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How to engage youth in agriculture

THE Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme – Knowledge, Information and Skills (CAADP-KIS) is a pan-African vehicle that translates the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) Planning and Coordinating Agency (NPCA)’s vision into a workable framework to guide agriculture-led development. CAADP’s overall goal is to improve livelihoods, food security and environmental resilience in Africa’s largely agrarian economies.

After its 10-year planning phase which laid greater emphasis on the regional strategies, the current implementation era, which is referred to as the Knowledge, Information and Skills (KIS) phase, focuses on the country level, and seeks to strengthen African countries’ capacities to be proactive and forward-thinking in maximising opportunities as well as minimising threats for positive agricultural transformation. The KIS phase of CAADP is, therefore, expected to give a stronger attention to the youth as actors in agricultural development in Africa.

Recent studies have focused on the impact of age structure on population as well as economic growth. For instance, what is the impact of a youthful population on economic growth? What are the opportunities and what risks do demographic dividend offer for Africa; how can Africa help its youth get involved and stay involved in the CAADP process? How can Africa draw more youth into the CAADP processes and benefit from their talents?

Youth in Africa

In fact, more than 40 per cent of the higher growth in the East Asian ‘tigers’ versus that in Latin America during 1965 – 1990 was due to the former’s working-age population, combined with their better policies on trade and human capital development (Bloom and Canning, 2004). In the case of Africa, the continent possesses the largest share of children and youth, and it is expected to experience a ‘demographic dividend’ where the youthful population will peak, bringing a unique opportunity for rapid human capital development and economic growth.

Africa boasts of the fastest-growing and most youthful population in the world (AfDB, 2012). Over 40 per cent are under the age of 15 years, and 20 per cent (about 200 million) are between the ages of 15 and 24 (the United Nations definition of age bracket for youth). Seventy per cent of African youth resides in rural areas and account for 65 per cent of labour in agriculture. Young people make up 36 per cent of the working population, and account for 60 per cent of the total unemployed (AfDB, 2012). Though these statistics portend both huge opportunities and challenges, the large youth population in Africa should be viewed as a formidable asset for advancing the CAADP-KIS agenda.

Regarding the challenges, it is important to note that the ongoing economic buoyancy of about six per cent annual growth rate in the past half decade has often been non-inclusive, non-participatory and non-encompassing. In other words, this phenomenal economic growth as well as increased annual allocation of 10 per cent to agriculture has created insufficient opportunities for young people, thereby making the current demographic trend in Africa more of a threat than an opportunity.

Youth in the CAADP

Against this background, the communiqué developed during the 2012 Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) second annual dialogue of Ministers of Agriculture, Science and Technology emphasizes the inclusion of youth in the mechanisms of integrating research, extension and education in the CAADP country process for increased agricultural productivity in Africa.

Further, the eighth Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) partnership platform meeting, which was held in Nairobi, Kenya, on May 3-4, 2012, recognised that mobilising the potentials of young Africans remains the dominant driver for achieving the CAADP objectives.

It must be stated that, though giant strides have been recorded in actualising the CAADP agenda,  Africa still remains a net food importer and more than 40 per cent of Africans do not even have the ability to obtain sufficient food on a day-to-day basis, they therefore go to bed hungry (UN Millennium Project Factsheets, 2006).

In fact, the World Development Report 2007 notes that developing countries should best invest in their youth and capitalise on the ‘demographic dividend’ in order to spur growth and achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Youth and the CAADP-KIS

Invariably, Africa is yet to recognise the treasures embedded in its youth and strategise on how to tap into this resource. One of the biggest challenges being faced by African policymakers, development partners and practitioners is how to effectively harness the potentials of young people – male and female – by equipping them with the requisite skills and knowledge in order to be fully engaged in the entire CAADP-KIS process at all levels, as well as the innovative approaches for making research, extension and education an integral part of the Agriculture and Food Security Investment Plans (AFSIPs) that African countries are currently developing.

Further, national CAADP-KIS implementation process and the AFSIPs present ample opportunities to practically and concretely integrate evidence based mechanisms and programme to address youth issues in a gender-sensitive manner.

Youth and decision-making

Inadequate mechanisms for engaging youth (farmers) in CAADP decision-making processes appeared as one of the major hindrances to improved agricultural productivity. In fact, lack of integration appeared intentional, since youth contributions are sometimes regarded as ‘obstacles to innovation’ that should be superseded.

Thus, despite references to social inclusion, youth are perceived as passive agents in policy design and implementation. In other words, youth are seen as being unable to create the bonds with outsiders who are required to access resources and influence policies to support innovations based on traditional knowledge – innovations that potentially could be used, for instance, as an asset for sustainable agricultural development.

Youth and agricultural productivity

If improved agricultural productivity, within the CAADP agenda, is to be youth-driven, innovative strategies are to be called on to play a vital role in the new paradigm of agricultural competitiveness; this will require the recognition of social norms and practices in the agricultural supply and demand value chain. A paradigm shift in agricultural productivity must work with, rather than against, youth involvement and participation.

This further requires the role of the state is strategically steering the direction of choices and opportunities according to the CAADP Framework. Youth being an effective lever with a huge transformative power for achieving CAADP goals, its success will not be achieved solely through the application of pre-designed mechanisms aimed at achieving sustainability by leapfrogging traditional modes of production.

CAADP towards opportunities for the youth

There could not have been a better time than when youth unemployment is rising significantly and the 8th CAADP PP has brought new insights and perspective to youth issues under CAADP. The youth need to be brought into the mainstream of CAADP policy processes and thinking in order to ensure a bright future for them and for the country.  

Some of the reasons why Africa needs to focus on youth and her role in CAADP include: Creating livelihood opportunities for young people helps break the cycle of intergenerational poverty; with human capital as the trading currency, there are long-term socio-economic benefits to be reaped from improving the health, education and social capacities of young people; all the four CAADP pillars speak directly to improving the situation of young people; CAADP-KIS represents the means to a productive life for about 70 per cent of Africans living on agriculture; and failure to invest in young people can lead to their involvement in crime, violence and conflict.

Youth in CAADP Initiative (YICI)

In order to take advantage of this demographic dividend for driving CAADP-KIS framework, sound policies, institutional structures and youth involvement/development are needed to boost youth capacity. To this end, there is a need for an initiative to study, understand, and shape the effectiveness of the youth component of CAADP-KIS.

This should engender the establishment of a Youth in CAADP Initiative (YICI) which will be geared towards assisting those who were negatively affected by previous unfavourable policies to remain in the agricultural pipeline in order to foster an effective national system of innovation and Agricultural Research for Development (ARD).

The initiative will bring together experts from the policy, programme and research environments as well as young people in a series of dialogues to interrogate the key issues of adopting multi-sectoral approaches to embracing youth in the CAADP-KIS processes.

YICI’s should aims at: (1) making high-quality youth related research available to CAADP stakeholders; (2) facilitating debates on the most efficient ways of addressing challenges of young people vis-à-vis achievement of CAADP-KIS objectives; (3) contributing to coordination among the CAADP-KIS priority issues that are of relevance to youth; (4) promoting integration of youth among CAADP-KIS officials and stakeholders; (5) screening potentials AFSIPs for implementing activities under the inclusiveness of youth and decent employment in the CAADP-KIS process.

This will help to further shape policies that influence opportunities which are of interests to youth and African development. Some of these opportunities include: Strengthening capacities of youth (and their institutions) on enterprise development particularly in value added activities such as food processing, packaging and trade; improving young people access to technology, knowledge and information; and provision of well-targeted innovative micro-finance packages. Thus, the proposed YICI will ensure that Africa is prepared to make the most of its youth bulge within the CAADP-KIS framework.

The CAADP-KIS document can be downloaded here.

• Dr. Odularu is the regional policy analyst at the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), Accra, Ghana. He is also the Africa-regional coordinator of Young Professionals’ Platform for Agricultural Research for Development (YPARD). You can contact him at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

Source: Original article published in The Guardian Nigeria, Wendesday, 26 June, 2013.

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