Raising hope: Africa feeding Africa

The past week was incredible. A fast paced series of event reported by a great team of social reporters brought together Africa‘s brightest in an attempt to give it the push it needs in order to reach its destiny. Even if many young people say that discussing agriculture and/or policy making is, well, boring, the AASW6 was certainly NOT.

The AASW6 conference left two things very clear: Africa can feed itself, and young people are the key.

Although I wasn’t present in Accra, Ghana for the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW6), my heart was there. I followed  the AASW6 Blog and #AASW6 Tweets and have imagined, together with those present in Accra, a bright future for Africa.

Africa CAN feed Africa

The main conclusion of  AASW6 is a very simple one: Africa has the potential to feed Africa. In his opening speech from July 18th, Kanayo Nwanze, the President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), led the audience on a journey back to the luscious tea plantations of East Africa and cotton fields of West Africa from a century ago, asking, why isn’t Africa able to provide enough food today to support its growing population?

This speech provided proof that Africa has both the potential and the will to feed itself and that solutions can be found to end food insecurity.

Read more on the huge opportunities for African Agriculture that Kanayo Nwanze mentioned in this CCAFS blogpost.

Young people are the solution

Someone recently asked me, “Is agriculture for me?“. This question came from a friend in Africa who was getting ready to enroll in an Agribusiness Masters programme and wanted to make sure he made the right decision.

It isn’t an easy question to answer.

But let’s think about it. Africa is one of the youngest regions in the world, with about 43% of the population under 35 years of age. It also has some of the most fertile soils in the world and most of the work force is currently employed in rural areas. Agriculture, although currently not so profitable, is still Africa’s main occupation.

Like in Romania, my home country, where 95% of the agriculture is subsistence and semisubsistence agriculture, Africa needs to change course to become sustainable. Encouraging youth to make agriculture cool again and bring innovation to the sector would be a first step in this fantastic journey.

While youth’s interest in agriculture continues to grow, we see youth being marginalized and blamedfor not coming forward earlier. Seen as “saviors” by some, promoted as “the only hope” by others,young people have brought considerable changes to the way agriculture is done today and they will continue to this in the future in an unselfish way. They are part of the future whether they want to be or not–in fact, they are the future. The future that policy makers create today will be the future in which youth will live tomorrow.

This is why youth think that they are entitled to “a seat at the table,” because they want to be there to help imagine the future we want.

The discussion on youth’s role in policy making can be long and tedious. The same is true for discussion on how Africa can be developed. But the FARA Africa Agriculture Science Week managed to make discussions like this shorter, to come up to simple and concrete solutions.

If we want Africa to feed Africa, we need to invest in youth. Youth are the future and raising hope in their potential could prove “contagious.” It could even provide the spark to start actions that will be beneficial for the future of Africa.

Blogpost originally posted on the AASW6 blog.

Photo: N. Palmer (CIAT)

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