Africa can learn a lot from the Latin American country of Brazil whose government has assisted the poor to attain basic levels of social welfare while building a strong economy.
In Africa, the poorest of the poor are considered to be women and youth; African nations have startlingly high rates of youth unemployment and a female population that daily struggles with the financial difficulties of feeding their families. Although African women play a vital role in agriculture, they do not have access to the financial resources and technology that could enable them to increase productivity to a level similar or equal to their male counterparts.
This discrepancy has forced many women to compromise their source of livelihood. In South Africa, for example, 40% of seeds given to poor women farmers are either washed away or eaten as food by the woman’s family rather than planted.
By implementing a system where the poor–especially women and youth–are able to attain acceptable levels of social welfare, the governments of African nations would be indirectly supporting agricultural productivity. Empowering women with the social services they need also gives them the resources to take part in sustainable agriculture, which could lead to an increase of up to 20-30% in productivity.
African governments investing in a solid social welfare system should include opportunities for youths to be actively engaged with technology and other methods that can make agriculture a more appealing profession. In Namibia, for example, many young people can be found on the streets using their celular phones to sell mushrooms. These youth were not responsible for the cultivation of the mushroom, but they were actively taking part in their sale and distribution.
This is a clear example of the kind of collaboration that can occur between the youth and women in Africa, but it cannot happen without African governments intentionally putting enabling systems in place.
If Africa nations can adopt the Brazilian model by ensuring social welfare for the poor, and modifying it to make it appropriate for their unique economies, there could be a significantly positive change in the level of agricultural productivity in these nations. The result will be an Africa that is empowered to feed its own inhabitants through agricultural science and innovation.
Blogpost by Toluwani Adekunle, a social media reporter for AASW6.
Photo: N. Palmer (CIAT)