Presidents Samia Suluhu Hassan of Tanzania and Kenya’s William Ruto are banking on their countries’ demographic dividend by facilitating more youth involvement in agriculture to boost production and serve export markets.
President Samia told the Feed Africa Summit in Dakar on January 25 that her government has set aside 680,000 hectares to be allocated to women and youth for agricultural use, looking to feed the continent.
“We introduced in our Agenda 2030 a policy which will see that by 2030 the agriculture sector in Tanzania contributes 10 percent to the GDP. Who will help us achieve that? The youth. So, we have initiated a programme called Build a Better Tomorrow for youth and women,” she said at the heads of state panel.
“We are undertaking several measures to make them attracted to agriculture: First, the youth don’t own land so we are giving them 10 hectares each. We have identified about 680,000 hectares for the youth and women, which they will own,” she said.
Inputs trust fund
The government has also established the Agricultural Input Trust Fund to help youth and women acquire inputs such as fertilisers, herbicides, pesticides, and incubation centres where they will be trained.
According to the President Samia, Tanzanian youth make up 44.5 percent of the population. In Kenya, they comprise 29 percent, according to the 2019 population census.
President Ruto, too, emphasised the role of the youth and mechanisation and fertiliser in boosting farm production.
“Tea, among the best crops we have, is giving us good returns. But for the 1.7 million acres under tea, we are getting the same income as 10 percent of what we have under horticulture. The difference is our fertiliser investment in horticulture,” he said.
There are close 700,000 tea farmers, against 50,000 in horticulture, but while the tea sector generates $1.2 billion annually, horticulture generates $1 billion.
He stressed the need for mechanisation, from irrigation to processing.
“The participation of young people is significant, as you can see from the returns from the two sectors: The more the young people are in a sector the greater the returns,” the Kenyan leader said.
Food sovereignty for Africa
Samia and Ruto were among 34 heads of state and government representatives – including Burundi President Evariste Ndayishimiye, DR Congo’s Felix Tshisekedi, and Rwandan Prime Minister Édouard Ngirente — at the summit that seeks to foster food sovereignty for the continent.
All the speakers emphasised the importance of food security for political stability and security of nations.
Some 283 million Africans are hungry, they noted, adding this need not be the case for a continent endowed with 65 percent of the globe’s arable land that is not under cultivation.
“It is a shame that we are having this conversation on food instead of using agriculture to create jobs,” President Ruto said.
Other leaders who echoed this were host President Macky Sall, who is also the African Union chairperson, Nigeria’s Muhammadu Buhari, Zimbabwe’s Emerson Mnangagwa and Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank, the organiser of the Dakar 2 Summit.
Dr Adesina announced that AfDB will commit $10 billion in the next five years in direct support for the food and agriculture programmes.
“We must strongly support farmers, especially smallholder farmers, a majority of whom are women, and get more young people into agriculture. And we must take agriculture as a business, not a development activity, and boost support to the private sector. We must make agriculture and agribusiness very attractive to the youth. We must support women-owned and women-led agribusinesses,” he said.