Agriculture, is an ancient sector in Africa and has been the major source of livelihood in most African countries.
Africa is also known to have enormous natural resources such as forests, birds, fish, lakes and rivers and land. However, the “land of plenty” is struck with food and nutrition insecurity, famine, poverty and unemployment. Worse still, African Agriculture is dominated by elderly people in rural areas, whilst the youth flock to cities for emerging opportunities in other sectors. Malawi, is such a classic example where even over 50% of the few youths who dare go through agriculture training programs in colleges and universities find their way to other professions as they find themselves unemployed for years! There lies an urgent need to nurture a generation of passionate agriculturists to revolutionize Africa’s agriculture for a stable and secure future.
It was at this point, that Youth Action for Agriculture Development (YAAD) was given birth to in October 2015 by youth staff at the NEPAD Fish Node, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (LUANAR). YAAD is strategically structured to incorporate and to inspire youth in different disciplines in agriculture including agribusiness, fisheries, forestry, animal science, food science among others.It is also linking and fostering partnership development or synergy of programs for youth organizations and youth led initiatives in Malawi and across the continent.
Students representing various youth groups at LUANAR were organized on 16-17 February to learn more and tap into the YAAD opportunity. The youths were introduced to global and national programs that the Fish node hosts/affiliated to and these include;
- Young Professionals for Agricultural Development: YPARD; as a Malawi chapter coordinator
- African Agribusiness Incubator Network (AAIN); Youth representative among the Board of Directors
- Youth For Fish Program; secretariat
- Corp Africa; coordinators for LUANAR
- Southern Africa Network for Sciences; host for Malawi student Ambassador program
It is through these networks that YAAD facilitated radio interviews for LUANAR students, YAAD members to be featured on Youth in Agriculture program (“Ulimi wachinyamata”) on Youth Net and Counseling (YONECO) FM. The aim of the radio interviews was to Inspire and bring awareness on existing youth opportunities in agriculture, the fun as youth in agriculture and personal testimonials on youth led agribusiness initiatives.
Some of the youth that took part in the YAAD-YONECO program included the NEPAD SANBio student ambassador Kareem Longwe, who is an Agronomist studying at his Masters Level but is also an agri-preneur (owns a farm), Animal Scientist Yvonne Kamanga, Happy Mussa from the youth for Fish Program (YFFP), Dennis Chinkhata Coordinator of the Innovative Fish Farmers Network Trust (IFFNT), Jabulani Nyengere a Forester, Chamuka Thebulo an Economist who is also a pig farmer in Kasungu and many other members of YAAD. The Team also comprised of the YAAD coordinator Lisungu Banda Moyo and the YPARD Malawi Representative Msekiwa Matsimbe and guests from YONECO.
During the radio interview, Kareem Longwe brought forward issues of crop diversification, how the youth can be involved in crop diversification and its roles in ensuring food security. Among others, the brief discussion highlighted how crop diversification is done, advantages, challenges and reasons why the youth involved in Agriculture enterprises should practice crop diversification.
On livestock production, Chamuka Thebulo explained his practical experience in Pig production and how the enterprise started. As a youth in Agriculture field, Chamuka’s livestock farming has employed the youth to be involved in all operations in the business hence reducing unemployment rate among the youths.
Taking advantage of his experience, Chamuka shared his experience on how to manage pigs, how the youth can venture into pig farming and the key resource requirements for animal production. Interesting enough, this young youthful farmer indicated that through the pig production enterprise he has ventured into, he is now able to produce fertilizer out of the pig dungs, he has employed more than 5 workers on his farm and he is able to integrate with crop production.
The radio meeting also covered issues of trees management aiming at increasing agricultural productivity. On this aspect, Jabulani Nyengere shared the roles of Agroforestry in agriculture and how it helps to improve food security. The discussion shed more light on the recommended trees that can be incorporated with plants to ensure maximum agriculture productivity. He however, stressed that trees could only be planted if seedlings had been properly managed on the nursery. He advised that this was also a viable agribusiness venture which the youth could engage in,as there is high demand for seedlings from different individuals and NGOs across the country which were some of the untapped opportunities for the youth.
Another additional aspect that the youth shared during the radio meeting was on fish farming. Happy and Dennis enlightened on the numerous opportunities available to the youth in fish farming. They explained how the demand for fish in Malawi is higher than ever, which is a great opportunity for youth to capitalize on and supply the population. However they also eluded that the fact that they are some challenges in the sector which the youth are likely to face such as capital requirements and inaccessibility of high quality inputs (feed, fingerlings etc.). On this point, Peter Chimangeni (who is student an MSc student at LUANAR and also an agri-prenuer) explained how these challenges were common hindrances that stop most youth from venturing into agriculture.
The three advised their fellow youth to proactive in their various youth organization by pooling their resources together in order to achieve their goals. In addition, they explained how if taken as a business, (commercial agriculture) has the capacity not only to better their lives but also their communities.
YAAD, has more in the pipeline for youth in Malawi and Africa. YAAD, a gateway for youth opportunities in Agriculture! For more details contact us firstname.lastname@example.org