“The Young Africa Works Summit 2017 was a very exciting learning platform that enlightened us on opportunities and options to increase the role of youth in the future of agricultural development in Africa by improving their skills, knowledge and experience”, Bamlaku Asmare, icipe’s youth delegate from Ethiopia.
Bamlaku is one of 50 youth delegates who attended The MasterCard Foundation Young Africa Works Summit in Kigali, Rwanda on February 16 – 17, 2017. He is the energetic leader of a beekeeping enterprise supported by the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology’s (icipe) Young Entrepreneurs in Silk and Honey (YESH) project.
During the Summit, youth delegates attended training and networking sessions, and were guided through a mentorship program organized by the Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD). Summit sessions explored the theme of agricultural transformation, in particular, the YESH project on youth agriculture enterprises, and gain better knowledge on how to manage common challenges and network.
- What did you learn by attending the Summit?
Bamlaku: The main lesson from the Summit was that youth have the knowledge and motivation to drive agricultural transformation in Africa. Young people can play major roles in moving from traditional agricultural practices and subsistence farming to greater commercialization in their respective countries. Regardless of the type of business they are involved in, the “we can” spirit remains with the youth and this was loudly applauded at the Summit. This was fabulous and a very exciting experience for me.
- Did you have a favourite session? Which one? Why?
Bamlaku: The pre-Summit session mentoring program was very useful and I greatly appreciate the mentorship opportunity I was provided with. My favourite session was the “Setting the Stage for Agricultural Transformation” panel.
- What do you hope for the future of agricultural transformation in Africa?
Bamlaku: Ideas discussed during the Summit added more impetus to my career development and I hope millions of fellow African youth will also be inspired by messages from this Summit. The Summit drove home the key message that empowering youth is not only about creating jobs and supporting livelihoods, but about allowing them to drive transformation and provide opportunities for leadership and engagement. This was a major outcome of the event. Although the agricultural sector is very wide in its nature, my hope is that our youth beekeeping initiative will expand throughout Ethiopia and to other African countries to generate jobs, increase incomes, and support rural livelihoods. This would significantly contribute to the transformation of African agriculture. I believe improving beekeeping has direct implications on overall agricultural productivity.
The Summit was a very successful event, which came at an opportune time for icipe as it has been working to demonstrate the effectiveness of improved agricultural technologies to generate employment opportunities for unemployed youth.
Bamlaku was particularly excited about the mentorship program. His mentor has helped him gain a better understanding of how to perform many activities simultaneously, which include his work in beekeeping.
- Describe your experience with the mentorship program.
I think the mentorship program is an opportunity for me to guide and support the next generation of young agriculturists in Africa. The program has created a forum for both of us to interact on important issues in the context of the broader agricultural development agenda. The program has strong support from The MasterCard Foundation and I hope it will be an excellent learning opportunity.
- What have you learned from each other?
We have only worked together for a short period at this stage. However, I have learned about the beekeeping activities that a youth group is undertaking under Bamlaku’s leadership in rural Ethiopia. The group has a strong commitment to developing their business and to serving as a role model for other unemployed youth.
- How will the mentor/mentee relationship continue beyond the Summit?
I had a chance to interact with Bamlaku just before the Summit and I am glad to help him realize the ambitions and commitment of his youth group. In addition, his group also aspires to diversify their agricultural activities in the future. I also took some time to learn more about his group during the Summit and I am confident that our relationship will strengthen over the one year period. I hope we will establish a long-lasting relationship with Bamlaku and his team.
- What is the value of participating in such a program?
As we all realize, subsistence agriculture is a way of life in Africa and the population currently engaged is getting older. We need to nurture this young generation and impart to them the importance and value of agriculture in food security, nutrition, livelihoods and overall economic development.