Young people in the rural areas not wanting to be engaged in farming activities may leave the rural population, hence changing the age structure of rural areas. Because most migrants are men, rural-urban migration may leave a rural population that is dominated by women who engage primarily in agriculture. An old aged and female dominant rural agriculture may have serious implications for the viability of prevailing national agricultural strategies, most of which are still predicated on a smallholder-led development. However, there is little empirical evidence to date on the rate at which young men are leaving rural areas and changing the demographic composition of rural and urban areas or the agricultural labour force in particular. This study considers the changes in the age and gender composition of agricultural participation in Zambia using pooled cross sectional data from the Living Conditions Monitoring Survey (LCMS) which is conducted every two years by the Central Statistical Office (CSO) in Zambia. The years of LCMS datasets used in this study are 1998, 2004, 2006 and 2010. The LCMS is a nationally representative dataset covering all 72 districts of Zambia. It covers both the rural and the urban areas of Zambia.
Analysis of data using descriptive and econometric methods resulted in certain important findings regarding age and gender composition in agriculture. Results showed that over the years covered in the study, the mean age has remained roughly constant in both rural and urban areas for both men and women. The mean age has been around 34 years and 31 years for the rural and urban population respectively. Results further showed that the rural farming population is indeed aging over time with the mean age rising from 36.5 years in 1998 to 40.4 years in 2010 for a man primarily engaged in farming. The mean age of a woman primarily engaged in farming has also increased over time.
Plausible reasons for this could be that young people are moving out of agriculture because of lack of interest in it or because the older people are moving out of farming at a slow pace hence young people are forced to look for alternative sources of livelihood. From this, it can also be concluded that the young people who might be moving out from agriculture are not all going to the urban areas but might be staying in the rural areas and maybe working in non-agricultural activities.
However, the rural farming population is not becoming female dominated. More males are now participating in agriculture with an increase in the share of males from 47 percent in 1998 to 53 percent in 2010 possibly due to retrenchment of miners and public sector employees during the structural adjustment period. Young people are less likely to stay in the rural areas and are also less likely to be engaged in agricultural activities compared to older persons. Men were 4.6 percent more likely than women to be located in the rural areas. Men were also 3.9 percent more likely than women to be engaged in farming over the years covered by the study. Men had a higher probability of being engaged in wage employment in the urban areas compared to women over the years covered by the study.
Being male compared to being female was found to be positively associated with youth participation in farming while level of education and being engaged in wage employment were negatively associated with youth participation in farming. Young men were 11.6 percent more likely to be engaged in farming than young women over the years covered by the study which is contrary to the conventional wisdom. Being engaged in wage employment reduced the likelihood of youth participation in farming by 25 percent over the years covered by the study. Available farming land and access to credit for agricultural inputs increased the likelihood of female participation in agriculture. This implies that female participation in agriculture can be enhanced by improved access to land and credit.
The implication of an increasing elderly agricultural labour force may need the government to consider the viability of existing agricultural, rural development, and land strategies if the present population trends continue.
Dissertation (MScAgric)--University of Pretoria, 2016.