Stories tagged: youth

Agricultural Businesses Are the Key to “Decent Work” in Rural Communities

Decent agricultural work can be a vehicle for economic growth. Kristin Williams, Communications Manager at Root Capital, tells Farming First how investments can empower smallholder farmers.

Farming is hard work. This is especially true on the world’s 500 million smallholder farms, which rely almost entirely on informal family labor. There, farmers rise before the sun, and toil in plots of land just large enough to grow food for the table and perhaps one or two crops for sale. Sudden shockslike drought, flood, or diseasecan wipe out the fruits of their labor in an instant. If they’re lucky, they can get their crops to a nearby market; once there, they have little recourse if buyers refuse to give a fair price.

Billions of people make their living in this difficult way. And it’s no coincidence that they comprise much of the world’s extreme poor, surviving on less than $2 per day. But the connection between farming and poverty is not a foregone conclusion. Yes, farming is hard work; but with targeted investments it can also be “decent work.”

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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

 

My Farm Life: Kasey Bamberger

Agriculture is an industry that is ever-changing and exciting to be a part of, writes Kasey Bamberger, third generation owner of Bryant Agricultural Enterprise. 

I grew up on my family’s home farm located in South West Ohio.  I always took an interest in agriculture and grew up in an environment in which the majority of our conversations around the dinner table were talking about the weather or how the corn crop looked.  Production farming was a huge part of who we were and how we were raised. Being one of four girls, it was not as common to come home to the family farm but as I entered my high school years, I knew that there had to be a place for me.

After graduating high school, I went on to study business management at Wright State University. My passion for business quickly grew and I could not wait to return back to the family farm and begin my career.  Today, I am third generation farmer and the first female to join our family operation. I farm alongside my father, grandfather, uncle, cousin, and 19 hardworking employees.  Our annual commodities consist of corn, soybeans, and soft red winter wheat.  Today we farm in seven different counties, but our home farm still lies on the same property that I grew up on. The original 200-acre farm property has witnessed a lot of history, hard work, and change over the past 65 years.

Just like all other businesses

From the outside looking in, the everyday consumer views a farm as planting and harvesting a crop. Yes, that is a HUGE part of what we do but what the average consumer doesn’t see is the remaining parts of the year that don’t take place in the field. That is where my job lies. Although we are a family farm, we operate just like all other businesses across America.  We have budgets to generate, inventory to control, inputs to purchase, a crop to store, market, and deliver, business relationships to cultivate, and data to manage.  A lot of what I do on a day to day basis is to utilize the technology available to us in order to evaluate our operation. We want to make sure we are always being the most efficient operation in all areas to make sure we are sustainable and here for many more generations to come. We do this by striving to always take care of the land. We lease a lot of the ground that we farm, but tend to it as if each acre was our own.

Kasey and Heath are third-generation owners of Bryant Agricultural Enterprises

Kasey and Heath are third-generation owners of Bryant Agricultural Enterprises

Turning to digital tech

Production agriculture has adapted and became part of a technological world like many other sectors in our world today. Before driverless cars there were GPS operated tractors. Today our operation, Bryant Agricultural Enterprise, uses Granular Ag, a software management company to help us better manage and digest data about our operation. All employees work off an app from their IPhone where they are able to record inputs and time spent on each field. This allows me to be able to oversee production at the field level (rather than at an enterprise level) and track financials back to each field. We are also able to monitor weather, growth stages of the crop, and tap in to the software in our equipment to store equipment information. In the off-seasons we utilize this data to help us prepare for the next growing season and analyze our operation and the inputs we are using.

We also test the  normally do a three-year test plot in order to see how new seed varieties compete against varieties we have grown in the past. The technology allows us to compare different weather patterns, planting dates, soil types and help with our decision to grow those varieties across more acres.

A dynamic career

I found that as the industry changes, we too must adapt to what it offers. There are so many opportunities for young professionals to enter the world of production agriculture and so much knowledge to be gained from the growers that are already part of the industry.

What advice would I give you young agriculture enthusiasts? Take time to reach out to those already in the industry and research the jobs available in agriculture. There are SO many knowledgeable people that are involved in agriculture. Take time to listen to them and utilize their experience. From sales, to marketing, banking, to ag research, information technology, and physically working for a farm–there is a market for all different types of interests and specialties. As the population of the world continues to increase, we need to be able to continue to produce more food. It is an industry that is ever-changing and exciting to be a part of.

 

Putting the Answers to Successful Farming at Young People’s Fingertips

In this guest blog post, Vanessa Mukhebi of Mediae – the production company behind agricultural reality TV shows Shamba Shape Up and Don’t Lose the Plot – discusses the digital innovations helping farmers with agronomic and budgeting challenges. By harnessing the digital boom, she argues that more African youth can be enticed into agricultural careers.

It is often said that youth carry the potential to transform agricultural productivity and contribute to global food security for a booming population that is set to increase by two billion by 2050. However, debating the future of farming and rural development is pointless without the willingness of the youth themselves to engage in the sector. This potential can only be realised through an image overhaul of farming.

Yet several solutions to this challenge exist right in their back pockets.

The drawback of farming-related careers in preference for white collared employment in urban areas, is partly on account of the societal prejudices and misconceptions held about such careers, as well as the limited knowledge about the opportunities available in agricultural industry that are economically prosperous.

Fortunately, through rapid advancement in information and communication technologies, and increased access to the internet through mobile devices, agriculture in the developing world has become a vibrant field full of effective and creative innovations.

And with young people already predisposed to this digital revolution, these solutions provide unparalleled access to information to help them take advantage of the exciting opportunities within the industry.

In countries like Kenya, where overstretched extension services are unable to adequately support producers, mobile solutions such as iShamba, offer the ability to disseminate timely and relevant information regarding production, input supplies, weather updates and market price information.

ishamba

Additionally, the farmer information and advisory service is equipped with a call centre staffed with agricultural experts, where farmers can SMS or call to get instant advice seven days a week.

Farming communities can also exchange information with each other through the service’s location-based WhatsApp groups and get advice from iShamba’s agricultural experts on best farming practices. Simon Mwangi, a young farmer from Nyeri, Kenya, says that the platform helped him venture into farming.“Thanks to iShamba’s agronomic advice, I managed to grow tomatoes for the first time. I have already started harvesting my tomatoes and they are doing well.” 

Though the platform is highly interactive, the challenge remains on how best to engage youth.

The appeal of farming to young people hinges on its ability to be recast and marketed as a profitable enterprise; agribusiness has to be promoted in favour of agriculture.

Our newest reality television show called Don’t Lose the Plot is aiming to do just that – stem the exodus of rural youth to urban areas and encourage them into agribusiness.

Set on a sprawling farm on the outskirts of Nairobi, Kenya, the show follows four young farmers from Kenya and Tanzania, who are given one acre plots to farm side-by-side for nine months. At the end, the farmer with the most profitable and sustainable business wins an agricultural investment worth US$10,000.

Each young farmer had access to a panel of advisors that critiqued their ideas and approach while encouraging them to use modern, labour saving techniques to make the most of their land. After developing a business plan for their farm, they got access to financing, set up their farms, managed them and marketed their produce profitably.

Ken, one of the contestants from Kenya, lauded the show for exposing him to the opportunities that young people such as himself have at their disposal to improve their livelihoods. “I see this competition as an eye opener, to the resources that we have in our country. To increase food security, and to try to solve the unemployment issue amongst youth. I think I’m doing something great here.”

Nevertheless, what was evident right from the start is that young farmers need assistance in creating realistic budgets and managing their finances.

Enter Budget Mkononi, the web-based agricultural budgeting tool initiated by the producers of Don’t Lose the Plot, The Mediae Company, and Mercy Corps AgriFin Accelerate.

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The tool allows young aspiring and inexperienced farmers to view estimated costs and profits from various commodities that are high-value and short-term such as broilers and onions.

Through Budget Mkononi, hopeful entrepreneurs can explore the relative merits of each and visualise their cash flow requirements for the duration of the farming cycle, showing young farmers how to farm in a productive and sustainable manner.

Developed by Regulus Ltd, the tool is designed specifically for use on mobile devices and went through several stages of user-testing to ensure that it met the needs of its target audience.  The interactive functionality also allows farmers to customise their budgets based on their specific circumstances.

What’s apparent is that with such solutions at hand, the days that farming was the domain of the uneducated are gone.

Connectivity through ICTs enables solutions such as iShamba and Budget Mkononi to shape a new frontier of farming that is young, vibrant and innovative. All youth need to know, is that success is within their reach – right under their fingertips.

A longer version of this article first appeared in the World Farmers’ Organisation Farmletter.

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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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