FOOD SECURITY: Samia touts youths’ role

PRESIDENT Samia Suluhu Hassan has painted a bright future for the youth in agriculture, saying the government continues to create a conducive environment to attract them to actively engage in the sector.

Speaking as a panelist at the Second Africa Food Summit which opened in Dakar, Senegal yesterday, President Samia said the government is well aware that the future of agriculture will not be realistic without youths active participation, since the group commands 44.5 per cent of the country’s 61.7 million people as per the 2022 Population and Housing Census.

“Having a large population of youths brings with it a lot of challenges and unemployment issues. We then thought youth can actively be used to produce in agriculture sector and to be able to do that, we studied what are the challenges that are discouraging them from joining agriculture sector,” she said.

President Samia said that the government had identified four challenges that include lack of land ownership among youth, lack of finances, technology and pre-requisite mechanisations that support the youths to thrive in agriculture sector.

“To address the challenges, we decided to initiate efforts to create conducive environment for youths to be attracted in actively engaging themselves in agriculture and agri-business by introducing agenda 10/30 as a policy,” she told the gathering.

President Samia made assurance of achieving a 10 per cent annual growth rate in the agricultural sector by 2030 compared to the current growth of around 3.6 per cent, as part of the Tanzania’s ambitious agricultural transformation vision.

She also said that the government has initiated a programme called ‘Build a Better Tomorrow’ (BBT) for youths and women, to make them attracted with the sector, where it gives them land to own it and produce. She said under the programme, each youth is given at least 10 acres of land.

“So far, we have identified a total of 680,000 acres of land that will be offered to the youths and women for cultivation. We have also established Agriculture Inputs Trust Fund, aiming at supporting the youths to be able to manage the supplies required in farming such as fertilisers, seeds, pesticides and several other inputs,” she said.

Dr Samia also said that the government is providing required training to the youths and the government has established incubator centres to train them for three months before they are given land to start cultivation.

“The issue of marketing is also well considered in this agenda and for the youths to improve production, we are inviting the private sector to support the government initiative especially in the areas of mechanisation and modernisation of agriculture sector,” she said.

The president said the initiative has been well received by the youths, saying so far, at least 7,000 of them have been registered in the BBT programme, while 1,500 others have applied for grants and loans form different financial sectors for them to fully engage in agriculture.

She said the government has also been pushing for the financial sectors to reduce interest rates for youths to be attracted to secure loans and the rates have dropped significantly from 15 per cent to 9 per cent.

The Dakar summit is aimed at mapping out plans to unlock Africa’s food-producing potential and position the continent to become a breadbasket to the world.

The agenda of the three-day summit whose theme is, “Feed Africa: Food Sovereignty and Resilience”, is improvement of Africa’s food nutrition and security and leveraging the continent’s huge agricultural resources.

The high-level meeting which was opened yesterday is being hosted by President of Senegal, who is also the Chairperson of the African Union (AU), Mr Macky Sall, is also aimed at boosting international trade, expanding market share, and production and processing value addition.

Organisers of the summit said the event is particularly practical given the fact that Africa has more than 60 per cent of the world’s remaining arable land, despite being home to a third of the 850 million people living with hunger across the globe.

Speaking ahead of the meeting, the President of the African Development Bank Group (AfDB) Dr Akinwumi Adesina said the summit will mobilise political commitment as well as development partner and private sector investment.

“The continent has more than 60 per cent of the world’s remaining arable land, and millions of Africans are productive in the agriculture sector. With the removal of barriers to agricultural development aided by new investments, it is estimated that Africa’s agricultural output could increase from 280 billion US dollars a year to 1 trillion US dollars by the year 2030.

“The summit will establish much needed policies and strategically drive actions to deliver at scale. This landmark event will be a turning point towards food sovereignty and resilience for the entire continent,” he said.

The summit is at the heart of the Bank Group’s Feed Africa Strategy, one of the institution’s five priority areas to support African countries to significantly increase agricultural growth.

The summit is a follow-up to the 2015 inaugural edition, during which the Feed Africa Strategy for Agricultural Transformation (2016-2025) in Africa, was proposed.

During the summit, heads of state and government will convene sessions to develop transformational country-specific food and agriculture delivery compacts.

Development partners and the private sector will also play significant roles during sessions and the overall summit. African countries are also expected to make measurable political commitments to   implement policies designed to eliminate extreme poverty, hunger and malnutrition in Africa.

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