CARE provides successful policies for young people in agribusiness

Ibadan, Nigeria – Youth is often cited as Africa’s greatest asset, but also among the most vulnerable and volatile.

A large and growing population of talented young people has the potential to drive economic growth and well-being of societies across the continent, but as the African Development Bank warns, the current conditions of severe unemployment could lead to poorer living conditions, higher flow of migration . , and greater risks of conflict – in short, a social disaster in the making.

It is expected that the population of approximately 420 million young people aged 15 to 35 in Africa will almost double by 2050. However, although 10 to 12 million more people join the labor force each year, there are just over 3 million new jobs. created.

Currently, two-thirds of non-student youth are defined as unemployed, underemployed, discouraged, or marginally employed. In addition, unemployment cuts across different social categories: educated and less so, female and male, rural and urban.

The COVID-19 pandemic also stimulates unemployment in the hardest hit sectors, such as tourism and hospitality, retail and trade and agriculture, especially in Southern Africa, the region with the highest unemployment rate.

Under the Jobs for Youth in Africa investment plan, launched in 2016, agriculture – including on-farm production and off-farm processing – aims to create 41 million jobs over ten years. Even considering that smallholder farmers make up more than 60 percent of the population in sub-Saharan Africa, it is an ambitious target that calls for effective and comprehensive policies as opposed to the broken measures of the past.

While young people usually bring their enthusiasm, energy and ambition as well as greater capacity and knowledge into IT systems than the older generation, however, they face enormous obstacles in their careers in agribusiness, with lack of land, capital, assets and access to financial opportunities. Young women are often more disadvantaged than young men.

In the months before the coronavirus surfaced, the nonprofit International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) launched a three-year project in sub-Saharan Africa aimed at improving our understanding of poverty reduction, employment impact and factors which is the involvement of youth in agribusiness and rural farm and non-farming economies.

Known as CARE (Enhancing Capacity to Apply Research Evidence), and funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), IITA has launched 80 research fellowships for young African scholars, focusing on young female professionals and students aimed at is for a master’s or doctoral degree. Beneficiaries are trained in research methodology, data management, scientific communication and scientific writing, and the production of research evidence for policy-making in line with the IITA’s mandate to generate agricultural innovations to meet Africa’s most pressing challenges.

Through CARE, young and authoritative voices are brought to the policy table. The youth-on-youth research is not afraid to challenge assumptions, and it shows ways forward to break the vicious cycle in which youths are trapped.

Dadirai P. Mkombe, a female researcher in Malawi, investigated the role that direct investment plays for youth work in the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and concluded that macroeconomic policies are needed for long-term growth. to encourage, even by exploiting foreign debt. . Foreign direct investment is essential for job creation, she says, noting that more green field investment is needed than mergers and acquisitions.

From Benin, Rodrigue Kaki investigated agribusiness among graduates of faculties and agricultural universities. Because he finds that few students can choose self-employment in agribusiness, he recommends start-them early programs (STEP) in post-secondary education with actions that encourage students to self-employment, such as setting up agribusiness entrepreneurship clubs in agribusinesses and universities .

Motivation was also a theme for Cynthia Mkong researching university students choosing agriculture in Cameroon. Among her findings is the need for a change in schools of thought where educators and mentors need to highlight positive trends and emerging opportunities in the sector. In addition, building and implementing effective policies to improve education levels for girls and household incomes at all levels will help improve the declining interest of youth in agriculture. Her findings indicate that agriculture will increase in stature, as well as field of study as a profession.

Also in Cameroon, Djomo Choumbou Raoul Fani focused his research on the contributions and competitiveness of young female grain farmers and on rural on- and off-employment, especially among young women. Among his recommendations are the need for gender-blind policies and gender-positive information to ensure that public investment in agricultural credit, food marketing, roads and schools for young female farmers is used constructively.

These few examples of policy assignments from many others that have been drawn up so far illustrate how researchers, with young female professionals, are ready to challenge assumptions and stereotypes to show the way forward. In its report, IFAD ( also emphasized that the youth of young people must succeed in shaping the rural economies of tomorrow.

With the youngest and fastest growing population in the world, Africa’s ever-overwhelming rural communities will continue to grow, just as cities do. IITA’s efforts to improve the perception of agribusiness will enable young people to see a future there. The CARE project already provides the evidence-based research that African communities need to build food security and resilience. Policymakers cannot work in a vacuum. Youth involvement is the key.

Victor Manyong, agricultural economist, R4D director for East Africa, and leader of the social science research group, IITA

Kanayo F. Nwanze, CGIAR Special Representative at the UN Food Systems Summit and former IFAD President

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