The Food and Agriculture Organization FAO, an essential organ of the United Nations, has commenced an elephantine Agriculture Project, in two of West Africa’s most food-insecure nations, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
FAO is supporting the governments of Liberia and Sierra Leone, to enhance responsible investment in agriculture with a high emphasis on harnessing the potential of young people in enhancing food security in local communities.
With young people representing over one-third of the population in Liberia and Sierra Leone, they have a critical role in ensuring food security for their communities.
But daily, young people are moving away from their roots in agriculture, especially subsistence farming, to other things because of their numerous complaints of limited opportunities in the agriculture sector.
In an interview with Kukatonon News, Assistant FAO Representative, Octavius Quarbo emphasized the strong need for engaging young people to make significant impacts in the agriculture sector, “Agriculture, and youth, there is no way you can talk about development in Liberia without those two. That is why as the RAI team we are trying to ensure that youth is mainstreamed but also, that they are fully empowered to ensure that agriculture is sustainable and more responsible”.
Food insecurity remains a grim challenge for Liberia. The 2021 Global Hunger Index classifies Liberia’s level of hunger as ‘serious’. Liberia ranked 110 of 116 countries on hunger conditions.
In this vain, FAO has worked with policymakers to improve governance aspects that are strategic to promote youth engagement along agricultural value chains through assessments, learning programs, and policy dialogue.
FAO has provided capacity development support to young people concentration groups and agri-businesses with the requisite advocacy skills, inclusive business models, and engagement in policy dialogue relate to responsible investment in agriculture”.
“One of the key learnings is that it has built up my capacity as a Director, it has given me the inspiration, the motivation to look at so many unseen opportunities out there”, noted Director Joseph Adebodun of the Ministry of Youth and Sports; adding, “especially when it comes to our training. I have realized during the past two days’ workshop that there is a need for a paradigm shift from what we used to do, how we used to conduct our training”, he concluded.
Working with key stakeholders and dialoguing with policymakers, they developed a strategy to push the government to take action to advance young people’s investments in responsible agriculture.
Speaking to Kukatonon News, Florence Dorley, the Forestry and Natural Resource Consultant at the FAO, says “Through this process, we have been able to address the capacity development issues, especially as it relates to training under the different responsible investment in agriculture principles. We have been able to train them in organizational development, advocacy, climate-smart agriculture, and so forth. They now have the audacity to take on an issue and move forward, especially on the participation of the youth dialogue issues. So we are making some progress and the impact is visible because after the training a lot of them were able to restructure, and redesign their different youth organizations”.
Consequently, as Liberians and Sierra Leoneans continue, to aspire for food sufficiency and productivity, more investment must be made.
What FAO aims to do in the future, and in particular for Liberia and Sierra Leone, is to work on very tangible steps to empower youth in the context of responsible Agricultural investment.
“Their involvement in policy-making processes, their enhanced access to financial services, to training incubation, education, their enhanced access to markets and also working with the youth through peer-to-peer learning and self-help groups”, states, Yannick Fiedler, Programme Officer of FAO.
Many Liberians and Sierra Leoneans are applauding the FAO for the level of work being done in the two Countries.
Additionally, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has anticipated a five-year (2022-2027), $20 million Food Security, Nutrition, and Resilience (FSNR) activity to work with smallholder farmers in rural agricultural communities to increase agricultural productivity and build household and community resilience. FSNR will emphasize crop diversification to increase the production and marketing of higher-value and nutritious foods.