Reflections on Youth and Agriculture in Tanzania

The proud son of farmers in rural Tanzania, Stivin grew up gaining an in-depth understanding of the obstacles and opportunities rural farmers and producers often face in his country. Inspired by his childhood experiences, as a young adult he moved to Dar es Salaam where he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Rural Development from the Sokoine University of Agriculture. Most recently, he was one of only eight Tanzanians selected to participate in the 2016 International Seminar.

After spending a weekend in Montreal at the 2017 WUSC and CECI International Forum, Stivin joined us in Ottawa for a few days, where he spoke to us about youth, agriculture, the International Seminar, and his life in Tanzania.

In Tanzania, Stivin explained, youth is defined by the government as anyone between the ages of 15 - 35 years. However, growing up in the country, Stivin found that communities often define youth socially, rather than strictly by age.

Youth is often a label given to those who are unmarried and without children. Because of this social definition, some individuals who are legally considered youth may not be encouraged or feel able to access youth services or participate in youth programming.

Additionally, in Tanzania, youth are sometimes perceived as untrustworthy by communities. This ageism can further lessen the opportunities made available to youth.

Yet, Stivin explains it is extremely important to ensure that youth in Tanzania are given the opportunities they need in order to develop skills and find meaningful employment and, in turn, the chance to showcase what they can do for their community and change the country’s perception of them.

His experiences over the years, including the International Seminar, has helped to shift what Stivin means by ‘opportunities’. Growing up, he often thought that money was the only way to support marginalized people and those excluded from the economy. However, Stivin has since realized that there are other ways in which marginalized communities can be supported.

Stivin realized that building networks and connections is equally, if not more, important as financial support. He believes such support is much more sustainable and helps provide marginalized people with the tools they need to support themselves long-term.

These thoughts were echoed for Stivin during the International Seminar, where the group of Tanzanian and Canadian students visited with local businesses and farmers’ groups to investigate how agricultural systems can support economic development and food security. They focused on the role of women and youth in the agricultural sustainability in Tanzania and realized that providing these groups with connections to people and tools was just as beneficial to the system as providing direct financial assistance.

Looking towards the future, Stivin hopes to continue to be a youth leader and contribute to the economic empowerment of small-scale farmers in Tanzania.