The Director General, Food and Agriculture Organisations, (FAO), Dr. José Graziano da Silva, has called on Africa leaders to explore opportunities in agriculture throughout the food chain in order to create jobs for young people, especially those in rural areas.
Dr. da Silva said agriculture will continue to generate employment in Africa over the coming decades, even as he noted that opportunities provided should be explored.
The FAO DG made the remarks yesterday at FAO’s Regional Conference for Africa which is primarily dedicated to creating decent and attractive employment in the continent, the world’s “youngest” in terms of the average age of its population.
“Countries need to promote a rural and structural transformation that fosters synergies between farm and non-farm activities and that reinforces” the linkages between rural areas and cities, he added. This includes processing, packaging, transportation, distribution, marketing and service provision, especially financial and business services.
Estimates suggest that up to 12 million new jobs will be created every year to absorb new entrants into the labour market over the next 20 years. “Today some 54 percent of Africa’s working force relies on the agricultural sector for livelihoods, income and employment, especially in family farming.
“With more people moving to cities, demand on urban food markets will grow, which in turn can generate job opportunities in all agriculture-related activities. But FAO believes that more must be done to create non-agricultural employment in rural areas, including agro-tourism and other services.”
Dr. da Silva pointed to FAO’s regional programme, “Youth Employment: enabling decent agriculture and agri-business jobs”, which goes beyond farm jobs and seeks to develop capacity and scale up successful approaches through programme formulation and partnerships.
“More than ever, strategic partnerships are needed to bring together the African Union, the African Development Bank and the UN system and other development partners,” the FAO Director-General said.
He warned however that a more profitable urban markets can lead to a concentration of food production in large commercial farms, and also the creation of value chains dominated by large processors and retailers.
“In this contest, smallholders and family farmers need specific policies and regulations. This includes providing access to inputs, credit and technology and improving land tenure,” he said
He added, stressing how social protection programmes, including cash transfers can link public food purchase to family farmer’s production.