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During a side event to CFS44, invited young agricultural leaders shared their common experiences and insights about the SDG challenges they faced. They provided some advice and answers concerning a global phenomenon: the loss of interest of youth in agriculture. 

It was a discussion of success stories from agricultural entrepreneurs, the majority of whom inherited their skills and passion from their family. Can their points of view be relatable and effective enough to motivate an aspiring startup commoner to endeavor into agriculture? They have their stories shared and conversed in hopes of enlightening and giving proper direction to anyone who is willing to invest in agriculture, even though they’re from a family that never had to make their livelihoods on skilled labor. 

The new winner of the World Food Prize, President of the Africa Development Bank, Dr Akinwumi Adesina has made a timely call to ‘change the lenses with which we look at agriculture.’

As Chief Executive of Farm Africa, an organisation dedicated to overcoming poverty by unleashing African farmers’ potential to grow their incomes in an environmentally sustainably way, I back Dr Adesina’s calls to ‘treat agriculture as a business.’

While many youths aspire to reach out to the big world after graduation, Gloria Gusha and Freddy Leonce Kweka have the dream of becoming real farmers in their country. They really inspire and encourage the next generation in implementing sustainable farmers.

During the #CFS 44 side event on “What today’s young agricultural leaders need to meet tomorrow’s SDG challenges”, they unveiled interesting and inspiring stories. They started with sharing their opportunity to enter university, and their initial difficulties and successes. Then also offered encouragement to the next young farmers to set up farming initiatives, which are innovative, viable and sustainable.

The African Development Bank (AfDB) and the Brazil-Africa Institute (BAI) have launched the Youth Technical Training Program (YTTP) - an initiative that aims to train young African professionals in research and technology transfer, contributing to local capacity development.

The YTTP initiative is sponsored under the South-South Cooperation Trust Fund (SSCTF) and will consist of an array of professional development schemes to meet diverse needs of African countries by utilizing Brazil's technology, skills and knowledge. Focus areas include agriculture and rural development, health, education, information and communication, infrastructure, and the creative industry.

Over the years, it has been observed that youths pay attention to recreational activities and entertainment, such as football and other sports. Sadly, agriculture in Nigeria has not made the list of interesting activities due to the current hardships and challenges faced by farmers in Nigeria.

The Nigerian government is doing a lot to encourage more youth engagement in agriculture through social media promotion as well as creating access to funds for those interested. The Young Professionals for Agricultural Research and Development and International Institute of Tropical Agriculture Youths Agripreneurs have carried out many programs that make agriculture attractive to youths. However, the majority of the public — especially these youths — have not fully explored and do not understand the potential of improved technologies, especially genetic modification technology in agriculture.

New technologies, expanding populations, urbanisation and more varied diets all coalesce to set the stage for opportunities that will enable Africa to take advantage of its youth dividend and meet the aspirations of Agenda 2063, “The Africa We Want”.

The current world agrifood system is inadequate – 815 million people hungry, 2 billion micronutrient deficient, and 700 million obese (108 million children) and yet the system still has high levels of waste and is depleting our natural capital.  We need to find new ways to meet these growing food needs without undermining our futures.  Africa is currently importing much of its food and with the population in Africa expected to double from 1.26 billion in 2017 to 2.5 billion in 2050 (and 4.5 billion in 2100).  This means that the demand for food will more than double as incomes increase and as a result of urbanisation[1].  There are also opportunities for significantly increasing agricultural value added with increased demand for inputs, processing, packaging and transportation and global demand provide greater opportunities for agricultural exports.  There are many challenges but locally relevant new technologies and approaches, including systems for collaborative consumption, give hope.  This is particularly true for Africa where, together with our natural resources and young population, rapidly improving access to energy, emerging technologies, communications and asset sharing there is potential for significant growth.  Africa can fill the gap created by increased demand from rising populations, urbanisation and diversification of diets as incomes rise.  The youth are currently under-employed and it is estimated that 43%–?63% of unpaid family-based jobs are held by youth (Yeboah and Jayne 2017).

Agriculture and youth are a compatible pair, particularly in the African context: as one of the continent’s most critical industries and biggest sources of income, contributing a quarter of Africa’s total GDP and employing 70 percent of the labour force, it has the remarkable potential to empower what will be the youngest and biggest workforce in the world by 2040.

Africa has an increasingly youthful population. Already half the population is under the age of 25, and 72 percent of these young people are either unemployed or vulnerable. These astonishing statistics show no signs of diminishing either, with over 330 million young Africans set to enter the job market in the next 20 years and only a third of that number forecast to be able to find wage jobs.

Africa has the largest population of young people in the world, with 226 million people aged between 15 to 24 years. Every year, young graduates from schools and colleges seek to enter the continent’s workforce, often with no success. What role can the agriculture play in addressing the unemployment challenge in Africa? According to a World Bank report on “Growing Africa: Unlocking the Potential of Agribusiness”, Africa’s farmers and agribusinesses could create a trillion-dollar food market by 2030 if they can expand their access to more capital, electricity, better technology and irrigated land to grow high-value nutritious foods. National governments, however, need to work side-by-side with agribusinesses, to link farmers with consumers in an increasingly urbanized Africa.

To stimulate discussions on developing a framework for concrete youth engagement in agribusiness in a changing climate, the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security, the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock, the Climate Smart Agriculture Youth Network (CSAYN), AgriProFocus and ICCO Cooperation put together an online discussion and a webinar. The online discussion —which attracted 79 comments —ran for one month to commemorate World Youth Skills Day (15 July) and International Youth Day (12 August) and culminated in a webinar attended by 80 participants (30 August). A key message from the online discussion and the webinar is the need to address the negative perception towards agriculture.