Factors that influence choosing Agriculture among Youths in Cameroon

Despite agriculture being an important part of the country’s economy, youths in Cameroon often have limited options in specializing in the various areas that exist in the field. While agriculture has rarely been part of the curriculum through secondary school until recent years, an average youth can find a few specialized institutions of higher education such as the University of Dschang, the Benguela Agricultural Practicing School (Yaounde), the Community Development School of Kumba, the Catholic University Institute of Buea, and the University of Buea.
According to a study on Spatial decoupling of agricultural production and consumption, which explored quantifying dependencies of countries on food imports due to domestic land and water constraints, the impact of Cameroon’s agricultural sector reflects in having attained an 85% food-sufficient status in 2013. It also employs over two-thirds of its workforce (70%) and generates almost a third (30%) of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP), and in 2018, the country’s Ministry of Education and Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development included agriculture in the curricula to be taught at all levels.
A development that is aimed at assisting youth to understand the importance of agriculture to the economy, according to Cynthia Mkong, a young researcher under the IFAD sponsored IITA-CARE project.
While exploring what motivates the average student in Cameroon to consider agriculture as their major field of study, Mkong reveals that for agriculture to rise in stature as both a field of study and occupation in Cameroon, there is a need for an improvement of the attractiveness, and work conditions in the sector. Also, building and implementing effective policies to improve the level of education of the girl child, and household income at all levels. These will revamp the declining youth interest in agriculture.
According to Mkong, previous experience with farming, and agriculture creates a form of familiarity which sometimes leads to contempt among the students, and as Cameroon’s agricultural sector continues to evolve from subsistence to market-oriented, educators can focus on encouraging youth engagement in the sector.
The study revealed that, due to the drudgery, and labor experienced from prior farming experience, young people are less likely to choose an agricultural major in the university. Other factors recorded as determinants of young Cameroonians enrolling in agriculture-related courses in universities include a strong financial background, and an inability to meet up with the minimum requirement of preferred courses.
Also, youths who have had some form of contact with agricultural experts, before enrolling in the university showed less interest in agriculture, this was attributed to the kind of information they were exposed to. Mkong states that experts’ limited awareness of the value of the agricultural sector in the country, and failure to model work opportunities with exciting new technologies could have been a further discouragement to the youths.
To encourage more young people to study modern farming methods and commercial agriculture in Cameroon, Mkong’s study is recommending an improvement of the appeal, and work conditions in the sector, while building and implementing effective policies to improve the sector. Also, universities and educators can make it part of their activities to highlight emerging opportunities in the sector. According to the study, this will offer an avenue to turn around the declining youth interest in the country’s agriculture sector.

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