Growing global youth populations could prove instrumental in developing climate-smart agriculture (CSA). But in order to achieve this, young people must have a say in decisions at every level – from the farm to the policy table.
Rapid population growth and climate change are global issues, whose effects are nevertheless particularly acute across ACP countries, where a majority of smallholders rely on rainfed agriculture. To help farmers adapt to and mitigate the adverse effects of climate change on agriculture, CSA initiatives are being trialled and rolled out at an increasing scale (see Spore article, Climate Resilience Across the Value Chain).
Population growth poses its own set of environmental, political and economic problems – not least for younger people in the developing world. At present, an estimated 12 million young people enter the African workforce each year, with only 3 million jobs available, and this disparity will only continue to grow as the continent’s population is projected to reach 2 billion by 2050. Recent development efforts have therefore focused on presenting the agriculture sector – widely viewed as a key driver of economic development on the continent – as a viable and attractive source of employment for young people. However, to ensure the sector can sustainably provide livelihood opportunities, as well as feed the growing global population, it is essential to teach the next generation of agriculturalists the importance of climate resilience.
Knowledge sharing and education
In an effort to tackle both population growth and climate change, the Climate Smart Agriculture Youth Network (CSAYN) seeks to support young people working in the agriculture sector. Using its global network of volunteers, the network aims to “Make youth aware of the contributions they can make to the agriculture sector for a better future, especially through the application of climate-smart practices,” explains CSAYN founder and managing director, Ntiokam Divine.
CSAYN extension staff work directly with young farmers, in collaborative projects to devise appropriate and economically viable CSA practices. In July 2018, CSAYN organised agroforestry training events in Uganda’s Gulu and Arua districts, attended by 70 young farmers, which aimed to help them understand climate change impacts and the importance of adopting CSA practices. Extension staff demonstrated climate-smart agroforestry practices including seasonal pruning, weeding, and inter-cropping with eucalyptus and calliandra seeds.
CSAYN also works with the Uganda Youth Network to provide farmers with financial training, and to raise awareness among Uganda’s young farmers of the National Strategy for Youth Employment. The National Strategy’s USh 53 billion (€12.5 million) budget is dedicated to strengthening the legal and institutional framework for youth employment in agriculture, as well as establishing a fund to help young farmers and agripreneurs access finance. As part of the strategy’s launch, FAO and Uganda’s Ministry of Agriculture awarded funding to the best agricultural innovations developed by 25 young individuals. It is hoped that these ‘youth champions’ will inspire other young people within their local communities.
Supporting youth leadership
A number of initiatives have focused on the influence of young role models, recognising youths’ potential to develop innovations along the agricultural value chain – from climate-smart farming practices, to weather-based insurance and inclusive financing mechanisms for farmers. “With a recent focus on digitalisation and ICT-enabled extension approaches to scaling up CSA solutions, we will increasingly harness the ICT skills of the youth to help build the resilience of ACP farmers,” says Oluyede Ajayi, the Senior Programme Coordinator for Climate Change activities at CTA.
Each year, CTA’s Pitch AgriHack competition brings together the best innovations from young agripreneurs, providing them with vital business mentorship and exposure to networking opportunities. The competition winners also receive capital investment to help scale their ICT-enabled start-ups. Among the 2018 winners were Illuminum Greenhouses, a Kenyan company that has already provided 5,500 smallholders with affordable greenhouses and solar-powered automated irrigation systems. The Kenyan start-up encapsulates the competition’s focus on technology as a driving force for climate-conscious initiatives with the capacity to transform the sector. This, coupled with the public exposure that the competition offers, also presents agriculture to young people as a transforming sector with exciting new employment opportunities.
CTA has also partnered with the Pacific Organic and Ethical Trade Community (POETCom) and the Pacific Community in the Youth leading learning in climate-resilient value chains in the Pacific project, which focused on using ICTs to document and disseminate CSA information. With support from POETCom communications staff, 100 young men and women in the Cook Islands, Niue and the Republic of the Marshall Islands have been trained to provide marketing support to 400 farmers. This support utilises technology to help young farmers independently broaden their visibility and customer base, training them to effectively communicate their CSA practices and products via social media. Reflecting on the project’s impact, Nephi Poumale, a young farmer from Niue, says, “I have earned money just from selling vegetables through Facebook. My customer base has grown and I don’t need to stand at the market place – my market is right here on Facebook.”
Giving young people a voice in policy decisions
The focus of any discussion around youth in agriculture often gravitates towards ground-level interventions. But, if young people are to have a say in an agricultural sector they are set to dominate in the coming years, they must be engaged in discussion and decisions made at the policy level. As Pakot Robert, a young farmer involved in CSAYN’s Ugandan agroforestry project, explains, “We need to see that our government makes a deliberate effort to allocate more resources to agriculture, so that youth can profitably engage in agriculture as a green business.” This serves to highlight the fact that, if agriculture is to become climate-resilient, young farmers must be able to engage with the wider policy landscape, as well as adopting CSA practices in their own businesses.
YOUNGO, the official youth constituency at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, represented the voice of young people during discussions following the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture– which brings greater focus to the implementation of climate action in the agricultural sector. YOUNGO has identified several issues of particular concern for youth in agriculture – including the problem of differing interpretations of CSA between countries, which the youth constituency has cited as a major hindrance to the widespread adoption of CSA practices. YOUNGO also used its platform in a press conference at the 2018 Bonn Climate Change Conference to highlight the importance of developing financing mechanisms dedicated to climate action in agriculture, and to give young farmers the capacity to invest in CSA.
“We have to do more to engage young people, who are really on the frontline of the impacts of climate change,” says Ayesha Constable, national coordinator for the Japan-Caribbean Climate Change Partnership, in her interview with Spore. Coordinated efforts to engage young people in CSA – from training young farmers in the field, to providing mentorship and funding to young, innovating agripreneurs, to giving young people a seat at the policy table – point to the opportunities that are open for a new generation, to shape an agricultural sector that is both climate-conscious and economically attractive.