Africa’s agricultural transformation needs youth participation

20 Aug, 2021 - 00:08 0 Views
Africa’s agricultural transformation needs youth participation

eBusiness Weekly

Tapiwanashe Mangwiro 

Youths are a key factor in improving food systems through participation as is highlighted by this year’s International Youth Day theme Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health.

This is such a perfect theme for Sub Saharan Africa which has agro-dependent economies. According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), of the region’s total employment, agriculture accounts for 60 percent, with about 80 percent of that population being in small scale farming across the continent.

Hence, poverty and hunger reduction rests solely on the ability of the region to develop and transform agriculture into a lucrative and profitable business.

Population is growing rapidly across the continent and this puts pressure on agricultural land, which then needs creativity and innovation to cope with the pressure. Now, this is where the youth should raise their hands and be counted upon.

However, this is innovation and adaptation is an uphill task because most youths largely believe that agriculture is a fallback enterprise where one goes when all the chips are down. So how do we make them buy the idea that agriculture is ‘cool’ and profitable, and not just a place to soil your hands but can generate life meaningful income?

The continent’s biggest bank, AfDB has tried to bring up ways to improve youth participation in agriculture through its Enable Youth Programme, which seeks to create young, innovative and progressive agripreneurs or agricultural entrepreneurs.

In Zimbabwe, the Ministry of Agriculture has done quite well in making agriculture lucrative, via the Command Agriculture scheme, but we have not had a youth specific policy towards agriculture, which them limits their participation and becomes a fallback plan.

In some countries like Kenya, the Enable Youth Programme is encompassed in their Youth Agribusiness Strategy 2018-2022 whose aim is to place the youth at the forefront of agricultural growth and transformation.

Such policies are what our country needs in order to see growth in the agricultural sector as well as more participation in reducing poverty and hunger in the country.

More specifically, the Enable Youth Programme is designed to empower youth at each stage of the agribusiness value chain as “agripreneurs” by harnessing new skills, technologies and financing so that the youth can establish profitable agribusinesses.

The AfDB has approved Enable Youth projects amounting to US$538 million in 15 countries across Africa, since its inception in 2016.

An estimated 28,000 youths have benefited directly from the program with a projection of over 88,000 new jobs created. The youth are supported through training, mentoring, seed capital and pairing with investors to grow their SMEs and start-ups.

In a country like Zimbabwe where differing statistical agencies believe youth unemployment is around 42 percent, such an initiative, with the vast opportunities it presents and promise it holds, should be widely embraced and be talked about.

Zimbabwe seems to be moving in a direction to change archaic ways of learning agriculture as it recently revamped its agriculture schools curriculum to be dynamic enough to respond to the prevailing labour market demands, such as digitisation and other up-to-the-minute technologies that enable more food to be produced on less land.

There is a need to inspire, empower and motivate young people to innovate in different segments of agricultural activity.

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