Agriculture continues to be the largest employing sector in Africa, yet the youth are not fully engaged in the industry. The agricultural sector is very broad with a variety of divisions such as research and development; on-farm; extension services; communication and technology; input and output intermediaries; policy among others.
However, the youth are not well oriented to contribute to the sustainable development of the sector. Due to lack of information, training, orientation and mentorship programmes for the youth, agriculture is perceived as dirty, work for the poor in society, and work for the old. This has contributed to the passive involvement of the youth in agriculture.
Against this background, it is imperative that Africa strategically positions its youth to effectively contribute to the Agricultural sector. It is in this vein that the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) joined forces with the Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD) and Africa Leadership Academy (ALA) to empower youth within Africa's Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Systems to catalyze the uptake of science, technology and innovation (STI). This tripartite partnership provides mentorship and orientations for the youth to better understand the agricultural sector through research and expositions.
The objectives of this mentorship are:
- to strengthen the capacities of young graduates in Africa and provide them with innovative and practical research job experience linking to issues within their respective national levels;
- to assess technology transfer and uptake towards the establishment of Agribusiness Learning Alliances
- to improve profitability and employment opportunities along the agricultural value chains for the junior researchers
This mentorship program which is structured as an internship system has so far afforded 6 youth from the different regions of Sub-Saharan Africa the opportunity to be engaged as Junior Researchers. The young leaders selected through a competitive process are from DRC, Kenya, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Tanzania, and Zambia.
The Junior Researchers are expected to have a good understanding and a better view of the agricultural sector by the end of the internship programme. This would equip them with the needed knowledge to position themselves for employment within the division in the agricultural industries, organizations, and agribusiness. They would also be trained in research and presentation skills to build their confidence in ARD.
Patently, this engagement is an avenue for the empowerment of youth in resonance with the key strategic fields of GFRAS and YPARD’s joint operational plan (2021-2025)- principally, on professionalization. Hence, the Junior Researchers Program adds to efforts to enhance access to capacity development opportunities for Young Professionals through innovative internships, and skill-enhancing mechanisms in AR4D.
Furthermore, the research findings by the Junior Researchers will also help inform the efforts by FARA under the Agricultural Knowledge & Innovation Ecosystem for Inclusive Rural Transformation & Livelihoods in Eastern Africa (AIRTEA) project. This will lead to increased participation of youth in Research and Innovation, business development services and mentorship. Thus, it will contribute to the achievement of sustainable agrarian livelihoods and rural transformation by fostering an inclusive entrepreneurial environment.
Photo credit: Nawsheen Hosenally