Conversations at the 2018 African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF), which held between September 5-8 in Kigali, Rwanda, revolved around accountability, political will, and getting more young people interested in agriculture.
Business Inside Sub-Saharan Africa caught up with David Phiri, Subregional Coordinator for Southern Africa, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) for an interview.
We talked about how to improve youth participation in agriculture, its importance, and what the FAO is doing to boost it.
The interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
Business Insider Sub-Saharan Africa (BISSA): Could you quickly paint a picture of just how important it is to get more young people interested in agriculture?
David Phiri (DP): It is very very important because what is happening now is that the average of farmers is 55 years. It is an ageing population. What has happened is that there has been a tendency for young people to shun agriculture because it has been associated with rural economies, so they move into urban areas to look for jobs. But the fact is that, eventually, older people will die off. We need people who can sustain agriculture to feed an ever increasing population.
We have to double production by 2050 if we are going to feed 9 billion people that will be inhabiting the world at that time.
ALSO READ: Africa could be importing $100 billion worth of food in the next 10 years, AfDB’s VP of Agriculture says
More importantly, agriculture, because of all the new technology we are developing, is becoming a very important business. I think it augurs well for youths, as business people, to take interest in agriculture in so that they can make income from it.
The experience we have so far is that there are many youths who want to go into agriculture, but sometimes they don’t have the resources to upscale what they have. Governments need to create environments where youths are provided with opportunities to prosper.
FAO, the African Union Commission and the Government of Rwanda organised a regional conference for youth employment in agriculture in Kigali just weeks ago. We were very surprised at how many youths want to go into agriculture and how many are already in agriculture and doing well.
What we need to do is to get more youths to go into agriculture, first as agribusiness. Now, what politicians are more concerned about is that agriculture provides an opportunity for them to feed their countries and to provide employment for other youth. But for the youth themselves, the idea of going into agriculture is to do it as a business, the idea is to make money.
If pitched at the right level, agriculture would be a better business or just as good as any other business around. To encourage the youth, it helps to show them that agriculture is not just about crop production and rearing animals, but that they can enter the industry anywhere along the value chain. Some will be off-takers from farms, some will be into processing, while others will be infusing agricultural produce into an industry.
The whole value chain of agriculture is so bold that, if youths are interested, they can do it.
BI SSA: Let’s talk about the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). What strategic steps has it taken to get young people interested in agriculture and what results have you seen?
DP: FAO has been encouraging youths to go into agriculture as a business. What we do is we work with governments to support their efforts to provide youths with the facilities they need.
More recently, we have a project in eastern Africa where we found youths who are already interested in agriculture but who could do with some training. We sent them to the Songhaï agricultural training centre (Regional Centre Songhaï) in Benin. It was a large group. They had a one-month-long training.
When they came back, the idea was for them to also train other youths who were interested in agriculture. We awarded those with the best business ideas and pushed them to go ahead.
The meeting that we co-organised with the AUC and the Rwandan Government also provided an opportunity for the youths to know that we have coaches who can help them develop business plans. Even right now, as we speak, there is a coaching session going on at this meeting (at AGRF). Also, recently, we had a hackathon to train those interested in technology related to agriculture, because even that is a business.
So, FAO is trying its best to support local governments and regional communities to get youths to practice agriculture as a business.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
Get breaking news on your Mobile as-it-happens. SMS ‘NEWS’ to 20153
With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.