FAO (2013) reported that the world’s population will reach 9 billion by 2050, and food production will need to be doubled in order to feed this rising number. However, achieving this goal is becoming more and more difficult since agriculture is highly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and other environmental and human-made challenges.
Climate-smart agriculture (CSA) presents a sustainable alternative to cope and mitigate the impacts of climate change; it promotes production systems that sustainably increase productivity, resilience, reduces/removes greenhouse gases, and enhances food security and development goals. Whilst CSA has become an increasingly accepted approach, considerable knowledge, investment and stakeholder participation is required to effectively implement CSA.
The Climate Smart Agricultural Youth Network (CSAYN) development was due to the fact that the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) showed interest in financially supporting pilot projects from sub-Saharan African (SSA) in three regions (East, West and Central Africa) through media sensitization. However, work is not strictly limited to these countries.
Building youth knowledge and skills in CSA will not only empower and strengthen their ability to address existing challenges related to agricultural livelihoods, but it will also enable them to make a positive contribution to their societies and countries.
The role of the youth in enhancing agricultural production and ensuring food security and nutrition is getting high recognition. However, a 2013 report by FAO laments that the interest of the youth, especially in Africa, to engage in agriculture is limited. This is because of a complex set of reasons, including negative perception of agriculture as a profitable business, its high labour requirements and the length of time required to get returns (FAO, 2013).
Climate change (CC) adds another layer to this challenge, increasing the perception that agriculture is a high-risk business. The challenge is to make sure that the youth develop a positive attitude towards agriculture in general and engage in climate smart agriculture (CSA) in particular.
The Global Partnership for Disability & Development (GPDD and WB, 2009) noted that people living with disabilities (PLWD) also face challenges under CC, as they find themselves at a great disadvantage during disaster preparedness, recovery and reconstruction, as well as poverty reduction and livelihood improvement programs due to prevalent inequality and discrimination against them.
But, youth and PLWD should not be seen only as victims. They can be agents of change who could be a positive force towards realising the potential of CSA. They play an important role in shaping social and economic development, and challenging social norms and values, helping to build the solid foundation of the world’s future.
In August 2018, the CSAYN 5-year Strategy Plan was released, covering the step-by-step action plan of how the network will reach its goals over the next 5 years, from 2018 to 2022.
The proposed activities and expected results of the CSAYN project(at local and national levels) include:
Activity 1: Establishing national forums on CSAYN. The national forums will aim at lobbying for the interest of the youth and PLWD in all CSA related initiatives in their respective countries.
Activity 2: Organize biennial youth conferences (or forums) on CSA for national forums, and their members to showcase their experience and learn from the experience of others.
Activity 3: Establish a presence on social networks and websites, and create an online database to share information on the current issues of CSA, nationally, regionally and globally.
Activity 4: Representing and showcasing youth engagement in CSA in different regional and global forums.
Activity 5: Establish farmer field schools to ensure famers share their field experiences with other smallholder famers.
Activity 6: Establish a mobile savings model that allows farmers to invest their own funds in high-quality seed, fertilizer, and agricultural training to increase their harvest and income.