Bringing growth, innovation

Despite its marginal contribution to GDP, the agriculture sector remains central to the lives of the majority of Namibia’s population.

20 August 2019 | Agriculture

Justicia Shipena

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit Agricultural Business and Capacity Development (GIZ-ABCD) project, in collaboration with the agriculture and youth ministries, the National Youth Council (NYC) and farmer unions, hosted the first-ever Agri4Youth conference at the Safari Court Hotel last Friday, under the theme ‘Inspiring the Future of Agriculture in Namibia’.

This event was aimed at creating awareness, educating, inspiring, connecting, uniting and engaging Namibian youth in the agriculture sector, while providing them with a platform for dialogue, peer-learning, networking and creating business linkages to industry stakeholders.

According to Tino Hess, project manager of GIZ-ABCD, some say that youth are not interested in agriculture, but this is not the case.

“Within 48 hours after announcing the event, we already had more than 400 young people from all over the country expressing their interest,” he said.

Hess said over the past year he had the opportunity to listen to many youth about their innovative ideas for the agricultural sector and was amazed.

“So out of these conversations and impressions, the idea was born to organise the Agri4Youth conference, the first of its kind,” he said.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, agriculture deputy minister Anna Shiweda said a holistic policy approach is needed for youth to explore and tap into the latent business and job opportunities that exist along the entire agricultural value chain.

Shiweda added that the lack of interest of the youth in agriculture is often manifested by the high level of rural to urban migration of young people.

She further stressed this should be addressed at regional and national level.

“Under the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), United Nations programmes are being implemented with the objective of making agriculture more attractive to the youth, focusing, among others, on ICT utilisation,” she said.

Shiweda said SADC, under the chairmanship of Namibia, adopted the theme ‘Promoting Infrastructure Development and Youth Empowerment for Sustainable Development’.

The adoption of this theme is an indication that at regional level, the importance and plight of the youth, in terms of high unemployment, is being recognised, along with the declining participation of young people in agriculture.

“In line with this theme, multimedia messages to promote the active participation of youth and a programme to mainstream the youth agenda, as part of SADC’s continuous initiatives, were developed,” she said.

Shiweda said the Harambee Comprehensively, Coordinated Integrated Agricultural Programme has 11 value chain schemes that present an opportunity for youth to participate.

According to sports minster Erastus Uutoni, Namibia is blessed with rich natural resources, well-developed physical infrastructure and political stability.

“Despite its marginal contribution to Gross Domestic Product (GDP), the agriculture sector remains central to the lives of the majority of the population. Directly or indirectly, it supports over 70% of the country's population,” he said.

Uutoni said the ministry is currently busy with the full implementation of the 121 rural youth enterprises, as per the Harambee Prosperity Plan (HPP).

“We are currently busy engaging financial institutions to increase and create access to collateral-free capital for the youth,” he said.

He added this underscores the need for deliberate efforts to win over the hearts of the uncaptured, highly productive youth for better returns in agricultural development.

Maness Nkhata, the managing director and founder of the Lakeshore Agro- Processors Enterprise (LAPE) in Malawi, spoke on digitalising agriculture and improving food and nutritional security.

Nkhata said youth who have advanced in agriculture can be used as a vehicle for advocacy, in terms of youth involvement in agriculture.

She added they can use ICT in agriculture to help maximise scarce resources, such as land, and produce more food that can improve nutrition and food security.

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