In a long-sleeved shirt and jeans, expertly navigating eastern Rwanda’s bumpy back roads in a white four-wheel drive, Dieudonne Twahirwa looks nothing like the stereotypical African farmer.
The 30-year-old owner of Gashora Farm knows what a difference that makes.
“You need more role models,” he said, standing among knee-high rows of chili plants. “If you have young farmers, they have land and they drive to the farm, [others] think, ‘Why can’t I do that?'”
Many young Africans are abandoning rural areas, choosing not to toil in the fields – a job made tougher by climate change.
But Twahirwa is one of a growing band of successful farmers working to jazz up agriculture’s image on the continent.
From Christian Science Monitor. Story by Thin Lei Win.
Some 1,000 farmers now produce chillies for him. He is starting a fourth farm of his own, and exports fresh and dried chillies and oil to Britain, the United States, India, and Kenya.
Africa has the world’s youngest population and 65 percent of its uncultivated arable land.
Yet accessing land and loans is difficult, while African productivity is low with crop yields just 56 percent of the international average, according to the United Nations.
“Agriculture is mainly associated with suffering and no young person wants to suffer,” said Tamara Kaunda, who has put her career as a doctor on hold to buck the trend.
She believes African agriculture needs a make-over to shed its old-fashioned image of backbreaking work with a hoe.
“Show young people with tractors, green fields, nice irrigation systems, smartphones,” she said.
A relative of Zambia’s first president, the fast-talking 29-year-old runs Billionaire Farmer Agric Solutions, supplying vegetable seedlings across Zambia and in neighboring countries.
Getting young people involved in agriculture does not mean they have to work on a farm, said Nigerian Olawale Rotimi Opeyemi, 29, whose agribusiness company JR Farms Africa has projects in Nigeria, Ivory Coast, and Rwanda.
Read more at Christian Science Monitor.