BABOLOKI SEMELE AND BYRON MUTINGWENDE
LUSAKA, ZAMBIA: “We can do so much, we have so much, and yet we seem to be not doing that so much, the much that we want,” these powerful words resonated with hope and determination as Vice President of Zambia, Mutale Nalumango, delivered her keynote address at the launch of the Consortium of Youth in Agriculture and Climate Change (CAYACC).
Her impassioned call to action marked the commencement of the 14th Africa Day for Food and Nutrition Security (ADFNS) Commemoration and the 19th Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Partnership Platform in Lusaka, Zambia.
Madam Vice President’s address encapsulated the urgency and potential inherent in Africa’s pursuit of food and nutrition security. She implored the delegates, hailing from across the continent and beyond, to allow their love for Africa to be the driving force behind their commitment to delivering the best solutions in the realm of nutrition and food security.In her speech, Vice President Nalumango cast her gaze back to the Malabo Declaration, a significant commitment made by African heads of state in 2014 to boost agricultural growth and food security on the continent.
She reminded the audience that the era of mere declarations must give way to resolute implementation. Africa’s challenges are pressing, and it is no longer sufficient to rest on aspirations alone.Emphasizing the pivotal role of human capital development, the Vice President stressed that it all begins with good nutrition. Healthy and well-nourished populations are the bedrock of progress and prosperity.
She motivated researchers to redouble their efforts in finding innovative solutions to the complex challenges facing the continent.Furthermore, Madam Vice President extended a commitment on behalf of politicians, pledging to translate the recommendations and findings of researchers into tangible policies and actions.
In an increasingly interconnected world, where food security and agricultural stability are vital components of national and regional well-being, the regional director of Food Agriculture Organization (FAO) Abebe Haile Gabriel, delivered a sobering assessment of Africa’s agrifood systems.
His remarks shed light on the vulnerabilities faced by the continent, vulnerabilities stemming from both man-made and natural crises. These disruptions have far-reaching consequences, affecting not only agricultural and economic performances but also the intricate web of food supply chains and the livelihoods of millions. Gabriel’s address underscored a pressing issue: the reactive nature of Africa’s response to these shocks.
For her part, Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, Commissioner for Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy, and Sustainable Environment, lent her voice to the crucial discourse surrounding food security and the challenges facing the African continent.
Dr. Ibrahim Mayaki, the African Union Special Envoy on food systems, said CAADP remains an invaluable tool in the fight against poverty on the African continent.
He said Africa should broaden its horizons to encompass the critical aspect of ensuring nutrition for its people. He emphasized that CAADP is embarking on its third phase, post-Maputo, and as it enters this new chapter, it is met with a landscape of formidable challenges.
Estherine Fotabong, representing the Chief Executive Officer of the African Union Development Agency (AUDA-NEPAD), delivered a message that resonated with the shared aspirations of Africa’s people. She described the theme of the two events; “Accelerating the Implementation of the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement in the Context of CAADP Commitments for Safer and Healthier Diets,” as profoundly fitting.
This theme, she says encapsulates the essence of a modern Africa, one that recognizes the inextricable link between food security, health, and economic prosperity. Fotabong called for heightened collaboration between governments, regional bodies and private sector to ensure food security and healthier diets for Africans. She noted that for the path forward to bear results, there is a need to create a politically conducive environment, cross sectoral policy alignment in relation to nutrition as well as delivering targeted nutrition intervention effectively.
To ensure the full participation of young people, the African Youth Consortium of Agriculture and Climate Change Network was launched, signifying stakeholders’ commitment to harnessing the immense potential of youth in addressing the critical challenges of agriculture and climate change on the continent.
Panduleni Ndinelago Elago, the Senior Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Progamme (CAADP) Advisor at the Africa Union Commission said Africa is a continent brimming with youthful energy, innovation, and determination hence better positioned to improve agriculture.
“Our young people are not just the future; they are the driving force behind the transformative change we seek today. They are the torchbearers of our hopes and aspirations, and it is imperative that we empower them to take the lead in shaping the future of the continent.
“The African Union has firmly positioned youth at the heart of its development agenda. Agenda 2063, our visionary roadmap for the future, envisions the attainment of equitable prosperity for our continent, powered by the inherent potential of its people, with a particular emphasis on the invaluable contributions of both women and youth. This commitment underscores the significance of inclusivity and ensuring that no one is left behind,” she said.
Africa faces challenges in agriculture and climate change. Agriculture is the backbone of its economy, providing subsistence, livelihoods, and economic growth for millions of Africans. Yet, it faces immense challenges, from food security to employment opportunities and environmental sustainability.
At the same time, climate change presents an existential threat to the African continent. It knows no borders, and its effects are already being felt across Africa, from prolonged droughts to devastating floods and extreme weather events. It is a crisis that demands urgent and concerted action.
“It is against this backdrop that we must recognize the vital role that our youth play. They are the architects of innovative solutions, the champions of sustainable practices, and the leaders of tomorrow’s green economy. We must empower them to be active agents of change in both agro-food systems and climate action,” Elago added.
Recently, at the Climate Change Summit in Nairobi, African leaders reaffirmed the importance of a sustainable, low-carbon future for the continent. Principles of social justice, fairness, and leaving no one behind were echoed throughout the summit. It was emphasized that climate action should create opportunities for climate jobs and develop skills that are adaptable to the evolving demands of the green economy.
“This is precisely where our youth come in. They hold the key to unlocking innovative approaches and fostering a job-rich transition in food, agriculture, and climate-related sectors. Africa requires knowledge, skills, and perspectives to navigate these challenges effectively. Our young people can provide that fresh perspective, driving change, and offering solutions that align with the principles of sustainability and social inclusion.
“The Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods, adopted in 2014, sets forth specific targets for youth-related initiatives. It calls for the creation of job opportunities for at least 30% of youth in agricultural value chains, ensuring that women and youth have preferential entry and participation in agribusiness opportunities,” she added.
To complement these commitments, the African Union has developed a comprehensive set of policies and frameworks focused on youth empowerment. These include, amongst others, the African Youth Charter, the African Plan of Action for Youth Empowerment 2019-2024, and the AU’s Five-Year Priority Programme. These initiatives are designed to unleash the potential of youth across the continent in areas such as education, employment, entrepreneurship, engagement, and health.
Olumide Idowu, the Executive Member of CAYACC, said youth involvement in agriculture and addressing climate change are crucial for economic growth for several reasons.
“First, the agricultural sector plays a significant role in the global economy, providing livelihoods for millions of people and contributing to GDP in many countries. Engaging young people in agriculture ensures a sustainable workforce and helps to secure food production for a growing population.
“Youth involvement in agriculture and addressing climate change is vital for economic growth. By investing in the youth, we can ensure a sustainable and resilient agricultural sector, foster innovation and entrepreneurship, and create opportunities for employment and economic development,” Idowu said.
His sentiments were echoed by Olorato T Sebitla from Botswana, also a CAYACC member and a university graduate and accredited business developer, holding other various short course certificates. She is a young female farmer passionate in all things agriculture.
“CAYACC under the AU framework, is advocating for national investments into policy practices that can harness and channel youth’s passion, resilience, energy and time towards an efficient Agricultural transformation, results and impact in the continent,” she said.