Sharon Mandemwa, director of You Count International (YCI), and her colleague, Stewart Moyo, say their involvement with the youth plays a key role in empowering them.
The future of agriculture lies in the hands of the youth and there is need to lure them with economic incentives, an initiative You Count is championing.
“The main purpose is to establish youth inclusive sustainable community development, empowerment and policy making participation for an improved livelihood through active and informed agribusiness," says Mandemwa.
Moyo adds that “it’s an uphill battle, a very small number of youth look at agriculture as source of income.”
Sharon Mandemwa at the The AUC headquarters
If youth embark on agrobusinesses, they say, this will meet the current demands on food and nutrition, enable youth participation and correct gender imbalances in agriculture.
“We encourage agroprenuership where we are saying to the youth, we actually equip people to be more effective, to be entereprenuers to start something, be empowered.”
YCI work with the public and private sector partners to enhance sustainable development of agriculture, improve livelihoods and eradicate poverty through involvement of the youth.
Sharon Mandemwa with collegue
In order to address some issues at hand, YCI identifies strategic objectives, through what it calls a delivery model. There are as follows.
By investing in the ability of the youthful agricultural entrepreneurs to engage in agriculture viably, profitably and sustainably. This is done through training of farmers and providing extension service; written publications; focus groups and edutainment.
Access to market linkages.
This involves market identification as well as facilitating farmer access to the market. It also includes value addition to the agricultural value chain by capacitating the farmers to add value to their product as well as retain the value of their produce.
Advocacy and information access.
This involves getting the voice of the youth heard by creation of platforms where agriculture is discussed and resolutions are made which can influence policy.
ICTs in Agriculture
The organization has a mandate to get the local farmers to appreciate new technology that can make their work more efficient. It seeks to adopt the use of smart phones as information dissemination tools and will mobilize the use of social platforms to their advantage.
Sharon Mandemwa and Youth Count International representatives
Its activities cut across all agricultural regions of Zimbabwe. In the near future, YCI is expected to expand into other neighboring nations within the region. Climate change is a contributing factor and also the aged farmers.
“The El Nino is only part of our challenge where we are saying farmers are generally aging so it’s a matter of making agriculture relevant.”
Training on poultry
Partnership with Irvine's Chickens and Youth Count International mobilises youth to train on how to rear poultry. They are also assisted in the realization of potential markets, which include supermarkets, schools and individual communities. Irvine's being a contractor also invites those with capacity to apply for contacts farming chicken.
There is the Young Green Africa consortium of youth engaged in agriculture, which You Count International chairs and runs at regional level.
Representatives of Youth Count International at The AUC headquarters
“Where the youth have come together Youth Green Africa where the youth mobilize for inclusion just to get people to realize what they are doing in their different countries," sayd Mandemwa.
The need for youth inclusion is key to creating the right atmosphere and for the right future.
"The youth should never give up but should go forward and stand up and be involved. Now is the time and the future is today," says Moyo.
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