity. Despite this positive trend, concerns have been raised about the future of African agriculture due to an ageing farm population and young people fleeing from farming.
To gain a better understanding of the situation, nationally representative survey data was collected from six African countries: Ghana, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, Nigeria, and Tanzania. The surveys were conducted multiple times between 2000 and 2018, allowing for an analysis of trends in the age distribution of the labour force in farm and off-farm employment.
The results were surprising. According to the data, the average age of the agricultural workforce in the six countries ranged from 32 to 39 years. Even when excluding young adults aged 15 to 24, the average age of the agricultural workforce ranged from 38 to 45 years. This means that the average age of African farmers is much younger than previously believed.
Furthermore, the study found that the average age of the agricultural workforce in the six African countries has either remained constant or increased by only one or two years over the past decade. This is despite the fact that many young people are leaving farming to pursue off-farm opportunities.
The study also found that individuals in off-farm jobs are, on average, one to three years younger than those in farming. This suggests that off-farm opportunities may be more attractive to younger individuals, which could explain why some are leaving farming.
Despite the positive news that African farmers are younger than previously believed, there are still challenges to be addressed. While off-farm opportunities are expanding, farming remains a significant source of employment in sub-Saharan Africa. However, most of these jobs are part-time, and young people need access to finance and know-how to drive productivity growth in farming and related value chains.
To make farming more profitable for young people, it is important to prioritize resourcing the millions of rural youth already engaged in farming. Making agriculture profitable is more important than making it “sexy,” and young people will be attracted to farming when they see that it can make good money. Additionally, encouraging skilled young Africans to start and expand agribusiness firms can provide important services to African farmers.
In conclusion, the myth that African farmers are mostly over 60 years of age has been debunked. The reality is that African farmers are much younger than previously thought. However, there is still work to be done to make farming more profitable for young people and to encourage them to pursue careers in agriculture. With the right resources and support, the future of African agriculture looks bright.