Nutrition, youth and gender Lenses on OFSP: what would make our story convincing
April 6, 2016 at 12:15 pm #10741
The importance of mainstreaming gender into agriculture/nutrition project planning, implementation and monitoring is well established; maternal and nutrition outcomes are in fact better achieved when gender is prioritized. In the case of OFSP, the message is clear-we know, based on lessons learned from various projects that gender sensitive programming along the entire value chain is critical to achieving project outcomes. Accordingly, projects are taking the relevant actions- to ensure gender equity. However, numerous challenges linked to socio- cultural gender inequalities in the communities we target continue to hinder progress. On the other hand, the youth are central to agriculture “Africa will neither solve its chronic food shortages nor its urgent employment challenges without an immediate, aggressive effort to address the series of problems holding back Africa’s under-25 population from joining the agriculture sector”says a report by AGRA. As it stands, agricultural is not attractive to youths-hence, integration of youth in to OFSP value chain has been less than optimal. We agreed in our last meeting to further explore the above topic. For a start let us reflect on the following issues related to youth engagement in the OFSP value chain:
What are the needs of our youths in the OFSP? Is a youth analysis needed or necessary? What strategies should be put in place to better target youth? Where is youth involved in the OFSP value chain? Where in the value chain is youth engagement more likely and beneficial? what are the opportunities and challenges? what and how do we integrate youth activities for better nutrition outcomes? What can we learn from other crop value chains? How do we best track, document, monitor and evaluate youth related activities?
April 12, 2016 at 8:09 pm #11005
Jan W. LowParticipant
I see three key areas for engaging youth: 1) Exposure through school feeding programs to OFSP; some schools could even have gardens that expose the children to growing OFSP and may even provide opportunities to take the vines home 2) Including nutrition curriculum as standard in both primary and secondary schools. OFSP would be among the vitamin A rich foods and food security foods 3) Supporting youth enterprise initiatives. Encouraging in particular youth involvement in agro-processing, trading, and intensive horticulture production that would include sweetpotato. The major constraints for youth in agriculture include lack of access to good land. This requires negotiation with leaders/elders at the community level to prioritize opportunities for you.
April 26, 2016 at 10:03 am #11135
Francis Kweku AmaglohParticipant
For me, the youth can be get involve if we develop OFSP value chains into businesses. For example, in West Africa, graduates should be funded to go into tissue culture for planting material. I am afraid, the women of childbearing age in the communities we worked may not be able to do tissue culture. Vine multiplication is demanding in Ghana, and I see to youth being a great asset in this regard.
Development and sale of market-pull products, for example, in Ghana, bread and other pastries, could get the youth involved. If they will not go into the “hardcore” farming, we should target them for sales. You can see several of them in uniform of the enterprises they are working for selling porridge, baked products, by the roadside, and are making huge sales for the owners, and getting decent commission.
I don’t know how the market queens (mainly aggregators of agric-produce) in Ghana would allow the youth to come on board. Maybe we need to educate on engaging the youth in their businesses.
April 27, 2016 at 3:17 pm #11362
During the the panel discussion on youth involvement in the OFSP value chain at the last Marketing, Processing and Utilization Community of Practice meeting held in Tanzania, one of the things that emerged is that youth seem to prefer involvement in trading and transport, but not in production. Some of the reasons that were provided are the need for quick income.
I agree with Francis that one way would be to involve youth in sectors where they are already willingly active. However, there are great opportunities to use communications to change attitudes towards agriculture in general and production specifically. After all, these are the potential OFSP producers who will keep the chain going. I believe each project should ask themselves how they are proactively and consistently targeting messages to the youth to address the issues they have identified as barriers to their involvement.
Interestingly, FAO-FSN online forum have launched a discussion on youth involvement in agriculture. It is titled: Youth – feeding the future. Addressing the challenges faced by rural youth aged 15 to 17 in preparing for and accessing decent work. You may be interested in seeing what others are discussing about this topic. Here is the link: http://www.fao.org/fsnforum/forum/discussions/rural-youth-employment-15to17
April 28, 2016 at 1:24 pm #11379
I support the ideas explored so far; engaging our youth through school gardens, school curriculum, youth friendly enterprises, small scale business as well as exploiting communications to change attitudes towards agriculture. With regards to communication, I see a huge potential in social media where we can share youth success stories. In the area of enterprise, our challenge will be ensuring the youth have access to business start -up loans , this may require projects taking strong steps to link up with NGOS specialized in micro finance. As we work with large scale commercial farmers and processors, we need to consider potential youth roles and provide linkages, as Francis mentioned particularly in the retail of processed OFSP products. In addition to school curriculum; we can effectively reach the youth in farmer training centres. It is important to note that a number of projects are already implementing some of these activities; we however, need to take action in documenting these activities and clearly articulating how they benefit the youth- by doing so we stand to make our story more convincing. Furthermore, engaging our youth will also require including the youth in our list of priority target beneficiaries- when we develop proposals for instance, we need to asses youth needs, actively recruit and involve them in project planning, implementation and M&E. We also need to empower youth by ensuring that they have access to needed inputs, particularly memberships in farmer cooperative groups, business skill training, product development etc. Again to make our story convincing, we need to adapt our data collecting tools to reflect youth participation; may be “collect youth disaggregated data” and case studies.
on the issue of gender and OFSP, i would like to hear more about how we intend to move the agenda. What is working so far and where do we need to improve? what would make our case convincing?
May 10, 2016 at 12:07 pm #11533
Needs of our youth:-
Sustainability is key element towards a profitable future for youth involvement in OFSP. There are existing sweetpotato varieties so in comparison, OFSP should aspire to meet the following expectations,
1. Economic – how can OFSP better our livelihood (‘pockets’) sustainably?
2. Environment – how can OFSP make us good stewards of our environment, i.e. any potential environmental impacts of its production and processing in terms of air quality and climate change?
3. Social – how does it improve quality of life i.e. aspects of social life not related to economic activity? E.g. life expectancy (health needs), self-esteem, need for identity, desire for fun, need to connect with others for common cause (belongingness)
4. Innovation – what is new and interesting about OFSP ie new processes (techniques), new products, entering new markets?
Youth analysis needed?
Definitely, to build ownership and support – Youth involvement in planning project objectives, strategies and activities very crucial.
Youth involvement in value chain?
A. Production (farmers)
B. Processing (product development, R&D)
C. Distribution and marketing
Where youth involvement more likely and beneficial in value chain?
B, C and D
Involvement in A is only likely if OFSP production is economically viable and in high demand.
Opportunities and Challenges?
– Opportunities :- large youth unemployment rates, increasing awareness on good dieting for better health
– Challenges :- OFSP is not a staple in most countries and must therefore be versatile (adaptable) for successful adoption e.g. as novel substitute raw material in demand-driven existing food products or in novel food products
Integrating youth activities for better nutrition outcomes
1. School nutrition interventions – feeding programmes, school menus
2. Garden-based nutrition education using school gardens
3. Establish healthy food clubs in tertiary institutes; social media promo on success stories of youth involvement in OFSP
4. Participation in food fairs across Ghana
5. Educational materials for different age brackets
6. Physical activity (exercise, marathons) awareness campaigns involving youth role models and mentors (musicians, public figures etc)
May 18, 2016 at 1:43 pm #11677
Where are our interactions with parents and the Ministry of Education? Having spoken to some Min of Ed. key informants across SSA (and elsewhere) – many of them are currently struggling with the over focus by parents on school exam results at the expense of practical skills. We’ve all seen the stats on what % of people are employed in agriculture and what % of GDP is currently generated from agricultural activities – but most primary and secondary curriculums are moving in a direction that reduces pupil experience of and attention to agricultural topics – despite the fact most of these pupils will end up employed in agriculture…. We are well aware agriculture has an image problem.
As discussed by others – the ag-business angle is what attracts young people. We (ag. researchers, and processors etc.) have lots to offer in the development of a really practical agri-business curriculum at the primary and secondary levels – which would help prepare young people to become entrepreneurs in this field.
In countries like Kenya we are beginning to see some highly-educated people actively deciding to stop working as accountants or development workers etc. to instead set-up high-value agri-business activities, and succeeding despite having to be up at 4am to harvest crops etc. We need to get these people to share their experiences and also to explain what drove them to make these changes. This media messaging should not just target the youth – but wider-society as many aunties and uncles, parents, grandparents and teachers send strong signals to children that agriculture is not a rewarding way of life. To challenge this we do need to highlight successes. But we also need to simultaneously find ways to help young people sensibly access credit/micro-credit.
For OFSP, rapid urbanisation, increasing awareness of dietary health issues, projections that by 2025 75% of SSA’s popn will be middle class, climate change, all of these contextual factors should be helping grow demand for crops like OFSP.
I agree all our data should be age-group disaggregated in the same way it should be gender, wealth and ethnically group disaggregated. Given the long-lead in times for developing new crop varieties – its really important that the views of youth (as well but separately from those of younger children) feature in participatory varietal assessments.
May 19, 2016 at 3:27 pm #11692
Thanks for the interesting comments and discussion, everyone. During our last meeting in Dar Es Salaam, one of the interesting topics we discussed was the definition of youth. The general, universal definition includes persons under 35 years of age, which may also include many youth who are already mothers/fathers of 1 or more children, either married or single and who may have little to no education passed standard 7. What might be the best practices for reaching out to these youth ( both male and female) and encouraging them to get involved? What kinds approaches can we take to integrate the wide range of youth ( those with or without children) for potential involvement in OFSP utilization? Will young women with children miss out on opportunities for engagement because of their childcare responsibilities? Is there is a way to target youth who have finished their schooling in Standard 7 or Form 4, and who have no other means to further their education or training. Also, how can we best accommodate youth (both male and female ) who already have family responsibilities?
As was mentioned in the posts above, there are plenty of entry-points along the OFSP value chains that might interest youth, beyond the role of producers including processing materials, vine multiplication, etc. Perhaps targeting both young men and women equally through vocational training, prior to them becoming mothers and fathers and after they have finished their formal schooling, might set them up and their families with more future options and opportunities within the food and agriculture sector, that might not otherwise be possible.
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