Stories tagged: youth

The Power of People: A spotlight on youth-led initiatives for MENA’s food systems

Rayan Kassem, West Asia Regional Director at Youth4Nature, highlights youth-led projects for food systems transformation and the ways they can be supported to lead as changemakers.

Food systems challenges are not unique to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, nor are the issues that young people face. But, as with every region, the actions needed to transform them are.  Continue reading

A Double Win: Revolutionising African agriculture to empower youth and sustain the continent’s development

Dr Dennis Rangi, Director General, Development at CABI, discusses the potential for Africa’s youth in agriculture.

An African agricultural revolution can not only help advance the continent’s development progress, but it can also solve the growing challenge of youth unemployment, especially in rural areas. 

Africa’s youth hold the key to the continent’s very survival and the burden to sustain wider global development. But we simply cannot rely upon young people to be only producers of food. Through upskilling and a digital ‘knowledge exchange’, they must also be involved across all stages of the value chain – starting from production.  Continue reading

Women and Youth Take on “Man’s Crop” Coffee in Uganda

Ahead of International Women’s Day on 8th March, Sam Viney, Communications and Advocacy Officer at Farm Africa, explores how access to land and inputs can include women and youth in Uganda’s coffee boom.

I’m in my twenties but whenever I go to Uganda it makes me feel old! The world’s second youngest country’s median age is 15, and 77% of the population is below 30.

Every day, hundreds of young Ugandans hit the job market. Many find employment, but often not.  

Unemployment in Uganda is rising and young people shoulder the burden. In 2015, one in three young Ugandans was unemployed. When young people find work it’s normally insecure, part-time or unpaid family work. Women are more likely to be unemployed than men.

Uganda’s young people are full of entrepreneurial spirit, and never fail to fill me with confidence in the country’s future. Providing 70% of the country’s employment opportunities and contributing more than half of all exports, agriculture is Uganda’s most obvious vehicle to unleash their potential.

Credit: Esther Ruth Mbabazi/Farm Africa

Opportunity is brewing

Uganda’s employment challenge is coupled with rising demand for their most lucrative export: coffee.

There is huge demand for the caffeinated treat, and Kanungu’s tropical climate, in south-western Uganda, provides the perfect conditions to grow it. This should bring opportunities.

Despite this huge potential, limited access to land and low profits stop youth and women from investing in coffee production.

With co-funding from the European Union, the international NGO  has launched a project in Kanungu that develops young people’s skills and links to markets, and helps them gain access to the land they need to become successful coffee entrepreneurs.

Credit: Esther Ruth Mbabazi/Farm Africa

Access to land

Like many young Ugandans, Gillian and Dan need more land. The couple has a one-acre coffee farm that they received from Dan’s father Murisa.

Their annual income of £266 “isn’t enough”. If they had more land they’d be able to provide their son, who suffers from life-threatening fits, with much needed medical care.

Dan’s parents could afford to give Gillian and Dan a portion of their 45-acre farm but Murisa isn’t keen on the idea.

In Uganda, land is seen a man’s asset, the eldest man in the family doesn’t like to cede control over land or agricultural decisions to women or younger men.

“Agriculture employs 93% of Kanungu’s residents. Land is in the hands of older men. Youth face hardship accessing land, young women doubly so.” Martin Atukwase, General Secretary of Kanungu Ugandan Young Farmers’ Association. “No land, no opportunity.”

Youth need access to and control over land to invest in coffee. Coffee plants take around five years to bear fruit so young farmers need to start planting early on in their careers to see economic returns later in life.

Farm Africa has helped set up the Kanungu chapter of the Ugandan Young Farmers’ Association. The young leaders were provided with advocacy training, and are calling for greater access to land for women and young people.

The young leaders have hit the ground running, working with TV and radio stations, and organising intergenerational meetings to change fathers’ minds about land.

Land agreements

Farm Africa’s staff in Kanungu are working with families to create agreement amongst family units about land access issues.

These conversations are sensitive. Land is a delicate subject. Uganda has seen a spate of deaths involving young men killing other family members over access to family land.

Many fathers recognise youth and women’s need for land but worry that equipping them with land will undermine their authority and lead to the sale of family land.

Farm Africa sensitively allays these fears by working with fathers and other household members to develop voluntary land use agreements.

The content of the agreements is decided upon by the family. In general, agreements look to provide young people and women with access to and control over what’s grown on a piece of land for a specific period of time. Agreements normally stipulate that the occupant cannot sell land.

These agreements provide young people and women with the opportunity to invest in their businesses and future. The process hopes to kickstart a journey that sees young people go from being job seekers to job creators.

Credit: Esther Ruth Mbabazi/Farm Africa

Improve quality

Kanungu’s coffees could be amongst the best in the world but poor farming practices and processing mean that farmers produce low quality coffee, relegating their produce to cheap instant coffee, and other sub-par, markets.

The project is training 4,800 people to grow and process quality coffee and gain access to more lucrative markets.

Many farmers are selling coffee for as little as 10p a kilogram, if they improved coffee quality they could be selling at £2 a kilogram locally in Kanungu and upto £4 a Kilogram in the international markets

In a context of shrinking farm sizes, providing people with the skills and resources necessary to maximise land use and produce quality coffee that fetches a good price is extremely important.

It also makes the land access ask easier: give skilled people the chance to enter a profitable market, unlocking profits that will benefit the whole family.

Credit: Esther Ruth Mbabazi/Farm Africa

Coffee, a man’s crop?

In Kanungu, coffee is seen as a man’s crop. Men sell the cash crop and pocket the earnings, while women do the majority of the agricultural work and see little, if any, of the profits.

Farm Africa plans to launch a new project in September 2019 to complement the existing work.  

Made possible by matched funding from the UK government for Farm Africa’s recently launched Coffee is Life appeal, the new project will provide women with the support they need to become actively involved in coffee cooperatives and earn a fair share of coffee production profits.

The project will help women move from providing menial labour harvesting coffee to assuming positions of responsibility actively involved in adding value to the coffee, marketing it and securing good prices from the international speciality coffee market.

Featured photo credit: Esther Ruth Mbabazi/Farm Africa

Agroecology According to Generation Y

As the incoming custodians of the land, young farmers tell Farming First about the importance of practising agroecology to benefit today’s generation and those to come.

With agricultural needs and challenges varying greatly around the world, farming has always needed to be adaptive and agile.

And with a changing climate bringing extreme weather and conditions, it’s more important than ever to work with nature and farm in a way that fulfils each ecosystem’s potential to feed an ever growing population.

Young farmers especially are realising the benefits of incorporating ecological processes into their agricultural systems.

“From my personal experience, we know that if we look after our farm, our livestock, the environment, we will produce better crops,” Richard Bower, a cereals farmer from Staffordshire, UK, told Farming First. “The environment is a very big part of what we do on the farm, and we are only looking after the farm for a short period of time for the next generation as well.”

One way Richard is practicing agroecology on his farm is to consider wildlife.

“Crop rotation is very important and allows birds to nest,” he added. “Something else we do on our farm is welcome bird ringers, who are very passionate about the environment and they come and count the birds on the farm. They are also using technology so they will go in the night and count the number of birds on the farm.”

In sub-Saharan Africa, where the effects of global warming hit hardest, producing more extreme temperatures, one result has been the increase of crop-eating pests such as Fall Armyworm.

Innocent Jumbe, 28, who works for a seed company in Malawi, said an agroecological approach  can involve the responsible use of crop protection products.

“With climate change, all these pests coming in has been a real problem in Africa in the last year and we have been told by the government that we need to brace for impact,” Innocent said. “It’s not just about how we use chemicals but also about how we dispose of the chemicals.

“The blanket picture is that climate change is the biggest change, but we can see that people are not changing their lifestyles. We need to try to change the way that people look at things.”

Meanwhile, in Argentina, agroecology is a way to successfully support people, livestock and the environment in one ecosystem.

“Agroecology is about knowing how to work in the farm,” said Augustina Diaz Valdez, 22, a sheep farmer who is also training to be a vet. “This means knowing up to what limit you can produce and take advantage, always thinking about the environment and being sustainable.”

Dennis Kabiito, 34, a livestock and crop farmer in Uganda, agreed: “As farmers, we are stewards of the land and of the environment. It’s [about] using the right practices and the right methods at the given time.

“For example with Fall Armyworm and African swine flu – this cannot easily be controlled by organic practices but they can contribute. You need some help from chemicals.”

In South Africa, agroecology is about balancing productivity with sustainability.

“It’s about finding the right balances in terms of practices. For me, it’s about the foundation for establishing these practices,” said Brenda Tlhabane, a 37 year old farmer from South Africa.

“At the end [of the day], we are the consumers of nature so we need to do it in a sustainable manner and make sure that we leave a legacy.

“As a young person, I need to be profitable and make sure that I am preserving the environment and planet as a whole. I would want our policy makers to look at the overall approach and think how do we become sustainable in terms of soil health and making sure that we preserve good quality soils as well?”

Unleashing Innovation For East Africa’s Millennial Farmers

Awino Nyamolo from TechnoServe tells Farming First about how to harness the power of young people for Africa’s food future.

 

Growing up in Mbeya, Tanzania, Samson Makenda loved tomatoes, and when he took over a small plot of land as a young man, he thought he could make a living with the crop. He started growing tomatoes the way his neighbors always had, watering the plants by hand, and using the same seeds and fertilizers they did. But in the crowded local market, he struggled to sell what he harvested, earning just $40 per month.

Creating better economic opportunities for young people like Samson is of vital importance to Africa’s economies. Fewer than one-third of young people in Sub-Saharan Africa have a stable, wage-paying job, and the region will add 11 million new people to its workforce this year. Agriculture can play an important role in creating these opportunities, but only if young people are able to innovate, adopt new technologies, and test new models. To do that, they must be able to identify business opportunities, have confidence in themselves and their ideas, and access the finance and connections they need to put these ideas into practice.

The Strengthening Rural Youth Development through Enterprise (STRYDE) program, a partnership between the Mastercard Foundation and nonprofit organization TechnoServe, is helping to create those conditions. Through a combination of training on personal effectiveness, planning, and basic business skills, as well as tailored aftercare to provide young people with networks and practical skills, STRYDE is empowering thousands of young people across rural East Africa to find better economic opportunities.

Seeing the farm as a business

Many young people fail to recognize the business opportunities that surround them and are within reach, and to address this obstacle, the STRYDE program provides training to help rural youth see their family farms and other assets as a potential source of livelihood.

That lesson was transformational for Ndinagwe Mboya, another young person from Mbeya. Her family used to incubate chicken eggs for others, but the business was not particularly successful. After going through the STRYDE program, Ndinagwe came to recognize that there was an opportunity to build upon her family’s experience, however, and create something more successful. With $165 of seed funding she won through STRYDE’s business plan competition, she purchased eggs and started a business of raising chickens on her own.

“Before STRYDE nobody sought my advice on anything, not even my family. But today I am the go-to-person on matters poultry and incubation,” she said. With her earnings, Ndinagwe helps to pay her siblings’ school fees and is saving to attend university.

A toolbox for change

While young people are often familiar with new ideas and technologies, they face obstacles to adopting them. To take new ideas and make them a reality, as Ndinagwe did, young entrepreneurs need a toolbox for change: confidence, connections, and skills.  The STRYDE curriculum includes a section on personal effectiveness, which helps young people to chart their personal strengths and weaknesses, create a plan for their future, and practice interpersonal communication, generating confidence.

Mentorship and aftercare can help entrepreneurs to develop specialized agricultural skills and make important connections. Many ideas also require an investment—like Ndinagwe’s cash grant—to implement, so access to finance is an important factor.

After Samson graduated from the STRYDE program, he began to look around for opportunities to improve his tomato farm. He had noticed that someone had built a greenhouse in the region, and he began to study whether such a facility could help make his business more profitable. Many young people are constrained by a lack of land for farming, so greenhouses and vertical gardens can improve production. As Samson discovered, growing his tomatoes in controlled conditions could also help differentiate them from the other growers.

Samson went to work putting his plan into action. Even a low-cost greenhouse cost more money to build than he could finance himself, so he identified a successful local businessman who could become his partner in the venture. Samson was able to convince him to invest in the project, and together they built the greenhouse and implemented other technical improvements, like drip irrigation, the use of hybrid seeds, and a careful application of organic and chemical fertilizers. Samson’s tomato plants are more productive now, and the fruit has fewer defects and blemishes, so he is able to sell it easily to local markets, restaurants and hotels at premium prices. Now, he earns up to $300 per month.

“For people around here, this is new tech for them, so they want these tomatoes,” says Samson. He has diversified his earnings by launching a crop nursery business, as well.

Samson and Ndinagwe are just two of more than 48,000 young people benefiting from the STRYDE program. The program has shown that simple changes in how young people think about the opportunities around them and how to adopt innovation can make a big difference, and the average participant has seen their income increase by 133 percent.

But with Africa’s growing youth workforce, more work remains to be done. The STRYDE program has worked to build the capacity of vocational training centers, schools, prisons, and other institutions across East Africa to deliver the curriculum. Local partners like these will be critical in ensuring that more young people can recognize and seize opportunities for a better living.

 

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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