Practical and innovative solutions to engage African youth in agriculture

Pre-event at the Seventh Climate Change and Development in Africa Conference reflects on the involvement of youth in agriculture.

The recently released report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) warns us that "rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes in all aspects of society" are needed to limit global warming.

We are only beginning to feel the impacts of climate change. We need to think about future generations and involving youth in climate change work is paramount. Youth have a key role to play in climate change processes, such as influencing decisions at country, regional and global levels and being engaged in the development of climate change interventions that respond to the needs of vulnerable communities.

At the Seventh Climate Change and Development in Africa Conference (CCDA VII), the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) co-organized a pre-event around youth in agriculture. The session was led in cooperation with the Climate Smart Agriculture Youth Network (CSAYN) and the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

Moderated by Victor Mugo from CSAYN, five panelists, including young farmers and researchers, shared challenges of and opportunities for involving youth in agriculture.

Panelists of the youth event. From left to right: Jessie Mburu, Antony Malovi, Caroline Kabateria, Evan Girvetz, Catherine Mungai. Photo: CCAFS East Africa. See more photos on Flickr.

Jessie Mburu, a young farmer from the Africa Agribusiness Incubation Network (AAIN), highlighted that young farmers faced many challenges such as lack of information, inconsistencies in government extension programs, buying uncertified seeds, poor animal husbandry and breeding, among others. For him, the most important step forward is to create awareness among the youth and motivate them to join agriculture.

Awareness raising shouldn't just happen at conferences, said Antony Malovi, a young maize farmer from Millennials in Agribusiness (MIA). As we create awareness, we need to start moving to other places from Nairobi and engage youth there. "We need to take these discussions out of the conference rooms,” he concluded.

To successfully engage young people, they need to be able to see agriculture as a desirable profession. Caroline Kabateria, a young farmer from CSAYN Uganda, is working to try and change young people's perception of agriculture. She argued that the government should advocate for a better education system through which students could appreciate farming. She also emphasized the need for sharing forums that can reach the grass-roots level.

Harnessing digital technologies is the future of agriculture in Africa, said Evan Girvetz, Senior Scientist at CIAT. Technology is not only a game-changer for agriculture; it could also encourage today's tech-savvy youth to go into agriculture. He also said that farmer business schools are important for understanding how to manage the farm as a business.

And finally, Catherine Mungai, CCAFS East Africa Partnerships and Policy Specialist, made a recommendation to document what young people are already doing in agriculture and start organizing learning visits for them so they can exchange knowledge and best practices with each other.

The session ended with the launch of the Kenyan Chapter of CSAYN. It is anticipated that working with the network in Kenya will facilitate the involvement of youth in the development and implementation of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) strategies and implementation frameworks at county level.

Training young African journalists on climate-smart agriculture

As part of the CCDAVII pre-events, CCAFS East Africa scientists made presentations during the training workshop for African journalists on climate and environment. This session created a platform for the young journalists and media professionals covering climate and environmental issues to engage with researchers. The participants included the finalists of the African Climate Change and Environmental Reporting (ACCER) journalist awards and members of the Pan African Media Alliance for Climate Change (PAMACC).

During the session, Maren Radeny and John Recha, scientists at CCAFS East Africa, presented CCAFS in a nutshell and introduced the journalists to the concept of CSA.

John Recha being interviewed after the training session for young journalists. Photo: CCAFS East Africa

CCAFS East Africa hopes that our work inspires these young journalists to raise awareness on the issues of climate change in agriculture and help us promote CSA. After the presentations, we received a request from one of the West African journalists to participate in their broadcast, and John Recha was interviewed by five of the participants from Malawi, Uganda, Benin and Kenya who sought more information on CSA and the Climate-Smart Villages.

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