Youth — the future of global food supply
Ensuring the provision of sufficient nutritious food to a growing population in the face of climate change is a major challenge facing the global community. With the world population expected to exceed 9 billion by 2050, driven largely by growth in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, solutions must be found for guaranteeing food and nutrition security.
The nature of these solutions and how they serve to ensure food and nutrient security was part of the agenda at the Nestléconvened “Planting Seeds for the Future of Food: The Agriculture, Nutrition and Sustainability Nexus” conference in June 2015. The multidisciplinary international conference which brought together 165 experts from diverse ranges of expertise and organizations from all over the world identified the youth as critical players in the future of the world’s food supply. The publication resulting from that conference has been published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture.
Specifically, the conference recognized that it is important for the future of food that agriculture be made more attractive to a younger generation especially as the average age of farmers and urban migration rates continue to increase globally. It praised the IITA Youth Agripreneurs (IYA) initiative as an interesting model for achieving this quest.
IYA attracts young graduates into agriculture by providing them with support, training, and possibilities of exploiting agriculture for business. By helping young people set up businesses, the initiative addresses unemployment as well as guarantees a long-term source of income. In addition it facilitates the adoption of sustainable agro-practices required to meet local food and nutrition needs.
Many landmarks have been achieved by the youth in the IYA scheme since inception. These achievements range from using world-class technologies for producing improved staple crops, exotic vegetables, and value-added snacks and drinks to serving as mentors and facilitators of agribusiness workshops for other youth across Africa.
Ultimately, creating a system that integrates a range of scientific tools with sustainable agro-practices for ensuring the future of food will require concerted efforts and broad partnerships between local and international private sectors supported by government actions and investment.