The role of rural youth in the smallholder farming sector: challenges and opportunities in Okhahlamba Local Municipality, South Africa.
Mukwedeya, Bright Takudzwa.
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Smallholder farming is seen as an important vehicle through which the goals of addressing poverty, food insecurity and unemployment can be achieved. However, factors such as adverse climatic conditions, shortage of labour and poor market access have affected agricultural production, threatening food security now and in the future. This calls for improvements in the smallholder farming sector in order to address these challenges. Integration of youth in smallholder farming is, therefore, an important factor towards the improvement and development of the sector. This is because of qualities such as higher levels of energy and education, openness to new technology and ideas associated with the youth. In spite of these qualities, most of the youth are losing interest in and leaving smallholder farming. This has resulted in a loss of the most productive and potentially innovative segment of the agricultural labour force, affecting agricultural production and food security now and in the future. The study, therefore, seeks to identify the roles, challenges and opportunities of youth participating in smallholder farming, and recommends ways to retain and stimulate interest among youths towards farming. Data were collected from randomly selected youths living in Okhahlamba Local Municipality (OLM), located in northern KwaZulu-Natal. A mixed method approach combined both qualitative and quantitative data and methods to answer the research questions. The data were analysed using a chi-square test, binary logistic analysis, descriptive and content-based thematic analysis. The results from the descriptive analysis reveal that 5.2 % of the youths had reached a primary level of education, while a large proportion (91.1%) had reached a secondary level of education and only 3.7% had reached a tertiary level of education. Planting and harvesting of crops were the main roles of youth taking part in farming. Lack of tools, capital and government support were some of the challenges facing youths in smallholder farming. The results show that the sex of the household head, household size and access to market information by household head influences the decision to participate in smallholder farm among youth in OLM. The findings of the study serve as a basis for decision making to the government and other actors with the agenda of promoting human, rural and agricultural development. The study recommends that youth should be provided with the necessary agricultural training, farming implements and also the government should focus on mechanising the smallholder farming sector. This can be done by introducing two-wheel tractors in the smallholder farming sector.