2016 Annual Conference of SACAU

  • 27th May 2016
  • by secretary

23-26 May 2016. Mbabane, Swaziland. The theme of the conference is “Youth, Technology and Agricultural Transformation in Southern Africa”.

The conference, brought together regional farmers’ organization (FOs) leaders, policy makers, FOs chief executives, policy makers and young farmers, and aimed at sharing practical and expertise experiences. It will explore how the nexus between technology and youth can be harnessed to drive agricultural transformation in the region. Technology will be considered at its entirety.

Specifically, the conference : (i) Seek to envision the future of agriculture and need for new generation of farmers and farmers’ organization; (ii) Expose farmers to current cutting urge technologies that are likely to change the future outlook of agriculture globally and in Africa; (iii) Discuss options of making agriculture attractive by professionalizing and certifying producers and intensifying commercialization of the sector; (iv) Identify potential business models that young farmers could be engaged in the future for the transformation of the sector.

“What we are expecting is to have resolution of which we are going to be guided on how we take full advantage of the technology that we have now, apply it in agriculture for transformation. Because we believe that the way which agriculture is being run needs to be transformed – and the youth will be at the centre of that transformation.” SACAU’s Capacity Building Advisor, Benito Eliasi

The conference was structured into five sessions as follows: (See SACAU concept note)

  1. Session I: Scene Setting. It is evident that agriculture practices are rapidly changing and for Africa to remain competitive, farmers have no choice but to embrace the change. Application of ICT for improving efficiency and mitigating risks is slowly becoming irreplaceable. The session presented how ICT will play a vital role for African agriculture to remain profitable and competitive. Arguments that future agriculture will mainly be driven by intelligent use of data and information, application of digital technology, efficiency utilization of appropriate machinery, adoption of new business models, rapid response to unpredictable weather and climate change and institution of new generation of farmers’ organization. What is the role of today’s youth amidst all this?
  2. Session II: What is keeping the youths out of agriculture? This session discussed current
    cutting urge technologies that are likely to change the future outlook of agriculture globally and in Africa. The session provided evidence that advanced technology in agriculture will be a friend of a future farmer and that African farmers need to prepare for the soon coming technology revolution in the sector, otherwise will be left behind. The issues of its practicability and affordability to African farming which is predominated by small scale farming systems were discussed. Among other questions  addressed were: Will Africa farmers need alternative financing to access the technologies? Will Africa need special policies and regulations for the technologies? How should FOs prepare for such a revolution?
  3. Session III: Professionalization of farmers in the region. Farming in Africa is regarded as a lowly, back-breaking, unglamorous, dirty job that uses rudimentary equipment with very meagre revenue. Agricultural producers (farmers) are mostly ranked low in the society and are considered as uneducated or uncivilized in some cycles. Consequently, there is less pride and dignity in farming to the people practicing it. This low regard for farming is reinforced in society to an extent that sometimes farmers advise their children to study hard in school to escape from being farmers. Consequently, many schoolchildren dream of becoming doctors, engineers or lawyers, but seldom to be farmers. These perceptions make young people reluctant to be associated with the sector and only join it when all other options fail. The session discussed options of making agriculture attractive by professionalizing and certifying producers and intensifying commercialization of the sector. Among the questions addressed were: What can it take to improve the negative image of agriculture? Can agriculture be made a career of first choice to the youth as is the case with other careers? What are the realities to be encountered for this to happen? 
  4. Session IV: Youth and Factors of production. Accessing production and operational capital by the youth is much difficult than their elderly counterparts. This is basically due to among other things, lack of credit record and assets for collateral. Worse still, government funds dedicated to finance youth intervention prefer to support artisanal enterprises and small trading businesses than farming. For any youth with serous ambitions to start serious farming ventures, this becomes a very big hindrance. The situation might not be different in the near future. This session looked at new financing and ownership options of factors of production that can be developed or up scaled. 
  5. Nono Sekhoto (right) Co-Founder/CEO at GrowthShoot
    and Managing Director at Makolobane Farmers Enterprises
  6. Session IV: SACAU Youth Program. A number of factors (economic, social, political etc.) are responsible for the limited participation of youth in the agriculture sector. The factors can be classified into two broad areas: (i) factors that hinder young people to take agriculture as a career of choice and (ii) those that hinder practicing young farmers to progress in their farming careers. This program brings together different stakeholders from the private and public sectors to address problems encountered by the youth. The interventions were across the entire value chain and not only primary production. Professionalization and application of advanced technology are key in the implementation of the program.

The SACAU’s Annual General Meeting was supported by SFOAP, the German Technical Cooperation (GIZ) and We Effect.

I’m hosting BBC Africa today on the farm who are coming from London to do a story on me and I just got word that I received a scholarship to attend training at Frankfurt School of Finance & Management. My love for finance is formally merging with my new found love of agriculture. No-one knows what the future holds. No-one can tell you what path to walk. But most of all no-one can determine the level of success that you will have. But all I can say is you have the power to dream. You have the power to work towards that dream. And you have the potential to make that dream come true.

I say this because I consciously decided to work towards building a dream. I am the one who put myself out there. I am the one who dared to dream bigger that anything that currently exists, from a clean blank canvas. And slowly but surely the canvas is filling up, the picture becoming clearer with each day. I say this because it’s not just blessings that things are happening to make that dream come true, it is also from what I have done, to name but a few: I have a vision that I focus on daily, I am dedicated to attaining my dream, I put in hard work, I’m self motivated, I make sacrifices and most of all I have self believe! Don’t let anyone tell you who you are and what you are capable of no matter how long the road may seem. Dare to dream bigger than your current existence! Nono Sekhoto, 25 May 2016