Silencing the Guns through Gender and Youth Inclusion in Agricultural Research for Development (AR4D)

By Karen Munoko

The Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) advances the systematic adoption of science-led solutions towards addressing Africa’s food insecurity challenges by promoting fundamental societal change. A necessary element in this respect is addressing youth unemployment, which constitutes a significant security risk in Africa. Unfortunately, the African youth are the key actors in conflicts while Africa imports nearly $50 billion net of food annually despite holding 60% of the world’s arable land. (Michael, 2019)[1] However, the increasing number of youth in Africa presents both challenges and opportunities for the growth of the agricultural sector, obviating the need to redirect the continent’s youthful energy and the [2], to drive economic transformation predicated on Agriculture Research and Development (ARD).

In Sub-Saharan Africa, 80% of all farms are small-scale with varied production of subsistence crops and a few cash crops on small plots of land. They rely majorly on family labor, with women playing a vital role. Investment priorities should, therefore, focus on supporting smallholder farmers and especially in the rural areas to become profitable considering 60% of Africa’s youth live in rural settings. (BBC, 2019)[3] Tangible actions are needed by the development community, national governments, and private sector partners to create the right conditions and policies to fast track this.

Beyond changing policies, their enforcement at all levels within the society is critical. This would include a concerted effort to deepen the understanding of barriers such as skills, access to resources, decision-making power, discriminatory norms, care obligations, security concerns, etc., which often hamper their implementation. In particular, the roles and priorities of women and youth, who often constitute the marginalized groups of the society, are important. These groups, therefore, need to be included in research in a meaningful way. For example, offering child-care support options, flexible schedules and proximity to the home when targeting (young) women; and affirmative actions, to ensure inclusion of women and youth. Investing in capacity development and agri-preneurship for gender and youth inclusions are very critical as research has shown that if women had the same access to agricultural resources as men, about 150 million fewer people would go hungry.

Social protection is also important for addressing economic and social risks, yet women and youth often face restricted access to, or exclusion from, social protection and social security. Some key suggestions for AR4D practitioners include; 1) encouraging national governments to commit to and invest in enhancing the collection, dissemination and analysis of data on youth and women, disaggregated by age and sex, education, qualifications, competencies, capacities, occupation, employment situation, and skill level, as well as country of origin; 2) building capacity for national governments to apply this data to meet age-sensitive, and equity-focused approaches to youth in agriculture and development; 3) promoting investment in Science, Technology and Innovations (STI) to provide conditions that make investment viable and sustainable in rural contexts and 4) expanding access to education, apprenticeships, finance, business and employment opportunities for young women and men in Agricultural Research for Development across the continent, and empowering them to expand access to their peers.

Operationally, the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), provides an opportunity to increase youth and women’s participation in agricultural food enterprises. Women constitute 70% of the workforce in the agricultural sector in Africa and 10% in basic food processing. They also carry out 60 to 90% of the total rural marketing, which is mostly through informal channels. According to GrowAfrica’s analysis while celebrating the success of women in Agribusiness in 2018, women’s capacity to organize and mobilize while taking charge of their own issues provides great chances of them accessing the support they need in order to grow their businesses. As Africa prepares to silence the guns and end conflicts across the continent, there is a need for bold actions both in policy and investments to increase food security by strengthening critical mass and large numbers of youth and women to successfully and sustainably participate in AR4D.

[1] Michael, D. I. (2019, September 04). African women in agribusiness (Business). Retrieved from Africa News: 

[2] Based on the ongoing discussions of “silencing the guns” at the 33rd African Union summit

[3] BBC. (2019, March 26). African migration: Five things we’ve learnt. Retrieved from www.bbc.com

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