The youth population in Africa is on the rise, yet opportunities for decent employment remain minimal. According to the ILO, youth unemployment in Sub-Saharan Africa remains relatively low, as many young people cannot afford not to work.
However, young people (60% of Africans are between 16-24 years of age) suffer from under-employment and a lack of decent working conditions. The majority of these underemployed and unemployed youth reside in rural areas.
Barriers to entry
Despite the enormous opportunities presented in agri-business, multiple barriers and challenges persist that hinder Africa's youth from venturing into the world of agri-business development. These challenges include:
- The perception that agriculture is for “old folks” and a lack of exposure to off-farm and on-farm opportunities in agri-business has hindered young people from pursuing opportunities in the sector.
- Lack of skills (numeracy and literacy), entrepreneurial acumen and lack of technical know-how on modern farming techniques remain staggering blocks that keep young people from exploring enterprise development in agriculture, related value chains and ultimately, creation of green jobs.
- Access to capital – On the one hand, the youth lack the required assets to secure credit and are perceived as “high risk and not creditworthy” by a majority of lending institutions. On the other hand, rural young women particularly face gender stereotypes in relation to land ownership, access to credit and many have low levels of education that reduce their competitive entry and market expansion of their enterprises.
- Minimal access to information (or right information), market linkages, high costs of inputs such as seeds and fertilizers, land tenure and cultural inheritance practices hinder youth and young women from owning productive land.
- The causes and effects of climate change in addition to environmental degradation have long term effects on agricultural outputs and undermine efforts to achieve sustainable food security.
- Lack of or ineffective implementation or adaptation of government policies that support climate-smart agricultural practices.
- Lack of enabling environments that encourage the entry of young women and youth into agri-business opportunities and the creation of decent green jobs.
SNVs Opportunity for Youth Employment (OYE) approach/trajectory:
In response to this challenge, SNV has over the past 10 years developed and honed its Opportunities for Youth Employment (OYE) approach in several countries in Sub-Saharan Africa. OYE, a market-based approach, improves the livelihood of rural and semi-rural out of school unemployed and underemployed youth (aged 18 – 30 years) by enabling them to access and create gainful employment (wage and self-employment) in core SNV sectors: Energy, WASH and Agriculture.
Our OYE intervention aligns with local entrepreneurial eco-system development objectives, enabling youth to identify feasible market opportunities based on available resources, interests, passions and aspirations (Push); while at the same time triggering markets to work for young people (Match) by providing different pathways to (self) employment or wage employment (Pull). To learn more about OYE impact numbers, testimonials and SNV's product approach, click here.
Examples from the field
In OYE Tanzania for instance, young people are using a blend of conventional farming and modern farming practices in agriculture to create climate-smart jobs for themselves and others in the community. Some of the modern farming practices include solar-powered drip irrigation, agro-ecological farming and aquaponics farming techniques. Through similar interventions in Zimbabwe and Mali, young people are contributing to environmental sustainability and social inclusiveness by creating green jobs in waste recycling business ventures.
Through OYE, SNV is contributing to building a generation of young people that are aware of and taking action against climate change, thus contributing to economic development and reduced levels of youth unemployment. We are seeing increased interest in agri-business because young people are attracted to new and innovative modern farming techniques – these green technologies have the potential for replication and scale in other regions and neighbouring countries. Young people are realising increased yields, improved productivity and incomes. Also, young people are combing conventional farming with modern farming techniques and as a result, they have diversified income-generating activities, and despite the varying seasons and risks associated with farming, they are active throughout the year. Young people are increasingly contributing to reduced climate impact and environmental degradation as they are using fewer natural assets such as water and land while at the same time keeping the environment clean through waste recycling.
Additionally, we have good examples in Rwanda where young women are breaking cultural barriers and are finding or creating new employment opportunities in the renewable energy sector. In Tanzania, more and more women are benefiting from improved farming techniques - this is because modern farming approaches can be practiced near their homesteads, thus reducing the cost of time mobility and associated risks. Communities are also experiencing reduced malnutrition rates among children as young women can provide decent and balanced meals for their families. There have also been impacts on family savings, women's inclusion in household decision making and involvement in leadership roles at the community level.
Presented with the right tools, exposure and information, there is growing evidence that perceptions are gradually changing in terms of agri-business and Africa's youth are willing to get their “hands dirty” in agriculture and related value chains. Just like other youth across the globe, young Africans are enticed by ICT and innovative modern farming techniques. In partnership with development partners, governments and extension agencies, local NGOs and communities, young people have the potential to contribute to sustainable climate-smart farming techniques and to food-secure Africa and global economies. By leapfrogging on what has worked in the developed countries (there is no need to reinvent the wheel) particularly in commercial farming and by integrating and adapting modern farming practices based on the local context, Africa and African youth can contribute to creating sustainable green jobs, which can feed the world.
On Friday 6th December at COP25 EU Pavilion, SNV (in partnership with ILO, Green Africa Youth Organization – GAYO) will host and moderate a session on Youth and Climate Change. We shall be exploring the topics related to access to finance, gender and opportunities for youth green jobs.
We hope to see you there!