Stories tagged: global food security symposium

How Can African Youth Deliver Agriculture Transformation?

In this guest post, Sithembile Ndema Mwamakamba, Programme Manager at FANRPAN and Farming First steering committee member, shares steps for helping African youth to realize their potential to transform the continent’s food systems. This post originally appeared on the Chicago Council’s Global Food for Thought blog.

There are more young people in the world than ever before.

1.8 billion young people between the ages of 10 and 24, according to UN estimates. For some, this presents an unprecedented potential for economic and social progress. For Africa, however, the world’s youngest region and home to over 200 million young people, this could easily be a ticking time bomb.

According to the 2016 Africa Agriculture Status Report, the region’s rapid population growth is due to rising life expectancy, declines in death rates, particularly of children, and more recently to lower fertility rates, especially among educated urban women. While child mortality rates have declined, fertility rates have remained high, leading to the “youth bulge” that the region is now experiencing.

Youth unemployment, vulnerable employment and working poverty levels in Africa are at an all-time high, with little signs of potential recovery, according to the ILO’s World Employment and Social Outlook (2016).  Youth employment has, therefore, become an important policy priority in most countries. There is great interest to identify sources of productive employment and effective strategies to promote job creation and economic growth in Africa.

The agriculture sector in Africa holds tremendous promise for catalyzing growth and creating employment opportunities for the world’s largest youth population. The importance of the agricultural sector as an employer, is likely to grow with continued transformation of food systems and growth in domestic demand for food. African leaders have committed to create job opportunities for at least 30% of the youth in agricultural value chains by 2025.

But this will not happen overnight. Young people wanting to break into the agriculture sector face several challenges that undermine their economic potential and ability to influence existing policy processes. Studies conducted by FANRPAN in 12 East and Southern African countries found that many young people are unable to fulfil their potential because they face constraints in gaining access to land, credit, training, new technologies.

African youth want to engage in policy

Policy makers generally view young people as passive recipients of support, rather than active agents capable of solving problems. As such, they are rarely included in decision-making and policy processes.  Currently very few youths understand how policies are made and how they can engage and use their experiences to contribute to evidence-based policies that address their challenges.

Young people are keen to participate in the decisions and policies that impact their lives and can give practical, valuable advice on how to make youth and employment policies and programs more impactful. A growing body of research from development experts, including the MasterCard Foundation’s 2015-2016 Youth Think Tank Report, confirms that young people want to be engaged at different levels of decision-making on issues that affect them directly. However, they lack the skills and know-how of how to engage effectively once they have access to these channels of decision making.

The MasterCard Foundation recognizes that these challenges can only be addressed if those most affected by the problems are equipped with solutions. They have partnered with FANRPAN to demystify the notion that policy development should be left to government alone. FANRPAN is documenting a policy engagement model that will help young people understand the policy cycle.

Involving the private sector

There are other initiatives focusing on youth in agriculture at regional level in Africa. Of note is the Empowering Novel Agri-Business – Led Employment (ENABLE)  youth program being championed by the African Development Bank (AfDB) and the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), with support from prominent African private sector players, Aliko Dangote and Tony Elumelu. The program is targeting to help young graduates establish 300,000 agribusinesses in the process create 1.5 Million Jobs for Youth ln the next 5 years. Similarly, the Young Professionals for Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD), an international movement that supports young professionals realize their full potential and contribute proactively towards innovative agricultural transformation.

Sindiso Ngwenya, the Secretary General of the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESA), believes young people will indeed lead the transformation that the continent so desperately needs, for the simple reason that young people are fearless, and not afraid to try new things and even fail at them. Speaking at the  Africa 2017 Forum in December, he stressed that for Africa to be part of the 4th Industrial revolution, policy makers and governments should look to the youth of the continent as they are the ones  that are already leading the transformation.

Last year, I met three very impressive young people who are at the forefront of transforming the agriculture sector.

Salif Romano Niang put his PhD studies at Purdue University on hold in 2011 to launch Malô,  a Mali-based social enterprise that enhances food security by milling, fortifying, and selling rice grown by smallholder farmers in West Africa under the brand name Supermalô. His vision is to turn Supermalô into the Uncle Ben’s of Africa—providing everyone with access to affordable and nutritious rice.

Emma Naluyima, is a smallholder pig farmer and private veterinarian focusing on clinical medicine and herd health. She has helped improve the genetics of dairy herds in Uganda through artificial insemination. She also runs the MST Junior Academy, a school she started to educate children about innovative farming techniques.

Lilian Uwintwali is the founder and CEO of MAHWI TECH Ltd.  Her firm provides m-lima, an online and mobile-based platform that links over 10,000 farmers in Rwanda to markets, banks, insurance companies and extension services. Lilian was recently appointed Board Secretary of the Panafrican EYE (Emerging Young Entrepreneur), inspiring a generational shift in the African Agribusiness industry through improved access to technology, innovation, mentorship and finance.

These are just but a few young Africans who are doing their bit to transform the African agriculture landscape.  It is time that policy discussions move from how governments should engage youth in agriculture to how youth can be supported to be drivers of agricultural transformation.

Farming First is proud to be a media partner for the Chicago Council’s Global Food Security Symposium 2018. For more information on the conference, click here.

Featured image credit: G. Smith / CIAT


Global Food Security Symposium 2017: Making Food Security the Focus in Uncertain Times

Amid recent turbulent political shifts around the world, a new report by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs puts food security at the heart of global peace and prosperity. Launched at the Council’s two-day Global Food Security Symposium in Washington DC, the report – Stability in the 21st Century – calls on political leaders to make food security a pillar of national security policies.

The authors highlighted links between high food prices and unrest, and said commitments to end hunger and malnutrition were more important than ever to address the challenges of instability, climate change and a growing young population.

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Global Food Security Symposium 2017

29-30 March 2017

Washington DC, US

After years of incremental progress in the fight against poverty and malnutrition, eradicating hunger is now within our grasp. Hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, this year’s symposium will showcase the best of business, social, and policy innovation. Top visionaries from every sector will gather to generate the productive dialogue and actions necessary to ensure strides in global food security and agricultural development, and the Council will release its recommendations in a new report. Read more >>

Catherine Bertini: Ending Hunger Is Within Our Grasp

In this guest blog post, Catherine Bertini, distinguished fellow, Global Food and Agriculture at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, and professor of public administration and international affairs, Maxwell School, Syracuse University, reflects on the progress made in tackling malnutrition, and the challenge that remains to achieve zero hunger.

After years of incremental progress in the fight against poverty and malnutrition, eradicating hunger is now within our grasp. The world is changing, and we face growing challenges and new risks—but we’ve also never been as well prepared to meet these challenges. Ending hunger will require action, engagement, commitment, and collaboration from all sectors, across generations, and from every corner of the world.

At the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ Global Food Security Symposium in Washington, DC on March 29 and 30, top visionaries from every sector will gather to generate the productive dialogue and actions necessary to ensure strides in global food security and agricultural development. At the event, the Council will release its new report, Stability in the 21st Century: Global Food Security for Peace and Prosperity, which outlines the progress that’s been made to advance food and nutrition security, emerging challenges, and strategies for engagement by national governments, the private sector, and the United States.

The progress is clear: since 1990 global hunger and extreme poverty have fallen significantly, and agricultural production has, on average, doubled. The world is less poor, less hungry, and healthier than it was just a few decades ago.

Advancing food security promotes national security interests, as hunger and unstable food prices can spur unrest and instability, sometimes with widespread ramifications. Investments in agricultural development and food security can transform economies, building new markets locally, nationally, regionally, and globally.

We are better equipped than ever to end hunger (Photo: FMSC Distribution Partner – Haiti)

But challenges remain, and new risks are emerging—which we must be prepared to meet. Even with the gains we’ve made, nearly 800 million people are still chronically hungry, and over 700 million live in extreme poverty. Gains in agricultural production have occurred unevenly—in fact, some countries have seen their productivity decline in recent years. Increasingly urban populations and the growing demographic youth bulge put new pressures on global food systems, and volatile weather patterns and natural resource pressures will test our ability to meet growing demand for food safely and sustainably.

Meeting these challenges means we must fully leverage research and development in order to respond, whether on the farm or throughout the supply chain. The expertise and knowledge from national and global research institutions, from universities to the CGIAR system, must reach and equip producers within low-income countries’ agricultural systems. The power of the private sector must also be unleashed to meet these challenges, as new platforms for cross-sectoral collaboration bring its strengths to the forefront of the fight against hunger. Innovations in investment and finance have the potential to unlock impact and finance at scale—and they must, as the world’s farmers face an estimated $200 billion gap in unmet financing. Strong leadership by policymakers will also be essential, including those in donor countries, like the United Kingdom’s Department for International Development (DFID) and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), as well as in rising global powers and within low-income countries.

A farmer at work near Bejling village, Himachal Pradesh, India (Photo: Neil Palmer/CIAT)

Importantly, these efforts will require the commitment, innovation, and expertise of the next generation of leaders, who will drive progress forward. As youth populations continue to grow rapidly in emerging economies, they can make tremendous contributions to development, including in agriculture and the broader food system.

The Council’s Symposium will highlight the voices and expertise of this next generation of leaders in agriculture, food security, and nutrition. 20 exceptional students from Australia, Brazil, Canada, Honduras, India, Nigeria, Tanzania, Thailand, Uganda, and the United States comprise the Global Food Security Symposium 2017 Next Generation Delegation. Students from around the world will also join us digitally as Social Media Ambassadors, promoting engagement online and bringing their voices to the digital discussion surrounding the event.

I hope that you will add your voice to this important discussion. Watch for the release of the new report, Stability in the 21st Century, on March 30. And, tune into the symposium livestream on March 29 and 30 and share your questions and observations for panelists via Twitter, using #GlobalAg.

The continued existence of hunger and malnutrition defies logic in an age of progress and modernity. We need everyone at the table to solve problems and innovate—across geographies, generations, and disciplines—so please do your part to shape the dialogue by joining the conversation on this critical issue.  Together, we can end hunger, once and for all.

Can We Turn Generation Yum into Generation Ag?

This week, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs is exploring the issue of youth as the future of agriculture – a key topic at their upcoming Global Food Security Symposium in March. Farming First Co-Chairs Robert Hunter and Yvonne Harz-Pitre have penned an article for this blog series asking: “Can we turn Generation Yum into Generation Ag?

As the author of Generation Yum, Eve Turow, explains in her book – young people in the developed world care much more about the quality, nutritional value, and provenance of their food than previous generations. This wave of interest comes at a critical moment, this article argues. Our food system faces the colossal challenge of doubling production to feed a growing global population as natural resources dwindle and a changing climate takes its toll. So can the agricultural community encourage this powerful cohort not only to care about food, but to actually shape its future by taking up careers in agriculture? Continue reading

Chicago Council Global Food Security Symposium 2016

26th April 2016

Washington D.C., U.S.A.

Two-thirds of the world’s population – 6.3 billion people – will live in urban areas by 2050, creating a staggering demand for nutritious, safe, and sustainable food. The global food system must transform to meet this demand. With this challenge, however, comes great opportunity to integrate the world’s small-scale farmers with burgeoning urban markets.

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