Making Africa’s women and youth drive agriculture

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Copyright: Mikkel Ostergaard / Panos

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[NAIROBI] That Science, technology and innovation (STI) could help transform Africa’s agriculture is well appreciated by many people who have an interest in the continent’s sustainable development.
I was therefore not surprised that the importance of STI to Africa’s agricultural transformation became prominent this week (5-9 September) during the 6th African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) held in Kenya.

The AGRF forum has made me realise that to make agriculture attractive to women and the youth, Africa must invest in education at all levels.

Sam Otieno

AGRF brings together a range of critical players in the African agriculture landscape such as African heads of state, ministers, farmers, private agribusiness firms, financial institutions, civil society, scientists and international development partners of Africa to discuss and develop concrete plans for achieving the green revolution in Africa.
But the key message that struck me most at the AGRF meeting was that women and the youth are central to driving African agricultural transformation, and thus they should not be sidelined.
African women constitute close to 70 per cent of the agricultural workforce and contribute greatly to food production and security. Mainstreaming their participation and empowerment in Africa’s agricultural change is therefore critical.
Experts at the meeting emphasised that agriculture forms a significant portion of the economies of all African countries. They discussed how the agricultural sector could help the continent achieve major priorities such as eradicating poverty and hunger, boosting intra-Africa trade and investments, rapid industrialisation and economic diversification, sustainable resource and environmental management, and creating jobs for youth who are entering Africa’s labour markets every year.
Putting women at the centre of development ensures an improvement in their access to resources and farm inputs, which will increase their productivity in the agriculture and economic sectors. This will in turn translate into higher incomes, healthier families and better education.

The challenge that African governments, policy makers and private sectors must take up in Africa’s agricultural development is to build the capacity of young people, both male and female, and equip them to address emerging requirements of an attractive agricultural and non-farm rural economy that offers prospects for viable incomes and good quality of life.
The AGRF forum has made me realise that to make agriculture attractive to women and the youth, Africa must invest in education at all levels, support agricultural innovation, build market infrastructure and improve the business environment in ways that will raise incomes and expand agriculture value chain.
This piece was produced by SciDev.Net’s Sub-Saharan Africa English desk.