Climate Change: The Hidden Adaptation Opportunities For Young People In The Agrifood Sector

by Esther Kihoro, Immaculate Maina, Maureen Miruka, and Festus M. Murithi

Climate change is one of the biggest challenges to sustainable development. Africa is particularly vulnerable to climate change because of its overdependence on rain-fed agriculture, compounded by factors such as poverty, increased land subdivision and weak policy frameworks. The main longer-term impacts of climate change include: changing rainfall patterns affecting agriculture and reducing food security, worsening water security, decreasing fish resources in large lakes due to rising temperatures and rising water stress. These changes coupled with lack of training on climate change and adaptation, lack of efficient means to transfer indigenous knowledge and of integrating it with modern knowledge, translates into low capacity inhibiting active participation in development activities and leaving young people in vulnerable positions. Thus, the youth run the risk of contributing to climate change instead of mitigating it, just as past generations have done. Given this scenario, the youth must actively participate in addressing the climate change problems, not as victims but as solution providers.

It is in this context that this paper explores some of the challenges young people in the agri-food sector face due to climate change. It also postulates how these challenges can be turned into adaptive opportunities to contribute to sustainable development and economic freedom for this age group. Success stories in Kenya have been explored and lessons with policy implications analyzed. A desk study detailing the current and projected climate change effects was carried out. Further, the adaptation opportunities for young people were deduced and the effects of this analyzed. Results show that young people can be involved in innovative production and change in behaviour for better consumption. They can also create learning networks using ICTs to exchange information, technologies and ideas. In addition, their, capacity can be enhanced through relevant education that is more inclined to current developmental challenges. Youth participation in climate change adaptation and mitigation initiatives, like planting trees, promoting the use of renewable energy, adopting energy saving appliances and practices are other viable options. This requires an enabling policy environment and relevant infrastructure. In conclusion with 75% of the Kenyan population under 30 years of age, the young people are potentially a major driving force in processes of adaptation to climate change effects. For this generation, innovation is important for agricultural transformation and better adaptation to climate change. However, young people must first change their negative perception towards the agricultural sector. This is possible with enactment of enabling policies and good infrastructure that facilitate funding and access to markets. Perceived benefits would include increased employment, increased incomes enhancing poverty reduction and increasing GDP, increased foreign exchange, growth of the manufacturing and services sector. This would ensure that Kenya enhances its food security and better manages its natural capital for sustainable development, economic growth and national security.

File: Kihoro, Climate Change Hidden Opportunities in the Agri-food sector.pdf