Engaging Young Professionals in the Agri-food Sector: Strategies, Lessons and Experiences

by Courtney Paisley and Gbadebo Odularu

Full title: Engaging Young Professionals in the Agri-food Sector: Strategies, Lessons and Experiences from YPARD and YPARD Africa

Though the African agrifood sector has been growing steadily in the last decade, the contribution of young people to this sector remains limited. Despite the continent’s endowment of abundant natural resources to foster agricultural development, the declining commitment from youths has contributed to the under-performance of the agricultural sector on which the majority of the population of Africa relies for its livelihood. The literature points to a considerable decline in interest by African youths in agriculture at all levels from farming to research to extension. Compounding the declining interest, there are also limited efforts to engage youth in these sectors, to target them specifically, understand the specific challenges they face and to undertake concerted efforts to engage and mobilise them to action. 
Against this background, the Young Professionals’ Platform for Agricultural Research for Development (YPARD) was created in response to, among other things, insufficient participation of young professionals in dialogues addressing critical development issues. Over the years, it has worked with several youth and ARD organisations in the process of contributing to greater engagement of young professionals in Agricultural Research for Development (ARD) in Africa and across the globe. YPARD provides a platform for a continental voice for youths in ARD, but also a platform for networking in order to enhance youth’s capacity for innovation. 

This paper hopes to discuss and analyse the effectiveness of YPARD’s strategic activities over the last five years and analyse the unique role that YPARD Africa has played in the African context.  Some of its strategic activities include e-discussions, blog series, supporting young professionals to give their views in strategic ARD discussion and providing access to capacity building opportunities for youth.  This will include an analysis of feedback provided through several surveys and focus groups that have been conducted with the YPARD network over the years. The paper will also seek to recommend strategic approaches and methods for further solidifying the engagement of African youth in the ARD component of the agrifood sector and engaging them in decisions that affect their future.

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Gbadebo Odularu

File: Paisley and Odularu, Engaging Young Professionals in the Agri-food Sector.pdf