By Ndafadza Madanha
PRESIDENT Emmerson Mnangagwa says his administration will prioritize allocation of agricultural land to youths in the country as part of efforts to economically empower them.
At a time when the country is battling to create employment opportunities for the thousands of youths churned out of the country’s tertiary and vocational institutions, agriculture and its value chains has been identified as one of the sectors that could create thousands of jobs for youths.
Youths remain largely marginalized in terms of participation in agriculture production with the Ministry of Land, Agriculture and Resettlement estimating that the average farmer in the country is 55 years.
However, access to land is a hindrance to most youths venturing into agriculture but according to President Mnangagwa this is going to change as youth will now get priority in the allocation of underutilized and repossessed farms.
“Our population continues to grow yet the land never grows. Our land is divided into the following Agriculture land, urban land which is freehold with title and the communal land.
Obviously youth in the country cannot participate in purchase of the urban land as they don’t have the means so they can qualify for agriculture land which we give for free.
To date government has resettled over 367 000 family households. We have decided that youths should get priority and if you go the Ministry of Agriculture and have a solid plan we give you priority especially if you come as a group,” said the President while addressing the Youth Indaba.
According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) agriculture will play a significant role in ensuring Zimbabwe harnesses its demographic dividend by ensuring that youths exploit opportunities in the sector and its value chains.
The demographic dividend refers to the temporary 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 report also noted that a majority of the Zimbabwe labor force is engaged in the agricultural sector 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.