Stories tagged: youth

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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Fueling Economic Growth and Stability by Creating Opportunities for Youth in Agriculture

Africa’s youth population is growing, while demand for global agriculture production is continuing to rise. Heidi Graves, Communications Officer for Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture (CNFA) blogs from the Chicago Council’s 2018 Food Security Symposium.

The world’s youth population is steadily rising. 2.3 billion people—a third of the world’s population—are between the ages of 15 and 34. And it is projected to keep growing. Yet, many of today’s youth, particularly in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs) are met with the same reality: unemployment. Faced with a lack of opportunity, youth unemployment can stagnate economic growth and fuel political and social unrest.

Amid this rapid increase in the number of youth, known as the “youth bulge,” a new report by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs puts the connection between youth and agriculture at the forefront of the discussion surrounding food security. Why? Many of the regions experiencing the largest growth in the youth population are also the most susceptible to food insecurity. Launched at the Council’s two-day Global Food Security Symposium in Washington DC, the report – Youth for Growth: Transforming Economies through Agriculture – highlights that investing in agricultural development and harnessing the potential of youth is essential to alleviating poverty, addressing food security, and ensuring stability worldwide. Continue reading

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.