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Graziano Da Silva: “Youth and agriculture, key factors for a social inclusive growth in Africa” 0

“Africa is growing at a faster rate than the world’s average. And 7 out of the 10 fastest growing economies are in Africa. But it still has one major challenge: ensuring that this growth is socially inclusive. The keys to make this happen are here: youth and agriculture”, says FAO Director-General, Graziano Da Silva, during the 28th FAO Regional Conference for Africa.

Over half of the African population is expected to remain rural until the middle of this century. Agriculture, and that includes the livestock, fisheries and aquaculture sectors, is its main source of employment.

Africa is not only one of the fastest growing regions in the world, it is also the youngest one.

Over half its population is under 25. And in the next decade, 11 million people are expected to enter its labour market every year.

So, we cannot speak of a sustainable and inclusive growth for Africa without speaking of youth and agriculture.

But at the same time we need to raise the incentives for the youth to engage in rural activities, in farming, and especially in livestock production and fisheries and aquaculture which are more attractive to the youth because of the quicker results.

This becomes even more important as we are seeing more and more of Africa’s youth searching for opportunities elsewhere. Many times, they are forced to do so because of conflict or lack of alternatives at home.

We need to give the youth other possibilities. The aquaculture and livestock sectors can provide them.

Look at aquaculture, for example.The aquaculture sector in Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Nigeria, Uganda and Zambia grew six times between 2000-2010.

A more productive and profitable aquaculture can create significant income and employment opportunities.

In Nigeria, the largest aquaculture producer in Sub-Saharan Africa, a hectare of catfish farm generates US$ 7,018 in labour incomes and 7 jobs.

Livestock also has a potential that we have not fully tapped into yet. Worldwide, this sector accounts for 40% of the value of world agricultural production. Its importance is expected to grow as demand for animal protein continues to grow in the world and in Africa. This offers opportunities for young Africans, men and women, not only in production but also in adding value along the food chain.

For example in Kenya, the dairy sector alone already creates around 900,000 jobs, and many of these are done by young men and women. It depends on our support to create the right environment and conditions so that young people can invest and find productive and gainful employment in the livestock sector.

FAO and other partners already work with governments to support the development of these opportunities in local communities.

Over the last few years, FAO has supported the development of National Aquaculture Strategies in 14 sub-Saharan African countries. Through the NEPAD-FAO Fish Programme (NFFP), we have also assisted in the development of market-oriented “model” clusters/groups in Kenya, Nigeria and Zambia.

At the same time, our livestock and rural employment experts are joining forces in a recently launched pilot project in Ethiopia, which seeks to specifically support youth in the country’s booming small ruminant sector.

In Zimbabwe, a country where over 60% of the population is under 25, FAO and partners just started implementing a 7.7 million Euros project to support the smallholder livestock sector.

And this week, we will sign a project funded by the Africa Solidarity Trust Fund to support rural poverty reduction in Mali by improving rural labor opportunities for the youth.

To end, I want to add that not only do we need agriculture to provide the jobs that millions of young Africans need.

But we also need the youth to inject a new energy into agriculture, livestock and fisheries.

These sectors need the youth to adopt the technologies and innovations that will allow it to keep growing.

By Graziano Da Silva, FAO Director-General

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