Accra, May 23, GNA - Africa youth must be encouraged to effectively engage in agribusiness and agro-processing to address the complex problem of food insecurity that has plagued the region over a protracted period of time.
More than half of the population of the continent is under 25, and currently, there are approximately 200 million people aged between 15 and 24, constituting a significant labor force, remarked Ms. Beth Crawford, Regional Strategic Programme Coordinator, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
“Africa has impressive growth rates, averaging around 5 percent in 2014, almost double the global average. Indeed, one quarter of countries in the region grew at about 7 per cent or more, and seven of the ten fastest growing economies in the world are in Africa” she noted.
In an interview with the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in Accra, Ms. Crawford indicated “But despite these impressive growth levels, a large part of the population is still trapped in poverty, and levels of hunger, undernourishment and other forms of malnutrition are still relatively high”.
Furthermore, the share of youth in the labor force in Africa is also the highest in the world. With approximately 11 million Africans joining the labor market every year for the next decade, we need to ensure youth is engaged effectively in agribusiness and agro-processing.
FAO enabling decent agriculture and agri-business jobs
With the mandate for global food security, FAO focuses on a number of priority programmes in the Region to address the complex and interconnected issues.
Specifically, the cross-cutting programme called “Youth Employment: enabling decent agriculture and agri-business” aims to support the region in harnessing its huge demographic dividend, while contributing to the rejuvenation of the aging farming population.
According to Ms. Crawford, beyond farm jobs, the programme looks at the potential for job creation in rural non-farm economic activities in food value chains, agri-business development and their related support services.
One of the other priority programmes, Africa’s Commitment to End Hunger by 2025, supports governments’ efforts to promote sustainable food security and nutrition by turning political will into concrete actions, using data to inform policies and programmes, and enhancing governance and coordination.
The activities are solidly anchored within the CAADP implementation framework underpinning the Malabo commitments, and by extension the SDGs (in particular SDG 2 and SDG1). The focus is not only on ending hunger but also on poverty, food insecurity and all forms of malnutrition.
With the programme Sustainable Production Intensification and Value Chain Development, the aim is to foster sustainable agricultural production and transformation and build safe and efficient food systems. The focus on climate change adaptation and mitigation continues to be strengthened, and deliverables are linked to the SDGs.
The overall goal of another priority programme called Building Resilience in Africa’s Drylands, is to enhance the capacity of dryland countries to anticipate, mitigate and respond to shocks, threats and crises affecting their livelihoods.
Its strategic and programmatic focus is closely tied with continental aspirations as espoused in the AU Malabo Declaration’s Commitment on resilience.
“Of course, in all the work we do, we work very closely with governments and other partners in order to tackle these hugely complex areas,” Ms. Crawford said, as she mentioned partners that include other UN agencies, resource partners, development banks, and state and non-state actors.
In sub-Saharan Africa, 23.2 percent of the population is estimated to be undernourished in 2014–16. This is the highest prevalence of undernourishment for any region in the world. But there are differences across the subregions.
In West Africa, for example, prevalence of undernourishment has consistently fallen whereas in the Central African subregion, the number of undernourished people more than doubled between 1990 and 2016.
Globally, between 2003 and 2013, 1.9 billion people in the developing regions were affected by natural hazards and disasters, causing an estimated half a trillion US dollars in damage. And, according to FAO estimates, approximately 22 percent of the total economic impact of these disasters is absorbed by the agriculture sector, so it is not an issue that we can ignore.