The Youth Argus

UN-AU Conference Showcases ICT Innovations to Attract Youth to Agriculture

21 August 2018: A two-day conference on youth employment in agriculture has highlighted opportunities to tap the potential of Africa’s vast youth population to contribute to sustainable development of the continent. With an estimated 60% of Africa’s 1.2 billion population being under the age of 25, the discussions underscored the need to create tens of millions of jobs annually in rural areas to enable Africa to “harness the dividends of its youth.”

The conference was co-organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), the Government of Rwanda and the African Union Commission (AUC), and took place from 20-21 August 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda.

The discussions centered on how to harness opportunities in agribusiness entrepreneurship and information and communication technology (ICT) innovations along diverse agri-food value chains to improve the image of the rural sector and provide new employment opportunities for young people.

Discussing the role of ICTs in making the rural sector more attractive for young people, FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva noted the need to “think beyond farm jobs,” and explore employment opportunities across entire agri-food value chains. Citing one example, he pointed to the rising demand for high-value products in urban areas, which also offers multiple employment opportunities in processing, distribution, marketing and retailing of food products. Da Silva observed that this will require addressing a number of serious and interrelated constraints, including: the lack of formal employment options for young people, limited access to relevant education and technical training; limited access to finance, information and markets; and low involvement in decision-making processes. [UN Press Release on Opening Session] [FAO Press Release on Director-General’s Address]

A number of background reports and studies on the theme of the conference were highlighted during the discussions. They include: ‘Rural Youth Aged 15-17: The Right Season to Seed the Future,’ which proposes policies to increase human capital and channel resources towards youth aged 15–17 to ensure equal access to education and decent jobs; ‘Youth and Agriculture: Key Challenges and Concrete Solutions,’ which discusses how tailor-made educational programmes can provide rural youth with the skills and insights needed to engage in farming and adopt environmentally friendly production methods; and ‘Rural Migration in Tunisia: Drivers and Patterns of Rural Youth Migration and Its Impact on Food Security and Rural Livelihoods in Tunisia,’ which analyzes the youth unemployment crisis in the country and calls for strong political engagement, both nationally and internationally, to revive rural economies and reverse trends such as low farming productivity and inadequate access to technology and resources. [FAO Publications and Digital Services Promoting Youth Employment in Agriculture]

The role of digital apps and services in triggering innovations in the agri-food sector was a key underlying theme, with digital innovations such as FAO’s newly launched Fall Armyworm Monitoring and Early Warning System (FAMEWS) and related “talking app” Nuru featured at the conference. The apps are designed to support farmers, agricultural workers and other partners to identify and report on fall armyworm infestation, which can quickly destroy large areas of agricultural land and contribute to food insecurity.

Other FAO-supported digital apps and services focusing on the rural sector include the Abalobi app that can be used by small-scale fishermen to record fish yields and locations as well as the prices achieved at the market, and a set of four new agricultural services apps aimed at providing farmers with real-time services through information on weather, livestock care, markets and nutrition. [FAO Press Release on Innovative Agri-Food Digital Apps and Services]

In a related initiative, FAO and its partners are supporting a series of #HackagainstHunger events to engage young people from different countries in Africa to find innovative solutions that address challenges in food and agriculture. These “Hackathons” aim to develop ideas into tech solutions to produce youth-led and youth-focused employment opportunities while offering mentorship from private and public sector experts. [Conference Website] [SDG Knowledge Hub Story on FAO Response to Fall Armyworm Outbreaks in Africa and Asia]

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