African youth in agriculture have outstretched their voices about the challenges they face when they want to set up agricultural activities as a foundation to eradicate hunger and malnutrition on the African continent.
The challenges and proposed solutions were heard during the conference held in Kigali since 20-21 August 2018 which discusses “Youth Employment in Agriculture as a Solid Solution to ending Hunger and Poverty in Africa’.
The conference brought together 600 participants from over 45 African countries, International experts, academia, and members of the press, entrepreneurs, Governments officials, African Union, FAO and many others.
Speaking at the official opening of the conference, Rwanda’s Minister of Agriculture and Animal Resources Dr Gerardine Mukeshimana, who was representing President Paul Kagame, said “Africa is endowed with all ingredients needed for moving fast from potential to real economic transformation,”
She further added that in the region, agriculture accounts for 32 percent of the GDP and creates 65 percent of jobs.
“This means that developing the continent’s economies requires developing the agriculture sector given the crucial and strategic role it plays. In fact, growth in agriculture is 2 to 3 times more effective at reducing poverty than an equivalent amount of growth generated in other sectors.” Minister Mukeshimana added.
The conference which has been co-organized by the Government of Rwanda, the African Union and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), focused on youth employment, information and communication technologies, and entrepreneurship.
During an Interactive session on youth voices in Agriculture, participants raised various issues which include entrepreneurship, investments, Agriculture funding, Governments policies and Agricultural information sharing among others.
Africa takes Youth Employment in Agriculture as a solid solution to ending Hunger and Poverty.
The continent also believed in the use of modern technologies to transform its agriculture sector.
Experts highlighted that Africa’s population is youthful adding that Youth are the ones who are using ICTs infrastructures in a big number.
Speaking at the Conference, the FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva said that MOST businesses are using websites to sell products and from that opportunity African youth must take advantages to sell agriculture products by using available ICTs means.
Other key note speakers highlighted also that ICTs help to connect farmers to market.
In coming years more than ever agriculture market will have to use ICTs.
No charity in Agriculture funding
Dr. Agnes Kalibata – President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) said that “We really have to be able to understand how to use ICTs and also to develop businesses using ICTs.
“Acquiring ability to use ICTs is very critical and that’s building on the initial skills we have gotten as Agronomists so we can solve farmer based problems, for instance by using mobile telephones, using the Internet,
“As has been talked about, the whole big data revolution is really having the information. The question is we really have to harness and use that information, for businesses, for opportunities, for accessing to funding,
However, Dr. Kalibata told young entrepreneurs that accessing Agricultural Funding is not done through charity adding that youth should have entrepreneurship ideas that are able to create jobs and done as a business.
“We cannot fund an entrepreneurship from public perspective …I really think that we need to look at the entrepreneurship in Agriculture from private sector perspective. There are million dollars to fund innovative ideas that can help in creating jobs.
“There is no charity in Agriculture, this is not about charity. This is actually a business! How do we fund those opportunities and build business cases around them is what matters most” Dr. Kalibata said.
In the meantime, youth in Africa face various challenges that hinder the implementation of their business ideas.
Among the challenges there are Lack of adequate education, lack of access to lands and credits to be able to create green jobs.
However experts advise that “Equipping young people with adequate skills and solving those challengenges will have positive impacts in Agriculture development in Africa.”
Dr. Tamara Kaunda from Zambia challenged the idea of funding youth’s activities saying that “I am not looking for charity but if you give me some percentage of funding I can create something that can befit more young people like me.”
“So we really need to look Agriculture as oxygen of the economy in Africa.” She added.
Dr, Tamara was contributing her inputs during a session during which a high level panel was discussing various issues including use of ICTs, Youth engagement, Investments, market and Government policies.
African youth must change the mindset that “Agriculture is for old people”
According to findings of various studies, most of the people doing agriculture have the average of over 45 years old.
Diego Dieudonné Twahirwa, a 30 year old Rwandan entrepreneur who owns Gashora Farm Ltd told other youth that “We have to change this mindset”
“In Rwanda, Youth through the Ministry of Agriculture have been brought together into a forum of youth in Agribusiness and the forum is having great impacts on the country’s Agriculture sector.
“We can use this success story to encourage more young people interested in Agribusiness across the continent” Twahirwa said.
Gashora Farms is the country’s leading chili export firm based in Bugesera District in the Eastern Province of Rwanda.
Access to market
Though some youth are gaining from their agriculture business in general, some other young Africans also raised the issue of access to market where they can sell their products.
Commenting on that issue, Christophe Bazivamo, Deputy Secretary General of the East African Community said that “This issue must be seen in an integrated approach not focusing on one scope. We need to look global.”
Bazivamo explained that when “You think globally, Banks also come in.”
He added that “The market is an issue but it needs to go with information networking so that youth can share market information.”
Bazivamo also advised African Government to be more pro-active especially on matters that are related to youth who want to engage in Agriculture.
He also added that “The biggest market is among Africans themselves. So we have to start looking on local market through Intra-Africa trade.”
Youth not involved in Agricultural Policies formulation
Youth highlighted that some time Government policies regarding youth are formulated without the involvement of youth and when it comes to their implementation it becomes difficult to yield expected results.
They say “Before putting in place such policies at least youth must be involved.”
Ruramiso Mashumba, a young female farmer from Marondera, Zimbabwe said “Some Youth in Africa are failing to implement what is enshrined in Government policies because they were not involved in their formulation…”
“Government should be accountable for policies that they bring in to benefit youth. We need to have policies that have open dialogue between Governments and Youth.” Ruramiso said.
Who hears the voice of youth?
Though African youth are meeting in various meetings, the questions remain How are they engaging in post-meetings? Where do youth recommendations go? How do they make follow up?
One of experts asked “Do you need more conferences or tweets recommendations to make Governments accountable and engage with them?”
The panelists concluded that “Youth must be involved and not seen as beneficiaries but as actors and this will really scale up the agriculture sector.
They said Agriculture is a vision not a vocation. “We have to carry the sense of responsibility to ensure that we carry Africa where we want to go”
On the other hand, information sharing is seen as a potential tool where youth can benefit each other.
Words of wisdom to young Entrepreneurs: “Humanity before profit. Money follows the passion.”
“Use Youth forums to discuss all the challenges and work as a group to deal with them and improve what you are doing” concludes Dr. Tamara Kaunda who was intervening while at the same time sharing her experience as a medical Doctor who has shifted to farming after realizing its potential side.