With the youth in Agriculture Summit now over, a lot remains to be seen if this summit made any impact on the youth who participated in it. Often times summits, workshops and conferences are viewed more like talk shops more than anything else. Not much change or action or change can be directly attributed to them. I am of the view that the Youth in Agriculture Summit which was organized by CCCARDESA showed early signs of being different, as the Executive Director of CCARDESA, Prof. Timothy Simalenga would say, it ended with a “BANG”.
I believe for the first time, this summit offered a platform for the youth to be actively involved in issues that affect them directly instead of being handed solutions that attempt to solve their problems without their input. I was privileged to have been a part of the team that attended the summit and I was overwhelmed by the passion, the focus and the drive that some youth have towards farming.
I met a 21 year old horticulture farmer based in Swaziland who was doing very well despite the challenges he faces; what was important was that he is willing to learn and meet challenges head on. One banana farmer from Zimbabwe brought the entire room to tears with his life story and his final decision to go into farming; needless to say he is a success.
What was very clear from the presentations made by the organizations such as FARA, CCARDESA, AGRA, and SADC was that “youth have a crucial role in Agriculture and ultimately in achieving regional food security”. What was also apparent was that the youth in all 15 SADC countries face similar challenges in their enterprises, such as shortage of farming land, financing and markets. Despite many challenges it was concluded that the time to act is NOW! With regard to access to financing, the Land Bank of South Africa and AGRA presented models of financing which have potential to ease the challenge of capital among the youth.
The summit also offered an opportunity for youth to network and link up with other youth from different countries and to promote cross border trade. Mr Gothatamang Tukisi is a case in point. He is a bee farmer from Botswana, who was approached by South African entrepreneurs who are willing to partner with him in marketing and distributing his bee wax cream in South African which offers a more wide market for his business.
In conclusion, the Summit restored my personal faith in Agriculture as a key to solving challenges of youth unemployment. If we could have more of such initiatives Africa could feed Africa.