African farmers are younger than you think. Here is why

Youthful African farmersOver the past 20 years sub-Saharan Africa has registered the highest rate of agricultural production in the world. There have been knock-on effects with the region also seeing the fastest growth in off-farm employment and non-farm labour productivity.

There’s a widely held view that Africa’s agricultural growth trajectory could be jeopardised by an ageing farm population because young people are fleeing from farming. Several sources indicate that the average age of Africans in farming has risen to 60 years or more. But we are unaware of any empirical evidence to support this claim.

To understand what’s really going on, we used nationally representative survey data collected by the government statistical offices of six African countries – Ghana, Rwanda, Uganda, Zambia, Nigeria and Tanzania. Because these surveys were replicated multiple times in each country between 2000 and 2018, we can compute how much time people spent annually in farming and off-farm jobs. We can examine trends in the age distribution of the labour force in farm and off-farm employment since 2000.

This was done as part of our research into young people’s access to land as well as their migration decisions and employment opportunities. continue reading