The President of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Mr Kanayo Nwanze, has prevailed on African?governments to urgently harness the potential of the teeming youthful population on the continent to create attractive farming opportunities for them.
According to him, today?s generation of young people in Africa was the largest in the history of the world and that called for action to utilise the opportunity by making farming attractive for them to help raise the level of food production and ultimately, make the continent self-sufficient in food production.
Mr Nwanze made the call when he delivered the keynote address at the 2014 Borlaug Dialogue in Des Moines, Iowa, and said the rural areas where food was most cultivated must have the necessary infrastructure in terms of roads, telecommunications, healthcare facilities and industries to prevent the rural youth from migrating to the urban centres in search of non-existing jobs.
The global annual event, which is being attended by renowned scientists across the world, policy leaders, business executive, farmers, politicians and accredited agricultural journalists, forms part of the process of awarding the prestigious World Food Prize, which is meant to address the cutting-edge issues in food security and nutrition.
Statistics indicate that there are about 200 million youth in sub-Saharan Africa alone between 15 and 24 years. Every year, it is estimated that 10 million youth within that bracket are added.
According to agricultural scientists, the world?s population is expected to hit about nine billion by 2050.
Out of the figure, more than 40 per cent of the growth will come from Africa, which is already battling food shortages and poor nutrition.
According to the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD) Secretariat, in 2009 African leaders committed to devote at least 10 per cent of their national budgets to agriculture to help support the livelihoods of about 80 per cent of the population on the continent.
The African Development Bank on the other hand has also consistently drawn the attention of African leaders to the relationship between climate change and land use, which underscores the importance of agriculture, its vulnerability and potential.
Against this background, Mr Nwanze wondered what would happen to the continent if the trend, as far as the neglect of the sector was concerned, continued without any action to leverage the enormous opportunities.
“We do not need to wait any longer before it is too late,” he said to an applause from the large gathering.
Mr Nwanze, however, noted that Africa could not do it alone and stressed the need for the creation of favourable partnerships just as what “we refer to at IFAD as the public private producer partnerships.”
According to him, the traditional three Ps, public-private partnerships, always ignored the small producers.
“Now the four Ps bring to the fore the interest of all parties in ways that are mutually beneficial, equitable and transparent and it works. We have tried them and we know it works.
“In partnerships, governments can create favourable policy environments and provide the infrastructure to allow rural businesses to thrive. In partnership, we can build relationship between organised small-scale producers and private companies, negotiating and supporting inclusive and sustainable collaboration,” he said and added that “After all, farming is a business no matter the scale and the size and farmers all over the world want these same things for their families, for their children and for their communities.”
Mr Nwanze said by creating inclusive partnerships, with each playing their own roles, small holders could be better positioned to benefit from existing markets and new markets alike.
“The private sector gains from the supply side and farmers gain from the links and access to technology, services and knowledge. Our role is to make it happen and to facilitate and to support and to enhance,” he said.
Mr Nwanze reminded African governments that the “poor rural people are not waiting for handouts; they are looking for economic opportunities. Let us be reminded that no amount of foreign aid, no amount of development assistance, no amount of science will create the future we want if we approach our work in isolation”.
Role of international community
?The international community must commit to working together and the business community must realise that it is an integral part of the solution and leaders must also play their part and that no person or region is forgotten or marginalised.
“The food on our tables started in a field on a farm. We cannot ask rural people to feed us while they themselves go hungry. We cannot feed over nine billion people without making sure that rural farmers have what they need, resources, knowledge and opportunities and access to markets,” he said.
Mr Nwanze was optimistic that “we can overcome the challenge of our times if we face it together and we can turn these challenges into great opportunities for our future, our children’s future and for our grandchildren.”
Source Daily Graphic