The Inter-Agency Working Group (IAWG) of the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and The World Bank launched a programme to pilot the use of Principles Guiding New Investments in Agriculture in selected countries in sub-Saharan Africa, in 2015.
The aim is to infuse responsible investment principles and practices into the early stages of agribusiness operations and ensure mutually beneficial interaction between these operations, local communities and the economy as a whole. Its aim is also to generate practical guidance, recommendations and good practices that can be used at the early stages of future investments. A request was made by many participants of the inception workshop held in Accra, Ghana in May 2015 for guidance on youth and gender issues in relation to agricultural investments and the encouragement of youth and women to act as catalysts for sustainable rural development. This necessitated the organization of a two-day technical workshop on principles guiding new investments in agriculture on the 13th and 14th September 2017, to identify good practices for equitably incorporating youth and women into agricultural investments and value chains.
The workshop opened with statements from the FAO representative and the Minister of State for Agriculture, Ghana. The FAO representative indicated that there must be inclusive and gainful employment for all people including the youth through the right alignment of policies and programmes. He added that with the different mindset of youths, there are existing programmes such as the FAO Special Programme on Youth employment: enabling decent agriculture and agri-business jobs, Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools, (JFFLS) among others to enhance the process of youth employment. The Minister of State for Agriculture mentioned that the fear of the unknown due to inadequate knowledge of the end product (whether profit or loss) prevents many young men and women from entering into agriculture and agribusiness. He stated that government has initiated policies and programmes such as the Planting for Food and Job to tackle the issues confronting young women and men in accessing productive inputs.
The principles guiding new investments in agriculture align with the principles of responsible investment in agriculture and food systems which seeks to foster gender equality and women empowerment and engages and empowers youth. Youth associations and companies presented case studies of their activities, programmes, and projects being undertaken for the incorporation of young women and men into the agricultural system. Case studies were presented by the National Youth Authority (NYA), Syecomp Ltd, Guzakuza, and the Ghana Chamber of Agribusiness Executives.
A knowledge café of a small revolving roundtable discussion on challenges facing women and youth in access to agri-investment was organized. The tables were chaired by YPARD Ghana, Global Shea Alliance, Kokoo Pa, and Voluntary Service Overseas (VSO). The discussions focused on decent jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities, access to finance, agribusiness or agro-industry development, increasing young peoples involvement in decision-making, skills development and vocational training, access to land and natural resource tenure, access to market, information and communication technology, and policy commitment.
Issues arising from the discussion include granting opportunities to youth to undertake practical internships with institutions and companies relevant to their studies, campaign on agriculture in basic schools in Ghana to generate the needed interest of pupils in agriculture, and the use of simple mechanized machinery for production to reduce the drudgery associated with production. Others include the deliberate inclusion of youth and women in policy formulation, implementation and monitoring, engagement of men in gender issues to facilitate access to productive resources, the use of mobile apps to promote agriculture, exposing youth and women to production standards through contract farming, and the promotion of agriculture through the combination of arts and agriculture. Participants called for the commitment of the government to provide adequate resources for the implementation of the various policies and programmes relating to youth and women.