The prospects and promise of expanding markets and increased demand for food products from a growing global population would suggest more incentives to engage in farming, making the sector attractive for the current and next generations. However, along with this is the recognition of the “unprecedented, intersecting challenges”, or perhaps as a direct result of these, a widespread narrative of ‘labor withdrawing’ from the agriculture sector which suggests youth are not interested in food farming – particularly smallholder food production, widely believed to the source of food production and contribute to rural poverty reduction – is less likely to draw in young people as a preferred or first choice of work.
Youth are commonly treated as an undifferentiated group with essential, static qualities and little agency. Thus, the recognition of youth as a differentiated group, implies also their differing experiences, ideas, and aspirations. Male and female youth’s aspirations and opportunity structure are shaped by the complex interplay of factors across local, regional and even global scales.
Unlocking the potential of youth in the drylands requires empowering them to tap into the available opportunity structures, which necessitates transformative approaches that include
- targeting to ensure inclusive participation;
- customize interventionsthat benefit equally all types of youth groups; and
- facilitating youth agency by providing a conducive social, economic and policy environment.
Empowering and strengthening youth groups to effectively tap into opportunities in agriculture
Opportunities should intentionally be planned with and extended to female and male youth groups of the different social spectrum. Thus combining elements of the ‘developmental’ and ‘opportunity structure’ approaches, suggesting a dynamic process in aspiration formation recognizing that aspirations develop within a set of constraints that impacts gender stereotypes and personal perceptions. Agribusiness is a vital sector for youth living in poverty across Africa, but it is one where youth living with disability face some of the greatest prejudice and exclusion.
It’s in this light that the Gender Research team in WCA, developed customized trainings in line with the goal of leaving no one behind and behavior change communication that incentivizes choice of improved varieties and quality seeds of cereals and legumes under the AVISA and CRP- GLDC projects led by ICRISAT. These trainings were tailored in collaboration with CSIR-SARI to address the sustainable development goals (SDGs) of zero poverty, zero hunger, and gender equality, targeting youth with hearing impairments.
Hearing impediment hindered these youth’s access to information on improved crop production technologies, which resulted in their reliance on traditional methods of crop production, as well as the recycling of seeds for production.
Strong market demand created by the growing population is one of a range of opportunities waiting to be tapped by young entrepreneurs, especially for food and related products across the entire value chain. As active members of the farming community, the inclusion and participation of youth in the groundnut value chain activities will boost their livelihood and productivity. Reinforcing the participation of young people with disability will go a long way towards building an agri food value chain.
During the training, participants examined and wrote about concrete initiatives and approaches that can produce impact, as well as those that are not generating expected results. The hearing impaired participants had smiles on the faces realizing that they are now seen as equal members of the community with shared challenges but also similar opportunities to benefit and be empowered to overcome their specific challenges. This sense of belonging alone gave the participants a feeling of playing on a ‘levelled ground’.
The training focused on developing an organized group of groundnut producers to understand the market potential in groundnut seed production and marketing and as well develop sustainable market linkages aimed at selling commodities produced. Key thematic areas included groundnut seed production and quality control of seeds, seed business development, the concept of Village Savings and Loans Association (VSLA), group dynamics for sustainable grass-root organization among seed producers and processing of groundnut into confectionaries of high nutritional and market value.
A total of 300 youth aged 15 to 35, out of which 30 hearing impaired participated in the training. The training was facilitated by the Wa School for the Deaf. The management of the Wa School for the Deaf lauded the training, especially for the inclusion of the most vulnerable population. The Head of the School was emphatic the youth will embrace the learnings wholeheartedly since this is the first time they partake in a project activity of such nature.
By targeting and reach outing to every gender and social group, the outcome of the training will engender greater adoption, production, marketing and utilization of improved groundnut varieties. The Gender Research Team extolled the trainings noting that “extension should shift from focusing only on production but also be innovative and market driven; while emphasizing the need for inclusiveness of all gender groups especially the youth, & people with living with disabilities, so no one is left behind.
Jummai Othniel Yila, Scientist- Gender Research, ICRISAT, WCA Bamako, Mali
Desmond S. Adogoba, CSIR-SARI, Ghana
Project: The Accelerated Varietal Improvement and Seed Delivery of Legumes and Cereals in Africa (AVISA Project)
Partners: CSIR : SARI – Savanna Agricultural Research Institute
Funding: Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
CRP: CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals