Sparks of prosperity

During his visit to Kenya two weeks ago, President Obama told Kenyans that their country is at a crossroads and urged them to “choose the path to progress” by continuing to root out corruption and be more inclusive of women and girls. He emphasised the role of young people in particular, saying that “when it comes to the people of Kenya — particularly the youth — I believe there is no limit to what you can achieve.  A young, ambitious Kenyan today should not have to do what my grandfather did, and serve a foreign master. You don’t need to do what my father did, and leave your home in order to get a good education and access to opportunity. Because of Kenya’s progress, because of your potential, you can build your future right here, right now”.

pic1Africa’s youth hold the key to unlocking the continent’s success. With almost 200 million people aged between 15 and 24, Africa has the youngest population in the world and with estimates suggesting that Africa’s labour force will be 1 billion strong by 2040, it will be largest and youngest worldwide. However, 70% of young people live on less than US$2 per day and youth underemployment is high as Africa’s urban labour markets are unable to absorb the increasing young population. This seems like a dim prospect for Africa’s young women and men. However, there is reason for optimism: investment in rural and food sector entrepreneurship in Africa can achieve sustainable food and nutrition security for the continent and significantly contribute to Africa’s rural and urban growth.

With growing urban populations and an expanding middle class across African countries, the demand for more nutritious, varied and processed food is increasing. This generates new employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for farmers and young people. However, for young people, agriculture is often perceived as unattractive, outdated, unprofitable and hard work. Yet, this is not necessarily the case and agriculture offers lots of opportunities on and off the farm along the entire agribusiness value chain.


Credit, U.S. Embassy Nairobi

When President Obama joined a discussion with young entrepreneurs at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi, he emphasised the country’s strong middle class, high economic growth, and entrepreneurial spirit, underscoring his belief that entrepreneurship is the ‘spark of prosperity’. Young people in particular see small and medium-sized businesses as an effective way to improve their lives and that of their families and communities.

In its 2014 report “Small and Growing: Entrepreneurship in African Agriculture”, the Montpellier Panel argued that entrepreneurship is rooted in small farm agriculture, but that pro-active policy design and investments are needed to help young entrepreneurs harness these opportunities.

In particular, the Panel recommends;

  • Farmers, rural communities, women and young people, must be better linked to markets to take advantage of the opportunities arising along the African agribusiness value chain. As the world’s “youngest” continent, markets must be stimulated to create more job opportunities within the agriculture value chain. These opportunities can be scaled-up by ensuring that credits, inputs and extension are available.
  • Strengthen higher education institutions for the agricultural sciences. Taught materials need to be linked to advances in technology, facilitate innovation and have greater relevance to a diverse and evolving agricultural sector, with a focus on agribusiness and entrepreneurship.
  • Harness and catalyse the entrepreneurial spirit and skills of young farmers and entrepreneurs by providing technical assistance, vocational and business training, including guidance for joint endeavours and cooperation. Beyond technical skills, building capacity for management, decision-making, communication and leadership should also be central.
  • Provide easy access to microfinance and credit to perceived high-risk groups.  Women and young people often do not have enough collateral or other resources to raise funds. Making microfinance more widely accessible is crucial for starting and growing successful enterprises, on an individual and group basis.

When Obama came to Kenya…he pointed out the obvious, but his emotional speech left Africa’s young people inspired. Given the right support – financial, institutional and educational – there is no holding back for Africa’s young generation to unlock theirs and the continent’s potential.

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

We Need Clean-Energy Innovation, and Lots of It, Gates Notes

Prepare farms for the future, Nature

President Obama announces major progress through feed the future initiative, USAID

Strengthening civil society to support natural resource management, IIED

Tackling climate change: The contested politics of forest carbon projects in Africa, Steps Centre

A New Approach to Africa, New York Times

Don’t Let Food Be the Problem, Foreign Policy

Did the U.N. financing for development conference deliver?, Reuters

London economy vulnerable to climate change, assembly report finds, The Guardian

House Votes To Ban States From Labeling GMO Foods, Huffington Post

[Read more…]

Sustainable Intensification: Radical measures and new paradigms for achieving food security in Africa

Stephanie Brittain

InfographicLaunched today by Agriculture for Impact, a new Sustainable Intensification database aims to explain the ecological, socio-economic and genetic approaches that together contribute to the Sustainable Intensification of agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa in an easily accessible way, illustrated by more than 80 case studies.

Never has there been a greater need for a new paradigm for improving African agriculture. Worldwide, more than 800 million people suffer from chronic hunger. Meanwhile, Africa’s population alone is set to double to 2.4 billion by 2050, putting additional pressure on our planet’s resources to achieve food security for all. A 2011 FAO publication estimated that 1.2 million km2 of land will need to be converted to agriculture by 2030 to meet the increasing demand for food; most of which will need to occur in South America and sub-Saharan Africa. On top of that, climate change is likely to reduce the suitability of many areas of land for farming purposes; this will further exacerbate hunger and increase food shortages for people already suffering the highest burdens.

[Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

How Farming Families Benefit from Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture, World Food Programme

Using sawdust to increase the shelf life of the potatoes, PAEPARD

Winning Africa’s Future: Food Security for All, International Policy Digest

Can salt help us win the battle against malnutrition? The Guardian

Biotechnology and Global Nutrition: Progress and Headwinds, The Chicago Council

How cover crops can help growers beat droughts and floods, Environmental Defense Fund

Unhealthy Fixation, Slate magazine

House Votes To Ban States From Labeling GMO Foods, Huffington Post

European Union and FAO launch new programmes to boost food and nutrition security, sustainable agriculture and resilience, FAO

How Much of the Labor in African Agriculture Is Provided by Women? World Bank

[Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

The Mitigation Advantage:Maximizing the co-benefits of investing in smallholder adaptation initiatives, IFAD

Where are the concrete plans for action in the development finance deal?, The Guardian

In defense of corn, the world’s most important food crop, The Washington Post

World looks to Ethiopia to break deadlock over financing new development goals, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Human-wrought environmental changes impacting crops and pollinators could harm health of millions, Harvard

Paris climate deal must signal end to carbon economy – experts, Thomson Reuters Foundation

Study suggests organic farming needs direction to be sustainable, University of Oregon

Golden Rice: Solution or Symbol?, The Chicago Council

Less is more: Less seed, less water – more rice, IFAD

The Road to Reduce Poverty and Undernourishment in Africa: How Investment in Research and Agriculture Can Help, Huffington post

[Read more…]

Forest and home gardens

By Katy Wilson

forest garden

Sometimes called kitchen gardens or forest gardens, home gardens are found in many humid and sub-humid parts of the world and are an important strategy for tackling poor nutrition and diets. Comprising of a wealth of plant and animal species they ensure a mix of foods are available to a household, while also forming a resilient agricultural and ecological system. A report for the International Institute for Environment and Development discusses the characterisation of home gardens, their prevalence and challenges. [Read more…]

What we’ve been reading this week

This week’s summary on the news stories, reports and blogs that have grabbed our attention. We welcome your thoughts and comments on these articles.

China, Africa and Food Security, International Policy Digest

Brac’s Sir Fazle Hasan Abed wins 2015 World Food prize for reducing poverty, The Guardian

Food Security from a Micro Perspective: Why Bigger Isn’t Always Better, The Chicago Council

Countdown to COP21 in Paris: New expectations for Africa or the same old circus?, Eldis

Winds of climate change blast farmers’ hopes of sustaining a livelihood in Burkina Faso, The Guardian

Technical solutions alone can’t fix climate change – scientists, Thomson Reuters Foundation

African Growth and Opportunity Act: Advancing the Role of Agriculture in US-Africa Trade, The Chicago Council

Anti-GM protesters don’t understand how science works, The Telegraph

Climate Change Is Shrinking Where Bumblebees Range, Research Finds, New York Times

The challenge of soil, Food Security [Read more…]


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