CSIS – The CSIS Global Food Security Project and the International Youth Foundation/CSIS Youth, Prosperity, and Security Initiative at CSIS brought together a select group of young agricultural entrepreneurs from Feed the Future focus countries for one week to Washington, D.C. to gather insights and inform U.S. policymakers on how to improve youth engagement in agricultural development.
The young entrepreneurs crafted policy recommendations and engaged with high level representatives from the U.S. Agency for International Development, U.S. Department of Agriculture, and State Department, as well as experts in youth engagement, global food security, and entrepreneurship. Our inaugural fellows provided insights into what is working well in U.S. international agricultural programs, made recommendations for improvements, and offered ways that the U.S. can bolster youth leadership in global food security.
Our goal was to facilitate a deep exchange with top youth leaders to challenge traditional thinking about U.S. agricultural programs in order to strengthen the contemporary role of the U.S. in global food security.
The following recommendations were put forth by our fellows from Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Rwanda, and Uganda:
- Build mechanisms to significantly and meaningfully engage youth by soliciting their input, funding their projects, and establishing agricultural fellowships.
- Ensure strong follow up to all trainings to ensure that capacity building leads to impact.
- Direct funding local organizations and minimizing funds used by “middle-men” organizations.
- Scale up mentorship programs for youth in agriculture at all levels, beyond just research.
- Select market-driven crops or products for investment, rather than centering on supply.
- Focus on sustainability for interventions by connecting farmers to markets and investing in integrated value-chain development.
- Create more flexible contracts and easier requirements to allow local youth-focused organizations and businesses to access U.S. funds.
They also pointed out that Feed the Future programming has been particularly useful in:
- Training young people in hard skills to start and improve agribusinesses, especially in business management, leadership skills, and legal issues.
- Building the capacity of young agricultural researchers in areas such as monitoring and evaluation, gender responsive research, and scientific article writing.
- Training farmers linked to youth business ventures in areas such as processing, pricing, postharvest management, seed production, quality assurance, and other technical areas.
- Linking young people to other businesses in the same value chain and providing youth with information on market opportunities.
Innocent Jumbe, 26, from Malawi, is a principal investigator for a project funded by Feed the Future called the Malawi Improved Seed Systems and Technologies (MISST) project. He is also a project manager for a U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)/Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)-funded project which works to improve economic and food resilience for resource-poor families in Malawi. His organization, Peacock Seeds, is a seed-growing company that has made great strides in the production and supply of drought tolerant maize hybrids aimed at addressing Malawi’s food security.
Samuel Karyah, 30, from the Republic of Liberia, presently serves as Executive Director of the Liberian Innovation Foundation for Empowerment (LIFE), an organization that utilizes integrated community development activities and empowerment tools. He co-founded LIFE to mitigate rural poverty and build economies through agribusiness. LIFE has empowered over 1,200 farmers and has created more than 2,300 jobs for youth and women in rural Liberia. Samuel currently runs the Cassava and Goat Enterprise Development for Economic Empowerment (CAGEDEE) project. Recently, his organization established a strategic partnership with the USAID Food and Enterprise Development Program (FED) to gain technical and logistical support for 150 goat farmers. He was a 2014/2015 Social Entrepreneurs Transforming (SET) Africa, and Mandela Washington Fellow.
James Kyewalabye, 24, is an award-winning Ugandan agribusiness entrepreneur and co-founder of Real Agricultural Solutions for Africa (RASA), incorporated in 2013. RASA adds value along coffee supply chains beginning with production and distribution of high-quality coffee seedlings. In 2014 James was chosen to attend, mentor, and exhibit at a Feed the Future event in Uganda, “Youth and Agriculture: Exploiting Opportunities – Go for the Gold,” which led to information and connections that enabled him to launch a second line of business.
Patrick Mugiraneza, 25, from Rwanda, is currently pursuing a Master’s program in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security in the United Kingdom, where he is studying sustainable development of agricultural and food supply systems. Patrick founded the Agriyouth Rwanda Initiative in 2013 to provide solutions to the dual problem of poverty and malnutrition. In 2014, Patrick was awarded a SET Africa Fellowship, a program organized by the International Youth Foundation (IYF) in partnership with USAID to recognize the outstanding work of 25 social entrepreneurs across Africa who made a lasting impact on their communities.
Nora Ndege, 29, from Kenya, is an African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) Fellow, where she mentors women in agricultural research. Nora seeks to encourage women to pursue agricultural science through mentoring to bring about food security. Through AWARD, a program supported by Feed the Future, Nora was able to present her work at the Second International Conference on Global Food Security at Cornell University in Ithaca, NY in 2014.
“What impressed me most about the fellowship was sitting at the same table with high-level policymakers … showing the U.S. government what is really happening in the field in terms of youth engagement in agricultural programs.” – Patrick Mugiraneza, Growing the Future Fellow
“I learned that it is important to have a discussion with policymakers and also to encourage youth to pursue innovative ideas in the agricultural industry.” – Nora Ndege, Growing the Future Fellow