The Farmers and Food System Leaders of Tomorrow

Repost from Food Tank

Young people are the farmers and food system leaders of tomorrow. According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), young people are increasingly abandoning agriculture and rural areas in search of better prospects, which makes creating opportunities for young people to contribute to their agricultural communities an urgent need.

Today, young people can explore career options in permaculture design, biodynamic farming, communication technologies, forecasting, marketing, logistics, quality assurance, urban agriculture projects, food preparation, environmental sciences, and more.

In the coming year at Food Tank, we are focusing our work on the world’s next generation of agricultural leaders—amplifying and deepening our research, growing our online community, and continuing to encourage an energized global dialogue on the important issue of youth in agriculture in partnership with IFAD.

With an aging population of farmers, it’s clear that agriculture needs to attract more young people. Half of the farmers in the United States are 55 or older, and the average age of farmers in sub-Saharan Africa is roughly 60 years old. The United Nations’ International Labour Organization (ILO) predicts that, globally, there will be 74.2 million unemployed young people this year, an increase of 3.8 million since 2007.

The agricultural sector offers great potential for job creation; effectively publicizing the market’s open and varied employment opportunities can radically change youths’ perception of agriculture and as a result, radically change agriculture’s lasting impact.

Now, more than ever, we need to help educate, motivate, prepare, and support the world’s next generation of agricultural leaders and farmers.

“I would ask that—not only in my own country, but across the world—opportunities are created for us [young people] to prove that, yes, we can do it,” Sandra Sandoval, a young rural businesswoman from El Salvador, told IFAD.

In a recent report, IFAD identified six main challenges that youth face in entering the agriculture field: insufficient access to knowledge, information, and education; limited access to land; inadequate access to financial services; difficulties accessing jobs in agriculture field; limited access to markets; and limited involvement in policy dialogue.

To combat these issues, IFAD is investing in youth, especially rural youth. The programs IFAD supports enable young, rural people to gain access to the resources and tools necessary to be productive and enter agricultural markets.

In Zanzibar, farmer field schools allow new farmers to learn agricultural practices—and to mentor their peers. Farmer field schools use participatory group approaches to teach people how to farm and to tackle agricultural challenges, and, as a result, increase yields and knowledge. “Since I joined this group, I am no longer dependent on my family,” Zeyana Ali Said, a rural poultry farmer in Zanzibar, told IFAD. “Now I completely depend on myself. Before, I was getting about five or seven eggs from each hen. But now I get up to 25 eggs [per hen each month].”

The IFAD Rural Youth Talents Program in South America seeks to publicize and share knowledge from lessons learned in rural youth agriculture programs. The goal is to establish and strengthen networks of youth engaged in food and agriculture, as well involve more youth in the field.

In Uganda, IFAD supports the Developing Innovations in School Cultivation (DISC) project, which improves nutrition and food knowledge through school gardens in ten primary and five secondary schools.

In Saint Lucia, the Helping Out Our Primary and Secondary Schools (HOOPSS) project has created school gardens in more than a dozen schools, and teaches children techniques such as organic fertilizer use and rainwater harvesting.

In Madagascar, the PROSPERER project promotes rural entrepreneurship through apprenticeships that include training and marketing materials in the regions of Sofia, Itasy, Analamanga, Haute Matsiatra, and Batovavy Fltovinagny.

In Brazil, the National Confederation of Agricultural Workers (Confederação Nacional dos Trabalhadores na Agricultura – CONTAG) established a youth knowledge program to enhance the skills of young farmers. The organization provides a free online training course for young farmers, which includes information on family farming, health, and labor laws.

Through Food Tank’s partnership with IFAD, we hope to strengthen the number of youth involved in agriculture fields at all levels. The time to invest in the agricultural leaders of tomorrow is now.

by Danielle Nierenberg and Sarah Small


Innovating on the Farm

This month’s featured young farmer is someone i am proud to call a friend, business partner , fellow visionary and the one person i foresee reaching milestones with for the years to come, ladies and gentlemen, allow me to introduce Arnest Sebbumba

Arnest and I met just as i was getting ready to leave Uganda and at the right time when i was so keen to establish the Wakulima Young Uganda platform. I needed someone to come on board and work with me to make this a reality, and the minute i met Arnest, something told me we were a match made in heaven, even my mum approved! haha, just kidding. I saw potential in this young man, he was already familiar with Joseph’s Mkulima Young Kenya platform, an initiative by ACLECOPS aimed at encouraging youth to engage in agricultural issues. Joseph and i met in Rwanda and i shared my plans about Wakulima Young, before i knew about Mkulima Young. Long story short, Arnest was on board


After completing TechnoServe’s STRYDE program, Arnest Sebbumba is expanding operations on his family farm in Uganda and sowing the seeds of youth empowerment in his community. A piece written for Technoserve on Arnest’s experience with the programme

”It is difficult to translate the word “entrepreneur” into my native tongue, Luganda.

Most of my friends here in Kayunga, Uganda, come from farming families, but few of them have any interest in managing their farms for a living. Agribusiness skills aren’t taught in local schools, though our population is overwhelmingly agrarian. Like so many of my peers, I would have sought employment in the technology sector were it not for the training I received through the STRYDE program run by TechnoServe.

The program began with a three-month training course, designed to push participants to see past traditional farming methods people have adhered to for decades – and to challenge us to consider how to grow our farming operations, address long-standing problems (like East Coast fever, a deadly livestock disease) and recognize new opportunities for expansion.

For four hours a day, twice a week, 24 other participants and I learned finance, business and entrepreneurial skills. It wasn’t until this training that I began to see the land as a blank canvas. The advisors challenged us to see the opportunities in commercializing and building on already existing activities.

I was inspired to greatly expand our farm’s dairy operations. Among other changes, I worked to prevent East Coast fever among my livestock and introduced artificial insemination. I also started a composting program that saves us money and brings in extra income, as we’ve begun selling our compost to other farms. A business-minded approach has allowed me to carve out a livelihood for my family from land that previously provided us with only a precarious subsistence.

Perhaps more importantly, the training boosted my confidence and showed me that I could succeed by pursuing innovative, business-savvy farming. It also inspired me to think about how I could share that knowledge and confidence with others in my community.

Prior to joining STRYDE, I had spent six months as a part-time researcher for The MasterCard Foundation’s Youth Think Tank, gathering insights about ways to increase youth employment. The young people we interviewed consistently said that they wanted to know more about professional options and that they needed greater access to employment and entrepreneurship training programs.

Armed with new knowledge about the needs of local youth, and with the skills and confidence I developed through the STRYDE program, last year I dedicated myself to developing a nonprofit organization, Countryside Youth Foundation (CSYF).

CSYF provides rural youth in my home district with increased access to information on topics such as animal husbandry, crop production, marketing and information technology. The organization encourages young people to recognize existing opportunities, including approaching the family farm as an enterprise. It is my hope that the organization will empower young people in Kayunga by increasing their knowledge and their economic potential.

If Luganda does not yet have a word for “entrepreneur,” then I figure it’s my generation’s charge to invent one.

You can find the entire article and read more about how Technoserve is transforming communities :
Thank you Arnest for being an inspiration

Food loss is the blindspot in our fight against hunger

But we already knew that, right?

Food loss is and can be both voluntary and involuntary, meaning we either cause it knowingly or circumstances that we live in mean that we lose food to climate change or back luck, yes, there is something like bad luck in farming too

Food loss/food waste is the blindspot in our fight against hunger, and farmers in the developing world experience food loss through post harvest handling. Poor handling and lack of proper storage means that most food is wasted even before it gets to the market. Supposedly, a whooping 64% of food is lost before it gets to market despite the fact that technological solutions are available. This is both tragic and unnecessary. Technological solutions? are these evenly distributed, who can afford these solutions especially if they are electronic, and are there cheaper solutions?

Men harvest rice in Nanan, Yamoussoukro, Ivory Coast

The global food system already produces enough food for everyone. But 24% of all calories destined for human consumption never end up in tummies, according to the World Resources Institute. In the developing world 64% of food is lost before it is processed or transported to markets. In sub-Saharan Africa alone this costs farms $4bn a year. In a world where 800 million people are undernourished this is both tragic and unnecessary.

Rich countries waste food, while poor countries lose it. In Africa politics, policies, and climate change all affect food production and availability, where periodic droughts and political upheavals have left millions hungry. These are long-term problems that will require long-term solutions. But there are concrete steps we can take right now to bolster Africa’s food security, starting with proven technological interventions.

Basic solar-powered processing equipment can be transformative. Every day in markets across Africa fruits wilt and rots under the blazing sun. That same sun can power a cold room or a mango juice plant owned and staffed vendors.

At Malo, a social enterprise founded to mill, fortify and market rice cultivated by local smallholder farmers in Mali, we are looking at proposals to use solar energy to power equipment which could reduce food loss. Elsewhere in Mali, cattle farmers are using solar energy to power refrigerators to store their milk.

Given that the biggest food losses occur on farms, this is where we should begin to solve the problem. For subsistence farmers, support and advice from farmer education services and farming cooperatives improves their ability to withstand economic and climate shocks and maximize their potential.

New and existing cooperatives need to make modern harvesting tools and robust crop disease and pest management systems standard offerings for their members. These improvements would bolster traditional benefits of cooperatives, such as reducing input costs, increasing market access, and obtaining more favorable credit terms.

For commercial farms, regardless of size, putting trained and motivated employees on the team is essential. However, finding qualified workers is a challenge that needs to be overcome.

Creating schools and incubators with curricula and programmes that educate farm workers, farm managers, and farm owners can both address the challenge of ensuring universal education while providing career opportunities for young people. A better educated farm workforce would be better able to prevent or mitigate food loss whether it is by identifying crop diseases early and knowing how to treat them or planning and executing appropriate logistics and distribution operations.

To be sure, tackling the issue of food loss is costly, complex and requires more than just training farm workers and leveraging solar energy. With a growing middle class in Africa, it is essential that the food saved by modernising supply chains doesn’t end up in being thrown away by businesses and consumers, whose consumption habits often mimic those of the developed world.

As soon as that begins to happen we must work to reduce grocery and household food waste. We should investigate the potential of Fenugreen’s Fresh Paper, a spice-infused paper said to increase the shelf life of produce.

Taken together, small improvements at farms and in the kitchen can achieve real results and cut food waste and food loss across the developing world.

Increasing yields and bringing more land under cultivation will remain important to feeding a growing population. But ensuring we eat everything we already grow could quickly reduce the burden we place on our planet as we figure out longer term strategies for coping with climate change and other food security threats.

As 2015 approaches and world leaders begin to think about how to implement the sustainable development goals on hunger, they could do much worse than adopt this mantra: to feed the world tomorrow, let’s eat what we grow today.

The long and ‘painful” journey of our passionfruits

Back in May? or was it April, a friend and i embarked on a journey to grown passionfruit as a business, intercropping it with habanero pepper.

First, just the labour was a pain, clearing the mashland, little boys taking us for a ride, literally extorting money from us and producing a half decent job. They were meant to dig the trenches to carry water (they asked extra for this), and because these were not deep enough, this is what happened

These holes were meant to hold the passionfruit and habanero seedlings, we reckon they were deep and wide enough
These holes were meant to hold the passionfruit and habanero seedlings, we reckon they were deep and wide enough
when the rains came, this is what happened, at this stage, we were good for planting yams, because they enjoy this mashiness
when the rains came, this is what happened, at this stage, we were good for planting yams, because they enjoy this mashiness
The land is connected to something like 10 other farmers, so when one person does not dig their trenches deep enough, if your land is located in the valley, good luck to you!
The land is connected to something like 10 other farmers, so when one person does not dig their trenches deep enough, if your land is located in the valley, good luck to you!
But determined we were, these are trenches dug in preparation for the rain water
But determined we were, these are trenches dug in preparation for the rain water

IMG_3109 IMG_3110 IMG_3111 IMG_3112

The land after it had been prepared. The whole area itself is more or less mashland, good for growing things like cabbage, tomatoes, maize, pepper but maybe not passionfruit?
The land after it had been prepared. The whole area itself is more or less mashland, good for growing things like cabbage, tomatoes, maize, pepper but maybe not passionfruit?

Almost defeated, very mad at this stage, i was just about ready to give up, what was the point? there was no way we would be able to plant in such an area. The rains kept coming, and if we were to wait until the water levels went down, this meant that every season, we would be subjected to these levels of rain and as such the field would get flooded.

Since we did not want to plant yams, we decided to sit it out and think…..

stay tuned for what came next…



Free public debate event taking place in Amsterdam on the topic of – Closing the gap on the CAP: young citizens and young farmers discuss the future of farming in the context of the new Common Agricultural Policy.

Publiek debat: Closing the gap on the CAP, learning and discussing the common agricultural policy

ORGANISED BY: Groupe de Bruges – an independent network with a critical but in the end positive outlook on Europe, through which we feed the debate and develop solutions to come to more effective and integrated European policies, aimed at achieving sustainable agriculture, food production and consumption; sustainable management of natural resources and durable vitality of rural areas and communities in conjunction with urban development and communities.


When: Donderdag 27 november 2014 van 15:00 tot 17:30 (CET)

where: Amsterdam, Netherlands

More info and registration here:


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