I grew up in the countryside – really deep down in the sticks.
It was quiet and dark at night. Cockerels and sheep and church bells were the accompaniment to my youthful memories. And tractors, driven by underage school friends – helping out at their parents’ farms. Some of those friends went on to take over the family farm. Most, though, were drawn away from our rural idyll. The agricultural life of offer to young farmers didn’t seem to satisfy their job expectations. European small farmers – and rural areas – are losing more and more young people, who make their way to the asphalt and noise of the cities. And the picture in many African countries is similar: despite high youth unemployment, a life in farming is simply not attractive for young people.
What would help draw talented people to farming? This is a question we’ll be broaching tomorrow at the Roundtable discussion on “Agriculture 4.0” that I’m moderating for the Austrian EU Presidency at their High Level Forum Africa Europe https://www.eu2018.at/calendar-events/political-events.html.
Another key prerequisite in modernising agriculture and making it a key lever in sustainable development is to align political mandates across ministries and commissions. It’s therefore great that my panel will be made up of Africa and European experts and that our discussion will be kicked off by both the EU Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Phil Hogen, as well as EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development, Neven Mimica. This is crucial: we need to put an end to policy approaches that get lost in inter-sectoral squabbling.
I’m also going to be talking to entrepreneurs, researchers and civil society leaders on how they see digitisation and automation in agriculture really contributing to both social and ecological development as well as creating strong and competitive business models.
I hope, one day, to be seeing agricultural innovation made in Africa supporting the sustainable development of rural areas in Africa and Europe.