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Rural youth can be tomorrow’s entrepreneurs 0

Bolstering widespread prosperity in Africa is a key necessity if the world is to achieve its commitments to eradicate poverty and hunger by 2030.

The sheer numbers indicate the scale of the challenge, and also strong hints as to the path to pursue.

The continent’s population has doubled in three decades, and while urbanization has moved at a blistering pace, it has not offset the number of people living in rural areas. Agricultural productivity has in fact increased faster than the global average, but not fast enough to resolve the paradox of the continent with a majority of the world’s unfarmed arable land remaining a net importer of food.

Those are the facts. And they highlight some basic principles: Africa has huge potential, but progress must include the rural and agricultural sectors. Smallholders contribute around 80 percent of sub-Saharan Africa’s food supply, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, and these are the critical enterprises that must be tapped to produce incomes, jobs and opportunities.

Much work is being done by governments and international organizations to shore up food security, through social protection and targeted agricultural development programs.

What we at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture think is essential is that people themselves have to be enabled to truly leverage their own and their continent’s potential.

While there is absolutely a role for public policies and large private-sector initiatives to make this happen, individual empowerment is also essential.

On the surface, that is obvious. While our core mandate is to be the lead research partner facilitating agricultural solutions for hunger and poverty in the tropics, our core vision is based on the idea that the connecting links for the broad array of initiatives around the land, not always perfectly coordinated, are entrepreneurs.

Family farmers are far and away the world’s largest investors in agriculture. Likewise, bottom-up business activity is the most efficient way to maximize efficiency.

That is why IITA is investing heavily in spreading our Business Incubation Platform, a model closely linked to our Youth Agripreneurs programs and aimed at accelerating the rollout of a series of useful services to be offered along the value chain. Our approach is particularly geared to fostering productive and profitable opportunities for youth, especially rural youth.

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by Nteranya Sanginga

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