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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.’

SOME might perceive agriculture as a career that is unglamorous, labour-intensive, low-tech, and one that doesn’t guarantee much in terms of economic returns.

However, agriculture today has evolved from traditional, subsistence farming to a modern, knowledge-driven sector that has diversified into commercialisation through agriculture-based businesses.

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.

All is now set for the first agric reality show in Nigeria, with the unveiling of the 20 contestants to feature in the programme.

This show is being organized by the Corporate Farmers International Limited (CFIL) and International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA), in partnership with Tony Elumelu Foundation.

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.

In March 2016, six young entrepreneurs received exciting news. They had been selected from over 428 proposals posted on the GFAR blog as outstanding young people with innovative ideas, and would join the first group of the GFAR Young Agripreneurs Pilot Project (YAP).

The YAP project was developed by GFAR in response to a renewed focus on youth in agriculture and to address the lack of opportunities and access for youth in the agri-food sector. YAP was a platform for young agripreneurs to showcase the eagerness of youth to engage in agricultural projects and provide an online platform for youth to promote their innovative agricultural enterprises. More broadly, the YAP Project contributes to the mission and objectives of GFAR articulated in the 2014-2017 Medium Term Plan and delivers on the GCARD3 towards transforming and strengthening agricultural research for development around the world.