Youth, Agriculture and Climate Change in Africa

There is some consensus in the literature that African youths’ involvement in agriculture and natural resources management is generally very low. It is also widely recognized that a strong involvement of African youth who comprise over 60 per cent of the populace and rely heavily on natural resources in agriculture and natural resources management is crucial if the continent is to achieve food security through rural development. Frequently, young people in Africa view the two sectors as outdated and providing minimal financial returns. On the one hand, agriculture is viewed as being very labour intensive while natural resources management on the other does not provide immediate returns. These views were echoed at the recent science and policy dialogue (Think Tank Event) organized by NEPAD Agency through Partnership for African Fisheries (PAF) and African Fisheries Experts Network (Afri-fishnet) in the last week of November 2013 in Mangochi, Malawi. 

One strategy being employed to turn around this poor record of participating meaningfully in agriculture and natural resources management among African youths is through integration of ICT with the two crucial sectors. One organization (and non state actor) that has been at the heart of this strategy is the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA). CTA is exploiting the fact that many young Africans are aware of their role and responsibilities to advance their countries’ development processes and themselves as individuals thereby better their communities. While this is a great starting point, more multi-level interventions are needed to motivate young people in Africa to start viewing these two sectors as offering potential career opportunities just like engineering, medicine and recently oil and gas.  

The climate change debate is relatively new here in Africa and this is reflected by the fact that many governments in the continent do not yet have institutional structures in place to govern a changing climate. Youth being one of the traditionally marginalized sections of the populace are aware of this phenomenon although their climate action is mostly by way of online activism. Their capacity to play a more significant role towards achieving CSA is being hampered by their inadequacy to take advantage of adaptation funding under the existing funding channels specifically through successful grant proposal writing. This is because even though there exists many graduates, professors at the universities do not generally provide any help in how to write grant proposals. 

As the climate debate in Africa is a relatively new development theme that donors seem to be more and more interested in, some organizations and agencies are now claiming their activities seek to “build resilience of the vulnerable poor and marginalized” principally in order to cash in on the anticipated donor climate funds (FAC, 2013). Youth being one of the traditionally marginalized sections of the populace need to be wary of such organizations that claim to advocate for climate change awareness raising and capacity building while in actual fact are jeopardizing intra- and inter-generational equity. Bringing real capacity to the youth is about for instance enabling them to write successful proposals for adaptation funding under the existing funding channels to undertake real climate governance activities. Only such activities will truly enable young people to lead their societies towards low emissions pathways and safeguard a climate resilient future for the vital sector.

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