From Food To Money in The Pocket: Engaging African youth in climate-smart agriculture

24 JULY, 2017

Agriculture requires innovative technologies and solutions in order to meet the increasing food demand due to growing population in the coming years.


African governments with support from non-governmental organizations, international agencies and research institutions need to establish enabling environments and incentives to support youth initiatives to take up agriculture.”Dr Maren Radeny, CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) East Africa.  

Dr Radeny made these remarks during the twenty-second session of the Conference of the Parties (COP22) Africa pavilion side event on ‘Youth Engagement in Climate Smart Agriculture in Africa’ held on November 15, 2016 in Marrakech in Morocco. The event was organized by CCAFS East Africa, the Climate Smart Agriculture Youth Network (CSAYN) and the CLIMDEV-Africa Youth Platform (ACLYP). The side event was the culmination of an online discussion forum on Youth Engagement in Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA) and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Focusing on African youth, the online discussion was hosted on the Climate and Agriculture Network for Africa (CANA) website from 13 to 22 July as part of the World Youth Skills Day. The side event moderated by Vivian Atakos, Regional Communications Specialist/Communications and Public Awareness Department, International Potato Center (CIP) attracted over 60 participants. 

Why focus on the youth in agriculture and CSA specifically in Africa?

“Africa’s youth are the future and a great asset for the continent. We need to equip them to realize their economic potential, drive economic growth across Africa and contribute to the SDGs. Agriculture sector offers an excellent opportunity for the youth with employment opportunities along the agricultural value chain,” Maren said in her opening remarks.

Africa is vulnerable to climate change and African agriculture is under threat. We are witnessing changes and shifts in the agricultural calendar, variable rainfall patterns, increasing temperatures, increased incidence of pests and diseases—all of which are negatively affecting agricultural yields and leading to food insecurity. Agriculture still contributes significantly to GDP in many African countries, and provides livelihood and employment opportunities. However, Africa’s youth unemployment rates are high. According to the African Development Bank (AfDB), African youth constitute around 40% of the continent’s working age population, but makes up 60% of the total unemployed. High youth unemployment can lead to serious social, economic, political and security challenges, including migration. However, there is hope with agriculture offering an excellent opportunity for the youth and an option for addressing youth unemployment in Africa. Climate-smart agriculture, for example, has the potential to sustainably increase agricultural productivity and incomes while enhancing adaptation and resilience to climate change.

Opportunities for young farmers in the New Global Agenda on climate change and Agriculture

To ensure we achieve agenda 2030, we must ensure the implementation phase is for youth and with youth, thus Leaving No One Behind. We need to make agriculture attractive and lucrative for youth to be interested and equally adapting to climate change. Translating the 17 SDGs into local language should equally be scaled up.” Divine Ntiokam of CSAYN/ACLYP.

Sharing her experiences on motivating the youth through community based adaptation, Emma Bowa of Care International emphasized the need to identify and involve the youth in the most relevant and suitable points of the agricultural value chain. This is a critical factor to consider especially for young farmers who may not have the skills to engage in direct on farm activities.

Olu Ajayi from the Technical Center for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), added that having access to a role model is a key success factor for youth entrepreneurs as it limits the possible negative impact of lacking experience. In order to motivate youth, there is need to demonstrate the profitability of modern agricultural and agribusiness opportunities. Youth have a lot of potential and if properly mentored, can be instrumental in changing the perception of the other youth towards agriculture. This includes mentorship on how to acquire land, capital and farm inputs.

The emergence of information and communication technology (ICT) has revolutionized agricultural practices and empowered farmers to access different kinds of information. According to Mr Ajayi, CTA is working with the youth to explore how to increase ICT use in agriculture with a focus on development and implementation of sound e-agriculture strategies and innovations for the benefit of all stakeholders.

It is essential to mobilize and organize youth farmers into cooperatives and associations to benefit from economies of scale. “The future belongs to the organized,” said Dyborn Chibonga from the National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM) in his concluding remarks.

Entry points for youth engagement in CSA

CCAFS is already engaging youth groups in East Africa through several initiatives. Through the smart farms, for example, youth groups are testing a combination of CSA practices—greenhouse production of tomatoes and green beans for better disease and pest control, continuous production to meet market demand; rain water harvesting irrigation and fish farming for improved nutrition; and uptake of resilient breeds of goats and sheep. Other activities include agroforestry, where fruit trees are integrated with multipurpose trees for fodder and fuel wood, and tree nurseries for income. These activities are supported by Climate Information Services (CIS) for informed farm decisions.

In his closing remarks, Martin Bwalya of New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD), informed participants that NEPAD has established a catalytic fund to encourage women and youth from Africa to engage in CSA. Initiatives such as Global Alliance for Climate-Smart Agriculture (GACSA) have been established to share knowledge and generate creative solutions regarding food security and climate change challenges.

The authors Tabitha Muchaba and Catherine Mungai are both from CCAFS EA while Divine Ntiokam is from Climate Smart Agriculture Youth Network and CLIMDEV-Africa Youth Platform (CSAYN/ACLYP).