Solution Cluster 1.1.2a

Push the Youth button: African Youth Skills & Advocacy Platform for Future Food Producers.

Given the right skills and networks, youth will be key drivers in shaping the future of food systems. This solution will (a) holistically support nutrition-sensitive agricultural extension and advisory services (EAS) to promote plant and animal production as sustainable businesses for future food producers, by strengthening capacity of extension advisors and providing integrated agribusiness, nutrition, and technical training through Farmer (Field) Business School approaches. (b) A Coalition for Youth in African Agriculture will convene youth-led and youth-serving networks, associations, and organisations, development initiatives, and national EAS-platforms to coordinate youth action, eliminate fragmentation, lever investments for growth, build talent in the sector, amplify and accelerate youth efforts, and advocate for an enabling policy environment and appropriate investments in EAS, youth talent, and business development. The solution links rural and urban youth of different qualification degrees and promotes their access to and cooperation on skills, productive resources, agribusiness, and employment opportunities. The solution builds on evidence with regard to impacts, ongoing initiatives, and the essential role of agriculture in ensuring nutritional wellbeing of rural and urban populations, to contribute to sustainable food systems transformation.

About this Solution Cluster

690 million people are hungry today.[1]FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP, and WHO. 2020. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2020. Transforming Food Systems for Affordable Healthy Diets. Rome: FAO. Global population is projected to exceed 9.7 billion in 2050.[2]United Nations, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, Population Division. 2019. World Population Prospects 2019: Highlights. New York: United Nations   Solutions that allow global food systems to ensure the availability of adequate food for all is an immense challenge. Two billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies globally.[3]Particularly in LMICs (Adesogan et al., 2020) Healthy diets rich in micronutrients, especially from animal-source foods, tend to be unaffordable to many people, especially the poor.

Progressing urbanisation requires more convenience/processed food that is nutritious and safe. Actors producing, processing, and marketing nutritious food for a growing and more urbanised population need knowledge, skills, and sustainable technologies to do so effectively. This necessitates business-relevant agricultural and livestock EAS and other initiatives from access to resources to attract youth into agriculture to supporting up- and downstream agribusiness and related skills for supporting agri-food value chains logistics and advocacy.

Debate and promotion approaches have too long focused (i) on subsistence production and (ii) on productivity as impact indicator while neglecting (iii) nutrition as relevant for smallholders business and as business opportunity, (iv) the bundled skills and investments needed to make agriculture an appealing means of livelihood, (v) capacity building, including access to productive resources for the next generation of food producers (youth aged 18 to 35 years) who currently represent the largest demographic group in Africa and (vi) to harness the opportunities available to youth in agri-food value chains. Food production from plants and animals is thus not attractive to African rural youth. Rural youth migrate to cities or even to other countries. Labour becomes scarce and expensive, thus hampering intensification and modernisation of smallholder agriculture and livestock production. Expensive imports cover increasing (urban) demand. Altogether this threatens the right to food[4]CESCR  Point 7, 8,11,12 and 13 and represents forgone opportunities for young people to make their livelihood out of nutritious food production and to become recognised by society.

A purposeful future is key to young people and professionals with higher or lower education. Food systems offer manifold opportunities to youth for formal and non-formal (self-) employment in production, services like mechanisation, processing, input supply, logistics, maintenance, IT, packing, labelling, marketing, and other – public and private – services, including EAS. Well-structured supply chain linkages between young start-ups and SMEs in this segment, including rural nonformal agricultural SMEs (smallholdings), can be enhanced by matching mechanisms. Those and other dynamic youth linkages, digital platforms, and strong partner networks are just at their beginning. Much evidence exists on nutrition-sensitive technical and business skills development approaches that are operational at a large scale (i.e., for millions of African smallholders), with public and private investments and ready for further scaling. Digital access to knowledge, tools, advisory services, and networks amplify these opportunities tremendously. For structural transformation of economies and food systems by and for youth, formal education and non-formal skills development at large scale need to be enhanced and financed in a balanced way. Shorter-term skills development helps young people to find their passion and role in agri-food value chains and to achieve required technical, business, and organisational skills. Business- and nutrition-relevant EAS are key for African food systems. Provided at a lower cost at large scale, it is the option for most of the rural youth who are less privileged in terms of school and vocational education. Finally, youth are also voters and increasingly determine who is in power. Policymakers have thus an interest to offer participatory multi-stakeholder processes and to deliver effectively agreed-upon policies.

The proposed activities form a pan-African, multi-level, market-driven, and systemic approach for development of youth agribusiness in food systems. A knowledge- and resource-matching scheme will link ongoing initiatives for synergies, investments in climate-smart agribusiness, and scaling impacts. Lines of action comprise youth agribusiness (i) incubation, (ii) matching (i.e., involving young SMEs along the value chain for food supply and from other sectors for innovative services), (iii) digital agribusiness apps (such as FBSInnova, developed by young urban Africans for young rural Africans), (iv) youth animated e-learning platforms, and (v) a youth-led inclusive coordinating secretariat bundling advocacy by and for youth in agriculture and agribusiness. This will be digitally supported. 

This implies convening and strengthening young professionals from agricultural up, and down-stream enterprises, from EAS, teachers, and scholars in academic and vocational training, youth associations, and networks and supporters under an African youth skills and advocacy coalition. The matching scheme levers additional resources to scale impacting initiatives and provide evidence on impacts for youth. Leverage would comprise youth-centred investments in education, cost-effective skills development, rural infrastructure, institutions of food systems (e.g., standard authorities), de-risking facilities for youth investments, or investment of their collective business association, as well as lowering entry barriers such as access to land, breeding animals, and finance. Further options are promoting (male, female) youth sections and youth leadership in producer organisations, North-South / South-South / rural-urban youth mentorship programmes as well as counselling programmes for the parental generation on handing over landholdings to the next generation. At meso and macro levels, continental frameworks for skilling youth and other agricultural actors as investments will be further developed to ensure that programmes, policies, and educational institutions equip young people for future production.

Scaling of knowledge and skills development, advocacy for and by youth from different origins and levels of education, peer networks, agribusiness links, and support of youth agribusiness ecosystems constitute the core of this solution. The proposed African Youth Skills & Advocacy Platform builds on, taps into, and complements a wide range of existing initiatives. The considerable body of evidence of the constituents of this solution cluster indicates its potential to bundle and innovate fragmented support approaches for significant scale and impacts for future food producers, sustainable growth, and food systems transformation.

The initiatives below are of special relevance without being comprehensive. Nutrition-sensitive business skills development is implemented by GIZ, ENABEL, their public and private partners at a large scale, with the support of public and private donors and progressively taken up by national organisations. AfDB flagship programmes include Enable Youth, Jobs for Youth, and AFAWA. AUDA-NEPAD and GIZ work on gender-transformative approaches promoting women in agricultural technical vocational education and training in Africa. Other initiatives are supported or led by IFAD (e.g., Senegal), French Cooperation (e.g., AFOP in Cameroon), Olam (e.g., Côte d’Ivoire), and Songhai Centers in Benin and other West African countries. The national fora of GFRAS provide advocacy and skills development for public, private, and civil society extension staff on nutrition-sensitive EAS. Various Dig4Agriculture initiatives work on applications, media, and learning platforms or provide support to start-ups. Many AU member countries develop policies and programmes to support youth in agribusiness. Youth networks include, among others, Nourishing Africa, YPARD, CSAYN, 4-H Council, and student agricultural associations in academic and vocational training in agriculture. AUC is currently drafting an African Agribusiness Youth Strategy. The IFAD Rural Development Report, ‘Creating opportunities for rural youth,’ and  Ceres2030 Summary Report provides specific solutions related to skills development and involving youth in food systems transformations. FAO and IFPRI completed a global study on agriculture human capital development and developed an investment brief for youth, targeted at financing institutions such as IFAD and the World Bank, other investors like governments, and bilateral and multilateral donors. The CGIAR Research Program on Livestock, led by ILRI, has developed a strategy to better engage youth in livestock value chains.[5] Good practice examples for rural youth employment has been identified by GIZ.[6]GIZ. 2020.  What works in rural youth employment promotion?

This solution cluster adds value to the above initiatives by building bridges and cooperation between urban and rural youth and from different countries and other stakeholders (i.e., policymakers, donors, investors, and industry). Harnessing ICT enhances multiple country actions. By connecting so many initiatives, scaling, and innovating, this solution will contribute to the Right to Food (see above) and to SDGs 1, 2, 4, 5, 8, 10, and 17 with spillovers to SDG 3, 9, 12, 13, and 15, as shown below. Just push the Youth Button to make African Youth Skills & Advocacy Platform for future food producers become reality.

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