Dossier

Engaging youth in climate-smart agriculture

Development efforts look to harness youth as the driving force for a new generation of climate-smart farmers, as adverse climate change impacts wreak ever greater havoc on agriculture across ACP countries.

Young Zambian farmers are able to harvest crops throughout the year with motorised water pumps provided by the Young Farmers’ Clubs and Hubs project © DAPP
Young Zambian farmers are able to harvest crops throughout the year with motorised water pumps provided by the Young Farmers’ Clubs and Hubs project © DAPP

Thursday, 29 November 2018

To incentivise more young people to engage in agriculture, a CTA-funded project is promoting the adoption of climate-smart agriculture (CSA) through clubs for young farmers.

Agriculture employs almost half of Zambia’s economically active population and the country earns an estimated €733 million per year from maize, sugar, and cotton exports; yet, the average age of Zambian farmers is between 45 and 55-years-old. Recognising that higher youth engagement in agriculture is essential for Zambia’s economic development and food security, Development Aid from People to People (DAPP) in Zambia launched Young Farmers’ Clubs and Hubs with a €50,000 grant from CTA. The project has since encouraged more than 300 young Zambians to establish climate-smart farming businesses.

Introducing CSA training

Young Farmers’ Clubs and Hubs promotes agricultural entrepreneurship among rural youth in Zambia by bringing young people (aged 15-35) together in clubs to interact, learn and farm in a fun and collaborative environment. The project has established 10 clubs, which are led by executive committees made up of the young farmers themselves, with support from a DAPP project leader and technical advice from an agriculture extension officer.

As a member of the Kalusa Young Farmers Club in Zambia’s Chibombo district, 28-year-old Marriam Hamunyemba learnt new ways to add value to Moringa oleiferaby grinding it into a powder, which she packages and sells for nutritional and medicinal benefits. As a result of the training, she now earns €175 a month from the sale of processed Moringaleaves. “Joining the farmers’ club opened my eyes, it has taught me that I can do something on my own and generate income,” Hamunyemba says. “I started developing a passion for agriculture during the first few months of hands-on training. The sessions on Moringa growing and processing really caught my attention and I decided to give it a try.”

Hamunyemba is a good example of how young people have been engaged in agriculture as a result of the project’s training. DAPP has used the Young Farmers’ Clubs and Hubs project to raise awareness of the importance of CSA among rural youth. Each club is given a tablet that contains lessons on CSA, which are shared among youth members. The training focuses on teaching young farmers conservation agriculture practices, such as minimum tillage, crop rotation, preservation of crop residue and diversification of production. The adoption of these farming techniques will not only reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also help to ensure greater resource efficiency and thereby build the climate resilience of young farmers.

Channelling water resources

In addition to training and the provision of seeds – among other inputs – the project has provided young farmers with motorised irrigation pumps to enable them to farm crops throughout the year, in spite of extended dry spells. Preston Kaluka, a 31-year-old farmer from Sichilongwe village, Chimbombo district, joined 38 other youths in the formation of a new young farmers’ club when the project first launched in 2016. He cites the field day when water pumps were introduced to his club’s demonstration garden as the day that his life changed. “I realised I could water more vegetables and crops within a short period of time and throughout the year with the perennial well just within my yard,” he explains. Within 6 months, Kaluka’s income from vegetable and maize production increased from €4 to €52 a week.

Alpha Kabamba, the grant administrator at DAPP, says the Young Farmers’ Clubs and Hubs project was a response to the challenge of declining farm productivity and the lack of interest in agriculture among young people. “When they acquired a water pump for their groups everything changed,” Kabamba explains. As a result of the project, young farmers have embraced CSA and have increased their crop yields by over 60% on average. Many have also moved away from the popular practice of monocropping in Zambia to diversify their production through the cultivation of groundnuts, honey, chilli, soybeans, sweet potato and Moringa.

By offering rural youth the opportunity to make a profit from farming, the project has successfully engaged Zambian young people in CSA. As Kabamba puts it, “The youth are looking for income and the moment you trigger that they support any initiative. We wanted to trigger the potential for them to make money from agriculture... By developing entrepreneurs, we have brought back the glory of farming to attract more young people into it.” In parallel to the CSA training, the young farmers learn marketing skills and are taught the value of savings to help them establish sustainable agribusinesses.

Busani Bafana

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The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.