Constraints in accessing land and finance continue to the biggest challenges facing women and the youth’s participation in agriculture.
This came out of the ongoing consultations of Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) in Harare ahead of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Regional Conference set for Victoria Falls next month.
Participants at the consultations concurred that agricultural transformation – which will be at the center of the FAO Regional Conference next month – should maximise the potential benefits of inclusive agricultural value chains, so as to take full advantage of the growth in demand for value added food and agricultural products in Africa.
The participants said the continent’s agro-food sector needs to be inclusive and embrace women and youth if it is going to effectively contribute to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In view of the difficulties faced by women and youths to engage in agriculture, participants recommended that Goverments should define a statute for farm labour in the respective countries, as well as to introduce agriculture and food production to children in education system from young ages.
“It is crucial that this is done based on positive examples and experience of working in the fields,” said a participant.
African Governments were also urged to develop specific upliftment policies focused on rural youth, as well as realistic and appropriate programs and policies for small-scale food productions are still lacking in African countries.
At least 21 African countries are participating at the Harare consultations, including Gambia, Senegal, Tunisia, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, Zimbabwe, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’ Ivoire, Ghana, Mali, Uganda, Ethiopia, Tanzania, Niger, Chad, Congo Brazzavile, Togo, Nigeria, Mozambique and Zambia.
The consultations are a brainchild of the Zimbabwean Government in partnership with the National Association of Non-Governmental Association (Nango) and Zimbabwe Smallholder Organic Farmers Forum (ZIMSOFF).
Other key issues that took centre stage at the consultations include proposals for Governments to support pastoralist groups and areas with the creation of local slaughter-houses, as an important source of local nutrition and of job creation for youth and women.
Governments have also been urged to work with CSOs to inclusively develop and implement strategies to attract youth to small-scale food processing industries, as well as to create inter-governmental committees (youth, women, agriculture and fisheries) aimed at job creation.
With regards to inclusive agribusiness models, FAO has since developed innovative tools aimed at scaling up research and innovation at all levels of the food systems, targeting women and youth for sustainable job creation and income generation solutions.
The participants however urged FAO to go further and partner with the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) for the financing of youth entrepreneurship in the Agro-pastoral sectors.