In the popular “top-10” style lists of “best paid jobs” or “most attractive” jobs, it can hardly be expected that agricultural jobs would hit any of these spots. Why should it? After all, agriculture is a back-breaking, low-rewards and unappealingly uncomfortable sector. It is, in all aspects, the sort of occupation which nobody would willingly choose for themselves. But should this be the case? Is it possible to change the face of agriculture so that it ends up in the list of the most appealing jobs?
The figures have been unequivocal: in a few years we will be looking at a population of 9 billion people. Agricultural output must rise by 70% if we are to feed everyone. This makes agricultural workers, farmers, and labourers the superheroes of the planet, since they will be directly contributing to the survival of humanity by providing food. In fact, if we go by that logic, they should be our superheroes in the present moment too. And yet, very ironically, people working to produce food are the most vulnerable demography. Over 2.6 billion people are involved in agriculture, most living in rural areas in developing countries. The majority live in poverty – on less than $1 a day. Particularly significant in the African context, it is even more ironic that the food producers themselves are largely food insecure.
This paradox is taking its toll on the task of the “superheroes” to feed the world. Rather unsurprisingly, the average age of agricultural workers is rising as young people veer away this sector. After all, why would people be interested in a low-status job which offers little return on labour and little autonomy, or very few prospects for development?
The normative implication of this complex trend is that agriculture needs to change – it needs to not only look attractive, but be attractive, too. And there are so many ways to do it. Firstly, it’s only fair that those who produce our food are not just anonymous faces from some obscure country but that we are aware of who produced what. Why not ditch the middle man, bring in technology and bring our chocolate, coffee and rice producers to the front of the market?
A whole change of attitude is needed: this group should not be seen as a vulnerable demography in need of help, assistance, and compassion. This group is the driving force of the human race and should be recognised as such. Imagine if every farmer and agricultural worker turned to the world and said “you depend on me. I am the one who sustains you.” Wouldn’t that put things into perspective?
All our energy and creativity should be extrapolated into making agriculture be recognized and valued – who wouldn’t want to be a superhero? We should rebrand agriculture as a “save-the-world” venture with technology and a combination of new and old techniques of production. This paradigm could be crucial in the way we shift the outlook on Africa.
Barkha Mossae is a sustainable development advocate and idealist, and a Global Shaper from the Port Louis hub. She has been actively involved in youth capacity building and holds a particular interest in modernising agriculture.
Photo credit: Barkha Mossae