When it comes to youth and agriculture, most of us think we know what needs to be done: governments and other stakeholders need to develop innovative approaches and policies to get more youth involved in this critical sector. It goes without saying that the stakeholders are expected to involve the youth in innovation and policy formulation. Not much is said about what the youth can do themselves to facilitate their involvement in these processes.
Africa is currently the most youthful continent in the world. It is estimated that by 2015, youth will make up 60 percent of the population on the continent. These young people, who will soon be the drivers of the continent’s economy, need to know that they have a right to be involved in high-level policy dialogues on agriculture and begin actively seeking opportunities to participate.
Getting a Seat at the Table
If the youth want to access prominent positions in the agricultural sector, they must make their interest known to all stakeholders including government and international organizations. They should have a clear agenda of exactly what positions they want to occupy, gather evidence of past successes by youth in similar positions and present this information to their governments.
For instance, the youth could study the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and find their space within it. Alternatively, young researchers do not have to wait until they can find internships in national and regional research organizations. They should take advantage of the urgent need for accurate research data on Africa’s agricultural sector and begin their research right from their local communities.
The youth-in-agriculture movement can learn a lot from the women’s rights movement. Lobbying and advocacy are more effective than violence. Most governments would rather negotiate than go into conflict.
A Success Story
Shambani Graduate Enterprise, the winner of the FANRPAN Youth in Agriculture Award for 2012, is a milk processing enterprise co-owned by three Sokoine University graduates. The enterprise buys milk from over 200 livestock farmers in Morogoro and processes it into pasteurised fresh, cultured and flavoured milk. Due to their notable success in the agriculture sector, the three young men got the opportunity to take part in the follow up meeting for the G8 New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition in Tanzania. The gathering sought to strengthen the pivotal role the private sector plays in transforming African agriculture.
These and other examples make the situation clear: If youth want a seat at the table, they need to start making room for themselves!
Blogpost by Grace Wanene, a social reporter for AASW6.