In one of the quarterly publications by Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) in 2017, H.E. Olusegun Obasajo, the Chair of the Africa Food Prize Committee and Former President of Nigeria, called on African governments to reach out to development organizations ( private sector and civil society) to form partnerships to solve challenges facing African farmers. This of course assumed that the governments first met their targets of allocating at least 10% of their budgets to the agriculture sector according to the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (Malabo Declaration of 2003) that sought to guide the prioritization of the continent’s agriculture as the path to prosperity. This is also supported by data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations that shows that small holder farmers (who make up over 70% of the population) are eight more times effective at job creation compared to other sectors
Africa’s food market is projected to grow to US$ 1 trillion annually by 2030 from the current US$ 300 billion due to change in the size and structure of the population. Currently, most of the arable land is in Africa. However, despite the continent having over 65% of its population being youthful, this has remained a challenge instead of an opportunity. Agriculture in Africa is associated with poverty and every time the sector is mentioned in youth forums, most of them see a a poor hand hoe farmer. African governments which will be able to harness these three issues ( youth bulge, rapid urbanization which is pushing the demand for food and the availability of arable land) could succeed in solving youth unemployment. Bring in information technology, and see the numerous opportunities the sector could provide.
Young African farmers are facing numerous challenges. To take Kenya as an example, youths in agribusiness, lack timely agronomic information, inadequate access to financial services (credit and insurance), markets, unfavorable land tenure systems and limited involvement in policy formulation by both the national and county governments. If Agriculture is to truly be the path to transform Kenyan economy, the the youth who are almost 70% of the population have to be at the center and not the periphery.
This calls for a coordinated and integrated response from government agencies, civil society, private sector and the donors in order to address the challenges and make agriculture attractive to the youth. Towards this end, department of agriculture, food security and cooperative development of the Machakos County Government today (30th April 2019) partnered with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), USAID and other fourteen organizations facilitated the Machakos Agribusiness Conference under the theme; ‘Shangilia Vijana na Agribiz’. The forum is aimed at raising the visibility of youth owned agribusiness ventures to attract others to the sector, link them to organizations that support agrifood sector and provide a networking opportunity among themselves, the government and other organizations. This is an idea that agriculture rich counties in Kenya should emulate in order to commercialize the sector to a market driven, entrepreneurial perspective to create jobs along the entire food system value chain to create jobs, alleviate poverty, make farming more resilient to climate change shocks and attractive to the youth.