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The shortage of manpower in agriculture threatens food supplies around the world

Many of the foods that we eat are the fruit of the efforts of a large number of farmers, peasants, and agricultural workers. Without them, we would not be able to prepare most dishes, even a simple pasta dish with tomato sauce. Wheat

The shortage of manpower in agriculture threatens food supplies around the world

These farmers work in different fields, countries, or even continents, but we often buy these foods from stores without thinking about their sources

But the future of agriculture and farmers in the world is no longer safe as you think, as most farmers can no longer continue to practice the agricultural profession for many years, with the average age of farmers in the UK 59 years, Kenya 60, and Japan 67 years

And when these farmers retire, we may not find someone to replace them in growing crops, given the reluctance of young people to work in agriculture, and their preference for working in cities. The fate of global food supply chains may depend on the involvement of the new generation in the agricultural sector

Several solutions have been proposed to address the crisis of aging in the agricultural sector, including developing modern technological devices to reduce farmer burdens and reduce employment or face the social stigma attached to farming, changing people's perception of agriculture and persuading them that it is a meaningful profession that generates good income

Mary Niall, the coordinator of the "Planting the Future" project launched by the Farm Africa Foundation in Kenya, says that agriculture was a means of punishment in primary and secondary schools, so the profession no longer appeals to young people, especially non-villagers, who are not from families working in agriculture

The shortage of manpower in agriculture threatens food supplies around the world

Young people under 35 years make up over 80 percent of the Kenyan population. Statistics in 2018 indicated that the youth unemployment rate was 25 percent. The cultivation of high-value crops may contribute to resolving the unemployment crisis in Kenya

The "planting the future" initiative seeks to change the youth’s perception of agriculture, as the initiative teaches thousands of young people the methods of growing crops of all kinds, such as green beans, peas, tomatoes, and cabbage. The initiative provides each young person with seeds and compost and provides guidance on how to care for crops

Joseph Kiplagat, a participant in the "Planting the Future" initiative, grows a few crops, the most important of which is green beans, which yield abundant profit

Kiplagat says that planting green beans requires clearing and plowing the land, then planning to facilitate irrigation. But although it is a difficult process and requires accuracy, it deserves this hardship

Kiplagat uses the money to educate his children and buy food and says their diet has become more varied. Kiplagat purchased a new plot of land to expand his project

The initiative helps young people reach out to farmers and buyers to ensure their crops are sold when they are harvested. Neal says young people need a quick profit, and if you don't tell them how to make money from farming, they will feel that they have been involved in a useless profession

Since its inception in 2011, this project has benefited more than 4,000 young people, many of whom are excited after graduation to buy a plot of land and sell their crops in the markets

But access to land is not easy. Niall says that the land is very expensive and has only enough money to buy it, for the elderly who have collected capital and want to invest it, or young people from well-off families may give them money to buy some plots of land, or rent the land to them cheaply

The shortage of manpower in agriculture threatens food supplies around the world

But the "Planting the Future" program improves young people's chances of starting a private profit project, as Niall says they persuade the older generation to give young people a part of their land to cultivate

This system is beneficial to both parties, as the elderly benefit from youth demand for cultivation because it increases the chances of having potential tenants for agricultural lands, and on the other hand, young people benefit from opportunities to cultivate land that was inaccessible because of the high price

Despite the problems of land ownership and high prices that alienate young people from the agricultural sector, there are positive signs for optimism

Lee Sutherland, a researcher with the Social, Economic and Geoscience Group at the James Hutton Institute in Scotland, says many reports indicate that the agricultural sector will see a severe shortage of labor 12 years from now due to the retirement of the older generation of farmers. In fact, some elderly farmers have children who may inherit from the farming profession

And you see that a lot of studies and statistics may show reality darker than it is. Sutherland says the composition of the workforce in agriculture is also changing with the involvement of women in the male-dominated farming sector. The chances of expanding the scope of agriculture were increased by joining young farmers and creating creative and unconventional ideas. Some of these young people had no previous experience of farming

Kate Collins was a magazine publisher in England, and when she was 27, she read an article on a project to train young people in horticulture planted by a charity to promote organic farming

The program included spending two seasons on a farm, participating in vegetable cultivation and raising chickens and cows. After the training program ended, Collins launched its own project to supply fruit and vegetables to stores and cafes

Collins says she encounters many young people interested in farming on farmers' online platforms, but money and difficulty in obtaining land still prevent them from being involved in this field

Land prices in the UK are very expensive, Collins says, as acres could reach 40,000 pounds

In Japan, which suffers from a problem of population aging, Hiroki Iwasa, a forty-year-old IT engineer, in Yamamoto-cho, on the east coast of Japan, devised a new method of agriculture that attracted young farmers

In 2011, the town of Yamamoto-chu, famous for its ideal weather for strawberries, struck tsunamis - causing widespread damage. The town has recovered with great difficulty from the effects of the disaster

The shortage of manpower in agriculture threatens food supplies around the world

Iwasa says the tsunami claimed the lives of 12,000 people and sank 129 strawberry farms. Iwasa then decided to re-equip his farmland from scratch

Iwasa drew on his technological expertise to build computer-controlled greenhouses. Automated systems control the environment inside the greenhouse to achieve ideal conditions for strawberry growth, ranging from moisture, carbon dioxide, nutrients, to water and temperature

The price of one strawberry produced by these greenhouses is nine dollars, and it is sold in the most luxurious stores in cities inside and outside Japan. Iwasa employs 100 people, giving them benefits they do not get on traditional farms, to balance work and personal life

In light of the dramatic rise in the prices of agricultural lands, the increase of attractive opportunities in cities, and other problems related to the reputation of the agricultural profession in general with the public, there is no doubt that the degradation of agriculture is now more difficult than ever

However, efforts to facilitate involvement in the agricultural sector may change the stereotype that has been in the minds of farmers, the farmer may be a young man or woman, or a city dweller and not a villager, and he may have spent most of his life behind the computer screen and not the farm tractor

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