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Youth Conference Front for Agroecology to Address Global food deficit

Youths from 24 countries in Africa have demanded a swift shift towards agroecology especially in these times of climate and food crisis.

A three day youth conference  in Kenya , the 1st ever Africa youth summit on food systems also declared unwavering commitment to advocating for an immediate transition to agroecology for sustainable food in Africa.

“As representatives of Africa’s vibrant and dynamic young generation, making up at least 60 percent of the continent, we recognize the pressing need to address the critical challenges facing the future of our continent’s food systems and sovereignty”, the youth who met under the umbrella of Alliance for Food Sovereignty Africa   (AFSA) said .

Reading a declaration on behalf of the youth at the end of the summit, Joyce Brown coordinator of the Youth Platform of AFSA said  agroecology represents a sustainable agricultural practice and by adopting it we can nurture a regenerative and inclusive food system that respects  the  cultural heritage, preserving  social values, and safeguarding  African identity.

Dr. Billion Belay- General Coordinator at AFSA

“From all the deliberations we have had . It has been agreed that the time to transition to agroecology is now so we are calling on governments to support that transition because agroecology addresses the common global challenges that we face and particularly challenges facing Africa in terms of food security”, she said

The youths, she explained, are very enthusiastic about agroecology because they understand that it is the sustainable way to farm, to protect and  to preserve the  ecosystems as opposed to industrial farming that destroys ecosystems and biodiversity .

“The youth are getting involved in soil management for example in making organic fertilizers instead of inorganic chemicals that degrade the soils. we are also into biodiversity conservation as well as agroecological entrepreneurship to show that it works”, Brown added

As young farmers, the youth  asked governments to  ensure there are policies that safeguard the land rights of youth particularly women , marginalized and indigenous groups by ensuring equal distribution of resources to empower their entrepreneurial endeavors.

“Tailored financial assistance such as grants, and subsidies must be provided to  bolster the efforts of young farmers and agroecological entrepreneurs as this will enable them invest in sustainable agricultural practices, innovate technologies and value addition activities”, Brown said .

The youth also called for support  when it comes to education saying they will require skills for sustainable farming practices , climate change adaptation, and seed management and conservation.

“This can be done through integrating agroecology and environmental education into school curricula and establishing vocational training centres for youth in the agriculture sector. Empowering the next generation of farmers will pave the way for a resilient and sustainable future” they said.

Lastly the youth demanded a seat at the table when it comes to policy and program design by including their voices in agriculture, climate change, and food system policy discussions.

Dr. Billion Belay- General Coordinator at AFSA said they have started a youth wing in order to promote agroecology and that the youth leaders from the 24 countries in Africa are discussing the role of the youth in Agriculture and specifically the agriculture that is needed.

Through this meeting , the youth leaders are planning to organize the biggest youth convention in Africa next year where more than 1000 youths will come together to discuss the future about African agriculture”, he added.

Belay said that food imports in Africa is increasing and also exporting instead of the continent trading among themselves in the continent instead of exporting out side and this has made African countries continue being in debt.

“We are wallowing in debts, African countries agreed in the Maputo declaration to allocate 10.5 of the GDP to agriculture but they cannot do it since they do not have the money. The debt is so much that African governments borrow money to pay the debts hence the debt level is increasing”, he noted.

The coordinator noted that investment level is also becoming difficult since the most payments are done are for the purchase of fertilizer and agro chemicals and yet the countries can go organic and produce food in a healthy way and thus cancel the debts

There is need to have an African levy food policy both at the country level and the continental level just to encourage countries to produce their own food and also to sell amongst themselves, Belay said .

Twenty (20) year old Warda Mohammed, an environmental champion from Kisumu who nurtures young kids of between Five (5) and  Six (6) years old  in putting  up kitchen gardens said that what motivated her into agroecological farming was her grandmother.

“We have been making kitchen gardens by recycling materials namely plastic bottles and hair braids for fencing and this summit has helped me learn even more and gain ideas on how I can expand my farming”, she said

Warda said that her message to the youth not only in Kenya but in Africa is to go back to their culture and roots when it comes to growing traditional food and not rely so much on the western foods.

“The young people are being advised to get involved in agroecology because the future is ours. If we destroy the soils today, we destroy the ecosystems today. we will only be depending on junk foods which is not good for our health” she emphasized

According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), the Youth have already made significant steps forward in getting climate issues on the world stage noting that the  young people are  key to transforming  agrifood systems for the better, creating a new system that can meet modern challenges and provide nutrition for a growing population.

By Wangari Ndirangu

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