The youth remain a largely untapped resource which is useful for addressing some of the key political, social and economic challenges of the region. Constituting over 65% of the region’s 284 million people, youth are a vibrant force to reckon with in shaping the present and future Southern Africa. However, youth involvement in Agriculture is in a worrisome decline in Southern Africa, putting the region’s food and nutrition security under threat. Lack of financing, a negative youth perception of agriculture and failure to recognise business opportunities in the agriculture value chain are some of the key factors leading to low involvement of youth in agriculture. CCARDESA organised a summit under the theme “unlocking agri-business opportunities for youth in Southern Africa-” to bring together about 400 participants, particularly youth to discuss possible solutions to the challenges and to expose the youth to opportunities in agriculture.
The Municipality of Durban hosted the Summit and provided support to the summit. Key presentations on various thematic issues on youth involvement in agriculture were made by the Forum for Agriculture Research in Africa (FARA), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development in Southern Africa (CCARDESA), Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa (ASARECA), West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Agriculture Research Council (ARC – South Africa), Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), the City of Durban, youth organisations among other key players in agriculture and development. Successful young farmers from Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe also shared success stories and challenges.
Graced by the presence of the MEC of agriculture in KwaZulu Natal (Mr Cyril Xaba) who was the guest of owner, the Summit was an eye opener for many youths who left the Summit motivated to start businesses along the agriculture value chain. One of the participants commented as follows:
“This Youth Summit was a very valuable experience and excellent occasion that provided our youths, and even researchers a chance to meet and learn from each other through informative presentations, success stories which not only addressed their challenges and achievements in their endeavors, but which also were eye opening to the opportunities abound in AGRICULTURE”
Pedzisai Chimhanda one of the youth participants felt encouraged by the need to unlock post-harvest technologies. The fact that US$48 billion is lost in post-harvest, as indicated in the presentation by the NRF Research Chair for Post-Harvest (Prof Linus Opara) made her recognise that more jobs and money are locked in post harvesting and that there is need to unlock and release the full potential of post-harvest technologies and create opportunities amongst the youth.
In his closing remarks the MEC of KwaZulu Natal reminded the youth that they should become entrepreneurs and take advantage of the agricultural value chains recognizing that agriculture is both a science and business where there is more to farming than “just toiling on the land.”
One of the main outcomes of the meeting was a declaration which covered the following issues:
- Commitment to mainstreaming youth in agriculture policies at all levels
-Commitment to building the capacity of the youth through knowledge management, learning and information sharing across the region
-Commitment to improving agribusiness infrastructure targeted at the youth
-Commitment to equitable access to markets and trade for the youth
-Commitment to advocating for appropriate financing packages
-A commitment by the youth in championing their active involvement in agriculture
Not only was the Summit an opportunity for youth to discover business opportunities in Agriculture, it also presented an opportunity for most of the organisations represented at the summit to discuss possible areas of synergy in supporting youth initiatives.
The main message from the Summit was that there is huge potential for unlocking youth opportunities in the agriculture value chain, and all key stakeholders should work together to unlock the potential.