It is no news that Africa has one of the largest growing populations and from this expansion, Sub-Saharan Africas labour force is also expanding at a rate of 3 percent per year with an additional 375 million young people expected to reach working age by 2035. From these emerging figures and trends, the fact remains that agriculture is key to Africas present and future as it remains the sector with the highest number of employees.
Understanding this potential, the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) has identified the need to develop inclusive agribusiness opportunity among young people and drive agri-preneurship through technology. This is in line with FARAs commitment to coordinate and advocate for agricultural research-for-development within the context of Africa food security agenda. To scale-up its thematic focus, FARA partnered with Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD) to host a Continental Youth Engagement Workshop at the FARA Secretariat in Accra, Ghana. The theme was, Strategic Engagement and Capacity Development of Youth in Agri-prenuership for Technology Adoption.
The three-day workshop hosted over sixty youth from twenty-six countries across Africa. The workshop participants were drawn from different spheres of agricultural enterprises across the diverse agricultural value chains. See the full list of selected participants here. The workshop was organized as part of FARAs efforts to effectively scale up proven innovative technologies within the Technologies for African Agricultural Transformation (TAAT)s ten tier one countries and subsequently across the continent. The details from the conference are reported in details through the articles on FARA hosts African youth in agriculture and FARA: Leveraging technology for inclusive agripreneurship development in Africa.
Making a difference through the development of value chains
As a participant of the workshop, I was excited to be exposed to an aspect of the workshop which revealed how young people could tap into and develop viable businesses in agriculture and agribusiness. This opened up substantial opportunities for employment creation across agri-food systems.
This was on the second day of the youth workshop when participants were introduced to the TAAT value chains and enterprise development within the value chains. This session was facilitated by Karen Munoko Nguru, the Agribusiness Expert of FARA. Karen made a presentation on Job and Business Opportunities for Youth within TAAT Crop Value Chains. Eight opportunities for engagement of youth along the value chains were identified within the agricultural sector:
Market information specialists: In this node of the value chain, the specialist gathers, analyze and disseminates information about seed varieties, prices, market trends and other relevant information to farmers, agro-traders, processors and other stakeholders in agro-industry and food supply chains.
Seed production specialists: The value chain node depicts the requirement of agri-preneurs to produce high-quality seeds and seedlings for farmers. Given the trends in advocating for improved seeds that are related to the consumption patterns of the various consumers, producing high-quality-relevant seeds which has a major impact on potential crop yield is crucial. This is no doubt a potential value chain node young people can tap into.
Livestock and animal breeders: Just as producing seeds and seedlings for farmers, livestock farmers need good and quality animal breeds to boost their production. Hence, this value chain node presents an opportunity for young people- particularly in the business of breeding livestock such as chickens, cattle, goats etc. This will be to enhance quality growth rate, and quality products such as eggs, meat and milk for farmers.
Agro-input specialists: The agro-input node has untapped potential which can be maximized by young people. In this enterprise, the youth could set-up a process of distribution of inputs to farmers through an efficient distribution channel with agro-dealers and other input suppliers.
Primary production specialists: This node deals with the primary production of agricultural commodities such as maize, rice, cassava and other related TAAT crops and animals. In this value chain, it is important to identity crops or enterprises which have growing demand and existing market opportunity before primary production begins.
Post-harvest logistics specialists: The current population growth and the trends in post-harvest losses present an opportunity for young people to set-up a post-harvest handling and food supply chain business that addresses the movement of agro-products to the market through innovative logistics and transportation system.
Value addition specialists: It is often advised that young people should invest in the top of the pyramid where value addition is creating more jobs for youth in agriculture. An individual can set-up a value addition enterprise by enhancing and re-packaging raw agricultural commodities into variety of products for the market. For instance, transforming raw plantain into well package plantain chips, is considered a value-added enterprise.
Market specialists: This value chain entails sourcing for markets either open, high-end and institutional markets for farmers to sell their products. Young people can leverage on this value chain and create an agreement with farmers where an agreed commission is given upon securing markets for farmers produce.
In her further explanation, Karen analyzed that to develop innovative and creative agri-preneurs the entire agricultural value chain requires a comprehensive agri-preneurships framework which is classified into four phases as:
Phase 1: Mindset change through capacity development and agri-preneurship simulation trainings;
Phase 2: Business implementation through innovation to impact partnership and systems;
Phase 3: Meet the industry through knowledge management and decision support;
Phase 4: Social support through leadership for research management and program development.
Food for thoughts
Reflecting on the many exciting experiences and moments at FARA continental youth workshop, I affirmed the need for young Africans to change their mindset and see the numerous opportunities that exist in Africas agriculture.
In the closing words from Hlami Ngwenya, an independent consultant who moderated the workshop, she shared an image with the inscription Opportunityisnowhere and said many would read it as Opportunity is nowhere while others will see it as Opportunity is now here. This same phrase is enough to motivate anyone, especially young people to see the existing potentials and viable opportunities across the agricultural value chains.
Discussions, stories and chats from the workshop can be assessed here and the pictures for the three days workshop can be found on Flickr.