Africa needs to practice agriculture with strict commercial principles and develop innovative interventions which address the entire value chain. Development of industries dealing with agricultural produce and services will not only reduce hunger and unemployment but will have a positive impact on the economy of the continent. Youth that recently attended the “Youth in Agriculture Summit” which was organized by CCARDESA in Durban, South Africa learnt.
Dr Yemi Akinbamijo the Executive Director for the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) said it is worrisome that Africa has a history of exporting primary products and importing expensive value added products. He cited business orientation in agricultural activities as key to transforming Africa.
“Globally, agribusiness accounts for 78% of value added in the value chain. While in Africa Agribusiness accounts for 38% and the rest of the 62% is for farming,” he stated.
To ensure that agribusiness accounts for a larger share, Regional Agricultural Organizations have identified priority areas that are good for production and processing in Africa. Such include dairy, rice, cassava, beef, legumes and fish.
Some countries are already experiencing notable success in implementing projects in the above niche areas. One shining example of developing by-products from primary produce is the story of Nonny Wright. Wright is a 26 year old female dairy farmer from Botswana. Her farm of 45 Jersey cows is in a cluster of farms called Hainaveld near Maun, about 900 km from the capital city Gaborone. She processes milk into yoghurt.
“The area I live does not have processing plants so I have to ensure that the milk is sold on a daily basis. So when conducting a market research I realised that value added goods have better returns than raw milk. That is when I made the drinking yoghurt,” she stated.
Wright branded her yoghurt Sereledi, a Setswana word that means delicious. She revealed that it is her mother who named the yoghurt which is neatly packaged into 250ml and 500ml plastic bottles. Currently the yoghurt has three flavors being strawberry, peach apricot and banana.
“I sell it in six local stores and four quick shops in Maun,” she stated.
Processing her milk into yoghurt did not only add value to her product but also increased the shelf life. Wright explained that Sereledi yoghurt has a shelf life of upto one month provided it is refrigerated at all times.
Currently Wright does not meet the demand the fifth’s largest town in Botswana. Her dream is to increase her production to meet the ever rising demand. She needs financial support to work on various areas of her farm to make her dream come true.
“Currently my main concern is having sufficient water and electricity on my farm and also increasing my milk production through buying more cows,” she said.
Over two thousand kilometers across the continent from Wright’s farm is another inspiring story of a young Congolese man called Christophe Kongolo. He is a youth entrepreneur of The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. He and 30 other youth in his country are involved in planting and processing primary products of cassava, maize and soya beans among others into finished goods.
Cassava is one of DRC’s staple food and its history with the country spans over centuries. Currently they process it into flour that is then used to make biscuits, bread, chinchin (more like nuts) and many more products. He said “altogether cassava makes 23 byproducts.”
They also process soya beans into milk and flour. “We then make yoghurt from the milk and many products such as breads, cookies from the soya beans flour,” Altogether Kongolo disclosed that they make 25 products from soya beans.
Kongolo and his group made these achievements through the assistance of IITA. IITA assists groups of young people with land, startup capital and equipment. It also has projects in Zambia, Kenya, Nigeria, Tanzania and Uganda.
If more youth would be involved in agribusiness especially value addition, challenges of unemployment, food and nutrition insecurity will be addressed.