The 2018 Global Food Security Symposium met my expectations in many ways. I was thrilled to learn new solutions for food security and youth involvement in agriculture. Interactions with my fellow students from different universities around the world, foreign policy advisors, researchers, leaders, and scientists enriched me with new ideas and breakthrough innovations in the sector. However, most importantly, these conversations further boosted my sense of responsibility and commitment towards making the world a better place, specifically in terms of food security.
During the Symposium, one thing that was made clear to me is that youth empowerment is key to addressing various challenges facing the world. Dire realities exist in low-and-middle-income countries (LMICs) where the issue of food insecurity is rampant, youth population growth is soaring, and youth unemployment is excessive. It’s challenging to imagine how there could be food insecurity when agriculture is the main economic activity in most LMICs. Furthermore, why is there a tremendous youth unemployment when agriculture offers the leading number of job opportunities? Right in this confusion is an inherent solution. Young people need agriculture as it offers high prospects for job opportunities through its diverse value chains. On the other hand, agriculture needs the youth in order to improve. A resultant of these two forces is the potential to achieve food security.
However, agriculture is not perceived positively by the youth. Separate from this issue, the youth fail to participate in agriculture due to lack of skills, knowledge and attitudes that the sector demands. A potential challenge to engaging the growing youth population in LMICs and equipping them with the required skills for a career in the agriculture sector is the fact that the majority of youth live in rural areas and have little or no formal education.
How can agriculture be transformed to attract the youth, improve food security and in turn address related issues in LMICs such as lack of education, underemployment, and lagging economies. Technical and vocational education is a suitable solution in this context. This type of training offers skills and knowledge at both formal and informal level. It could help identify rural microenterprises such as beekeeping, poultry, vegetable production and basket weaving as well as offer short trainings on production and agribusiness. Additionally, technical and vocational schools could provide start-up kits or credits upon completion. This would allow the growing youth to embark on meaningful businesses that would provide them with income and further improve their livelihoods. Moreover, the youth are likely to get attracted to enterprises that would give them quick economic returns and the agricultural industry offers such promises.
Vocational and training school is also key to assimilating a new generation to the future of agriculture with is inundated with modern technology. Agriculture demands individuals who are likely to adopt new innovations as well as individuals with an interdisciplinary focus. Trades such as carpentry, electric installation, marketing, shipping and logistics, welding and fabrication, plumbing and ICT have the potential to transform agriculture into a modernized sector endowed with exciting breakthroughs. . Young people are likely to become attracted to the type of agriculture where, for instance, ICTs are used in production, marketing and distribution. In this regard, technical and vocational training is key. More to that, this type of training would encourage commercialization, industrialization and value addition which would in turn lead to creation of more job opportunities and evoke underdeveloped aspects of the value chain such as processing and storage.
In one of the sessions at the Symposium, one of my fellow students pointed out that often times we talk about having enough food, but usually neglect the issue of nutrition or quality of the food. In addition, issues of food wastage are prevalent. Technical and vocational schools could teach individuals of importance of helping reduce food wastage and enhancing nutrition. Extension agents, nutrition technicians and dietitians could be trained through vocational training to teach households in both rural and urban areas on various food preservation techniques, food preparation and utilization of simple food storage facilities.
As a master’s candidate, my research focuses on employability of technical and vocational education graduates along agricultural value chains. What I have learned in both the course of doing my research and my participation in the Symposium is that concerted efforts bring success. In order to address youth unemployment and food insecurity, economies must make deliberate policies that will promote youth participation in agriculture. The youth are constantly faced with challenges in accessing important requirements such as land and services. A step to youth empowerment would entail governments to instill policies that will increase youth’s access to such resources as land, credit, and extension services. The youth should also be engaged in policy making and be empowered with a voice to speak their minds and problems.