Africa’s Youth Finds its Power in Transforming Food Systems

With  one in every five   young people today coming from Africa, it has become increasingly hard to ignore us.

In fact, many of the world’s powerful now recognise the enormous potential in a constituency numbering 226 million, aged between 15 and 24.

President Macron of France recently opted to invite  young Africans   to his One Planet Summit over political leaders. And the African Development Bank has  placed its bets   on young agri-preneurs to successfully adapt to climate change and feed the growing, youthful continent.

Meanwhile, young Africans themselves have seized the opportunity to create their own destiny by driving forward the transformation of food systems ahead of a key  UN summit   this year.

The next generation recognises that our future depends on functioning food systems, and at the same time, it is Africa’s youth that holds the power to deliver them.

To begin with, young Africans are informed and educated, alert to the twin threats to our prosperity of malnutrition and climate change.

We do not farm like our parents and grandparents farmed, nor do we eat the way our forebears ate.

We know that a healthy diet is a diverse diet, leading young agricultural entrepreneurs like Esdras Azanmassou, 28, to devote some of his 26 hectares in Benin to different varieties of yellow and purple corn, which are highly nutritious compared to the white maize widely consumed by most African countries.

And we know the importance of animal protein in staving off undernutrition and its impact on cognitive and physical development.

A young women-led company off Toho lake, Benin developed the fish farming industry to help address the local deficiency in animal protein, which was estimated at 11g per person a day, falling short of the UN FAO’s recommended  20g a day .

Faced with the growing scarcity of natural resources, young Africans are also increasingly innovative.

Take 26-year-old Thelma Sandurani, for example, a young woman farmer in Guruve, Mashonaland Central in Zimbabwe, where she uses plastic bags to cultivate vegetables.

By re-using the bags, Thelma is preventing more plastic from polluting waterways while also contributing to her community’s food security.

And a young climate activist, Tabi, from the indigenous communities between Cameroon and Nigeria, has adopted integrated, intensive, zero-grazing livestock agriculture where little land, labour and cost is used to grow animals.

Similarly in Malawi, 27-year-old Joseph, a graduate from Bunda college of Agriculture is using intensive zero-grazing for his pig farm, motivating his entire community to follow this method.

The model is innovative because it reduces land degradation, and livestock waste is directly used as organic manure for growing cereal and avocado pears on the same land.

Finally, young people in Africa are technology-savvy with far-reaching social networks, making us a powerful sector to propel change.

We are harnessing this across the continent to unite behind the UN Food Systems Summit, an effort that is being overseen by the African Youth Leaders for the Food Systems Summit (AYLFSS).

The group is open, inclusive, and determined to gather youths across all levels, share information, and promote collaborative actions that will transform the current food systems.

To engage widely, this working group will conduct youth-led regional dialogues, campaigns, advocacy activities, peer-learning workshops, and other practical initiatives and innovations that accelerate sustainable food systems transformation in Africa.

The youth in Africa are expressing strong readiness and passion in actively contributing to the processes of delivering solutions that transform food systems in the lead up to and beyond the Summit.

The powerful are recognising the strength of African youth, and African youth are realising our power to change the world.

Bringing our energy, creativity and innovation to the table will help ensure everyone gets fed.

Mike Nkhombo Khunga is the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Global Youth Leader, Malawi, and vice-chair of the UN Food Systems Summit’s Action Track 5: building resilience to vulnerabilities, shocks and stresses

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