The ‘youth and agriculture’ problem: implications for rangeland development

  • Melvin B Swarts
  • Michael Aliber


There is a common perception in South Africa that the youth are not interested in agriculture, leading to two concerns: first, that this is exacerbating the youth unemployment crisis, and second, that the already low levels of agricultural activity in the former homelands/reserves are likely to drop further, imperiling any hope for rural development in the future. This article explores the ‘youth in agriculture’ problem from various angles. First, it surveys the various explanations prevalent in the policy community regarding the ‘youth in agriculture’ problem. Second, it gathers together the sparse research evidence regarding the participation/nonparticipation of the youth in agriculture. Third, it reflects on the intersection between the ‘youth in agriculture’ problem and the challenges of promoting livestock production in the communal rangelands of the former homelands/reserves. The article tentatively argues that there is a strong parallel between the ‘youth in agriculture’ problem and the question of commercialisation of livestock production, in the sense that the pursuit of the latter is likely to comprise at least a partial solution to the former. By the same token, the article argues that both face a common challenge, namely the high concentration of cattle and goat ownership in the former homelands/reserves.

Keywords: agriculture, rangeland commons, youth

African Journal of Range & Forage Science 2013, 30(1&2): 23–27

Author Biographies

Melvin B Swarts
Agricultural Research Council–Animal Production Institute, c/o Department of Biodiversity and Conservation Biology, University of the Western Cape, Private Bag X17, Bellville 7535, South Africa
Michael Aliber
Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies, University of the Western Cape, Private Bag X17, Bellville 7535, South Africa

Journal Identifiers

eISSN: 1727-9380
print ISSN: 1022-0119