By Ndafadza Madanha
YOUTHS make up the bulk of the population yet it seems the Land reform exercise did not fully embrace this group in the allocation of land.
Equally the agricultural sector is yet to fully exploit the potential of the youth as the average age of a farmer in Zimbabwe is 55 years and life expectancy averages between 55-60 years.
Among Zimbabwean youths farming is largely unattractive owing to perception of agriculture as a career of last resort, one of drudgery and low monetary benefits.
The continent currently has the largest youth population in Africa’s history. It is home to more than 600 million young people under the age of 25. However, the majority of youth (77 percent) are unemployed or underemployed.
In addition, the continent has around 600 million hectares of uncultivated arable land, roughly 60 percent of the global total.
However, agriculture offers the best opportunity for youths to become economically empowered not only in Zimbabwe but on the continent.
It is therefore heartening to note the commitment of President Emmerson Mnangagwa that his Government is working to ensure youths are the major beneficiaries of land repossessed under the Land Audit.
While the intention is noble mere provision of land to youths is not enough but Government must also provide information on access to markets while factors of production that include financing remain extremely limited hindering adequate engagement of youth in agriculture.
Once these issues are resolved agriculture will play a significant role in ensuring Zimbabwe harnesses its demographic dividend ensuring youths exploit opportunities in the sector and its value chains.
Demographic dividend refers to the temporary economic benefit that can arise from a significant increase in the ratio of working age adults relative to young dependents that result from fertility decline- if this change is accompanied by sustained investments in education and skills development, health, job creation and good governance.
Zimbabwe entered the demographic dividend period in 2004 and is expected to last until 2060 with the country reaching its peak in 2012.
The Zimbabwe labour force is engaged in the agricultural sector and emphasis should be put to enhance its capacity to create attractive livelihood opportunities for the youth across the value chain.
In addition to attracting more investors in the sector, interventions could include developing infrastructure for irrigation, communication and transportation of commodities, developing agribusiness and integrating ICT use in agriculture.