FAO Regional Office for Africa

Bold actions needed to attract youth into agriculture and agribusiness

FAO launches special youth employment program to boost agri-business

True rural transformation cannot be accomplished in Africa without empowering the youth in agriculture (Photo:© FAO/Simon Maina)

10 May 2017, Accra - Africa needs to enhance right policy environments, access to capital, innovations and right technologies in support of the youth to engage massively in agriculture and agribusiness

“And most importantly, the continent needs to develop practical business models on selected value chains, with examples of budgeted business plans with cost-benefit analysis, and evidence based advocacy,” said  Bukar Tijani, FAO Assistant Director General and Regional Representative for Africa.

Speaking at the launch of an FAO special programme  for “Youth Employment: enabling decent agriculture and agri-business jobs” in Accra, Bukar Tijani underscored the need for motivation through linkage to financial services that do not require collaterals the youth cannot provide, rural infrastructure and services to facilitate market linkages and enterprise development and partnerships.

“True rural transformation cannot be accomplished in Africa without empowering the youth in agriculture and value chains through decent jobs and entrepreneurship,” he added.

Africa has a population of almost 200 million people aged between 15 and 24, so the youth represent a large untapped reservoir for the growth of the agri-food sector.

On his part, Klutse Kudomor representing Ghana’s Ministry for Agriculture, confirmed that there are many investment opportunities in the agricultural value chain and “it is in this direction that the government has launched various agriculture initiatives with incentive schemes to ensure that the youth are gainfully employed”.

Alex Ariho, Chief Executive Officer, African Agribusiness Incubators Network, noted that investing in the future of the youth and encouraging them to grow their own businesses was key in dealing with the unemployment situation on the continent, along with adequate access to technology and innovation as well as motivation from successful start-ups.

Also attending the Accra meeting was Unami Mpofu, Senior Program Officer, NEPAD; she called for stakeholder collaboration to address the challenges facing youth unemployment and create decent agri-business job for the youth on the continent. She emphasized the need to be practical and put the youth at the center as agents of agricultural growth. “The future can be good”, she said.

The workshop attracted representatives of youth organizations, Government, private sector, civil society in a number of African countries who have elevated the benchmarks for youth empowerment in the 21st century, through various policy, programmatic and research work.

Rejuvenating aging farming population through youth employment

The “Youth Employment: enabling decent agriculture and agri-business jobs” programme will support the region in harnessing its huge demographic dividend, while contributing to the rejuvenation of the aging farming population.

“Beyond farm jobs, the programme will also explore the potential for youth employment in rural non-farm economic activities in food value chains, agri-business development and their related support services”, explained Peter Wobst, Senior Programme Advisor, FAO.

“We aim at supporting the up-scaling of successful approaches through programme formulation and facilitation of multi-stakeholder partnerships; developing capacity and strengthening institutions; as well as sharing knowledge for evidence-based policy and programme development”, he elaborated.

For an integrated approach structured around three main components.

“We have to unleash the money making power of the African youth in agriculture and value chains. We must address the challenges that disenfranchise the African youth from agriculture such as low productivity, hardship, low levels of mechanization and modernization, lack of rural infrastructure and insufficient local processing and value addition”, said Tacko Ndiaye, Senior Gender Officer, FAO.

“In doing that, we must acknowledge that the youth is not a homogeneous groups and use tailored approaches according to the constraints, needs and priorities of various youth groups”, she added.

Youth employment promotion in the agricultural sector is not new to FAO. In Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Niger, Sierra Leone, Tanzania, Tunisia, Senegal and Zambia, FAO has developed skills development approaches, such as the Junior Farmer and Field Life School (JFFLS) methodology, as well as business models and guidance for the agricultural sector to be more effective in creating decent jobs for the rural youth.

The programme will be mainly implemented at country level, but would also contribute to regional and global processes and initiatives, such as the implementation of the Malabo Declaration/CAADP Results Framework (2015-25), the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development  and the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth.

It will also support the implementation of Declarations that will emanate from the 2017 AU Year on “Harnessing the Demographic Dividend through investments in youth” as they relate to empowering youth in agriculture and agricultural value chains.