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Young Africa Works Summit 2015: Inspiring Agricultural Entrepreneurship

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Agriculture in Africa is transformational for the continent.

Reeta Roy, President and CEO of The MasterCard Foundation

Six members of Camfed’s CAMA alumnae network travelled to Cape Town, South Africa, this October to take part in the first Young Africa Works Summit hosted by The MasterCard Foundation.

The focus of the Summit was on agriculture as a catalyst for economic growth in sub-Saharan Africa, creating much-needed employment opportunities for the continent’s young people.  CAMA Development Manager Fiona Mavhinga accompanied Sadia Wuntima from Ghana, Eva Maricki Damasi from Tanzania, Clarah Zinyama from Zimbabwe, Rebecca Mununga from Zambia, and Grace Arthur from Ghana as they came to learn and share their experiences in starting rural businesses, practicing sustainable agriculture, and helping  young women from rural communities build independent livelihoods.

We need to change the mind-set and take agriculture as a business, going beyond subsistence farming.

CAMA member Clarah from Zimbabwe

Women make up over 70% of people working in agriculture but they remain the most disadvantaged,” explained Clarah from Zimbabwe. “They do not control the means of production and struggle to go beyond subsistence farming into agribusinesses. I am committed to change that, together with CAMA. I am already seeing a bright future for us!

29-year-old Clarah is the Chikomba District Chairperson of Camfed’s alumnae network, CAMA, and a committed community activist. She spoke on the closing panel of the Young Africa Works Summit, drawing on her experience as a young woman farmer from an impoverished rural community, whose education has transformed the prospects of her wider community. Clarah grows sugar beans and maize, and raises beef cattle, creating local employment. With some of her profits, she supports several orphaned children to go to school. After attending a six-week course in Integrated Sustainable Agricultural Practices at EARTH University in Costa Rica, along with Eva and Rebecca, she became an agricultural trainer of trainers in the CAMA Zimbabwe network, and has delivered training in six communities to over 800 mothers, CAMA members and farmers.

A Platform for Change

“The CAMA members immediately made an impact on the other youth delegates at the summit, and I was inundated by requests by young women from Uganda and Kenya to join CAMA,” Fiona explained. “They said, ‘We are isolated. We do not have a platform like CAMA. We want to join!’ Two young women from Uganda and Kenya even joined us when we visited three CAMA members from Zimbabwe studying at the University of Cape Town. There was an instant emotional connection, which was moving to witness. It was the first time we all met the students, but we shared stories like sisters before returning for the start of the summit.”

The strength of the CAMA network lies in its institutional, as well as its emotional, infrastructure. CAMA members share a background of rural poverty, a passion for education, and a commitment to ploughing back the benefits of their education within their communities. Because they are organized into elected committees from district to national level, the network of over 33,000 young women leaders across Africa has a robust mechanism for cascading knowledge. Connected through mobile technology, young women overcome rural isolation, and help build each other’s lives.

We must take the great practical advice and engage education authorities to make practical skills a core part of education.

CAMA member Eva from Tanzania

Now the CAMA sisters are thinking deeply about how to share the practical advice on offer during the summit, and the stories of the inspirational young agri-entrepreneurs they have met. They were especially impressed with Laetitia Mukungu, who was 14 when she founded the Africa Rabbit Centre (ARC), a cooperative that farms rabbits to help women pay for their children’s educational needs. “Her story and what she has gone on to achieve for women and children in her community is one story we will share with members of CAMA across our five countries, so that they can see the possibilities of their entrepreneurship and giving back,” Clarah said. Grace added that the practical advice Laetitia shared – such as the use of all parts of the rabbit: meat, fur, and urine for fertilizer and insecticide – was especially valuable. Eva suggested that CAMA could use its work on district committees and with education authorities to engage government to make practical farming skills a core part of the educational curriculum.

Youth can do more in agriculture if they are mentored. They need encouragement and support.

CAMA member Sadia from Ghana

The words of Alistaire Djimatey of Blue Skies Foundation, who gave a session on Agriculture and the Private Sector, resonated with all CAMA members. He said that women are the main actors in food and agriculture in Africa, and that they should be specifically targeted if the sector is to develop. Mentoring is an important part of CAMA’s remit. “Encouragement and practical support are so important for young people,” said Sadia from Ghana. The young women started exploring the possibilities of internships in the private sector with agri-businesses.

Change the world now while you are young, and let technology help.

CAMA member Grace from Ghana

Young people get excited by technology, and technology can be used in agriculture to help small scale farmers and to drive innovation. Grace from Ghana explained how CAMA’s farmers were particularly impressed with an initiative shared by Rita Kimani, a young woman software engineer from Kenya, who founded Farm Drive – a digital bookkeeping platform which allows farmers to track their productivity, expenses and revenues, which are then analyzed to reveal performance patterns.

Already we are so inspired and can’t wait to share the practical advice at home.

CAMA member Rebecca from Zambia

The main takeaway from CAMA’s young women leaders was that agriculture is the key to economic transformation and a source of tremendous untapped potential in sub-Saharan Africa. Rebecca from Zambia echoed her CAMA sisters’ excitement and inspiration when she talked about how they were going to share their summit learnings at home.

In her remarks on the closing panel, Clarah added, “As for young people: we are the future. We have a big role to ensure food security for our communities, to create employment, and we must take up agriculture. Let’s modernize it to the standards we want…We have learnt a lot, we have been inspired, and we will cascade our learning here to others. Africa is calling for inclusive participation, visionary leadership and collaboration to transform the agriculture sector. Fellow participants, professors, fellow youth delegates, members of the private sector, CEOs: let’s work together to change the mind-set of young people towards agriculture. Transformation begins with you! I rest my case!”

Read more about Camfed’s partnership with EARTH University

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