How do we improve global food security? There is no easy answer. But the Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), based in Pretoria, South Africa, is doing innovative work engaging a variety of stakeholders, including young people, across Africa to help tackle that question. Recognizing the role of Africa’s farmers as powerful agents for increasing food security, FANRPAN set a goal to create conducive policy environments that include and empower Africa’s farmers, especially youth and women farmers. By opening up communication channels and advocating for common sense policies and reforms that promote and support youth involvement in agriculture, FANRPAN is helping to create a food-secure Africa that can feed itself.
The CEO of FANRPAN, Dr. Lindiwe Sibanda, put it well when she said “farmers know what to do” when it comes to the environmental and food challenges we face- the real difficulty is getting those ideas and methods from the farmer in the field to government officials drafting and implementing policy. To that end, FANRPAN established a network of farmers, researchers, governments, and businesses in 16 African countries and started bringing these groups together for in-country dialogues to define policy agendas, conduct research, and advocate for policies.
As the future farmers, policy makers, and business people, youth are central to FANRPAN’s overall work. Additionally, engaging youth is especially important in sub-Saharan African where there are over 200 million young people ages 12 to 24– the world’s youngest population. FANRPAN launched the “Youth in Agriculture” initiative to encourage integration of youth into decision making on food and agriculture issues and to advance policies that create opportunities for Africa’s youth. Under this umbrella initiative FANRPAN hosted a summit in 2011 focused specifically on youth integration. The youth present at the conference were able to have a one-on-one session with other high-level conference attendees, including Swaziland’s Minister of Youth and Development Hlobisile Ndlovu, and to share their work with the other conference participants. More recently FANRPAN organized a series of Youth in Agriculture Dialogues to continue to build on the work started in 2011.
Additionally FANRPAN released a report outlining current and emerging policies within six African countries that help bring youth to the decision making table. The synthesis report assembled baseline data on public policies and initiatives are currently being implemented around youth issues within member countries’ agriculture sectors. The report also made a series of recommendations aimed at improving the position of youth vis-a-vie the policy making process and the African agriculture sector, including promoting youth leadership in agriculture, better credit and financing for youth agriculture projects, improved access to land for youth led agriculture projects, and providing agricultural education starting at the primary level.