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Topic 16: Empowering the youth through Agriculture: What role for sweetpotato (seed systems)?

On April 10 – May 10, 2018 the Sweetpotato Seed Systems and Crop Management Community of Practice (SSS-CoP) held an online discussion titled “Empowering the youth through Agriculture: What role for sweetpotato (seed systems)?”. The discussion sought ideas on what can be done to attract young people into agribusiness and explored opportunities available within the sweetpotato value-chain. The discussion led by Aime Ndayisenga, Communications Specialist, International Potato Center (CIP) – Rwanda, was pegged on the strong consensus across Africa and the world that involvement of the youth in agriculture will play a crucial role towards meeting global food security needs and reducing unemployment. According to the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy young people between 15-24 years of age constitute between 35 and 40 percent of the workforce in most sub-Saharan African countries. An additional one-fourth of the workforce is between 25 and 34 years old. Approximately 11 million young Africans enter the labor force annually but only about a quarter find paying jobs. If well tapped, agriculture can provide a solution to the rising unemployment in Africa. The discussion culminated in a meeting that brought together seed system practitioners from across Africa to discuss opportunities for youth engagement in sweetpotato production. The meeting held in Kigali, Rwanda on May 15 – 17, 2018 included a talk show on youth engagement in sweetpotato seed and root enterprises and a panel discussion on experiences with capitalizing on opportunities for youth engagement in agribusiness. The panel discussion questions were based on three key points that arose during the online discussion: • Understanding differences between different youth categories to get a clear distinction on interests and choices. • Making agriculture attractive to young people. • Developing robust sweetpotato value-chains to create business opportunities for the youth.