May 23rd, 2013 2:12 PM UTC
By Guest Blogger
Our guest blogger today is Vincent Rapeta, a young farmer from South Africa. He is speaking at the African Union Youth Forum in Addis Ababa this week as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations.
I’m Vincent and I come from Limpopo Province in South Africa. I’m 28 and a farmer. I grow maize, butternut squash, watermelon, tomato, beetroot and cabbages. I am a farmer by accident but I’m loving it.
I was raised by a single parent and we were very poor when I was growing up. I think that my mother earned R5000 a year. In today’s US dollars, that is just over $500.
I had dreams of becoming an auditor and fighting corruption but we didn’t have money to send me to university. But I did have an opportunity. I was helping my mother while I was in school on our small plot of two hectares. And after I was done with school, I started helping her full time- that’s how I became a farmer.
Our produce started being noticed for its quality and in 2006, the local Department of Agriculture selected me to attend an agriculture training programme where I learned about soil quality, when to plant certain crops and also special knowledge about growing tomatoes, which are higher value crops. I eventually got my own plot and started expanding the amount of produce we could grow, and began to employ some local people to help me manage my plots and harvests.
In 2010, I went to school again to learn about the business side of farming and best management practices. I learned about finances, communications, labour and best standards for my produce. In 2011, I won the Best Farmer award in Molemole Municipality. I was so excited.
Last year I decided to expand my operation and was able to obtain 20 hectares from the traditional council in my area and another 20 from the municipality. I am now trying to get those plots of land suitable for farming as they are still covered in bush. I’ve had to spend my savings to clear the land and drill boreholes for irrigation, but hope to be up and running by the end of this year.
Farming is hard work. It is very challenging, but so rewarding. I think there are three main challenges for young farmers like me.
First, we need access to land and financial services. I have been very lucky – an elderly neighbour allowed me to farm her plot and I also had my mother’s plot to start from. Not all of my fellow young South Africans without work have been so fortunate. South Africa is redistributing its land but it often goes to people who don’t make a living from it. A doctor will get a few hectares where I live, but then wake up and go to his job.
Banks require security and collateral for loans. Hail can ruin one season’s harvest. I’ve saved and have been able to use this to expand, but we need insurance and loans to help us move forward. When we take the risk, we need government to meet us half way in managing these costs.
Second, we need to challenge the perception that informal sector farmers like myself provide poor quality produce. I was once told by a buyer for a big market that he wouldn’t buy tomatoes from black farmers. And this was a black man telling me this. He would buy spinach and butternut but not tomatoes. So we must try to promote the real quality of food that informal farmers produce.
And finally, we need access to fair markets. As we plan our crop we need to be sure that it will not go to waste. In Limpopo I am lucky that the food bank buys my tomatoes and my income is assured, other youth farmers in the rest of the country don’t have the same opportunities. We need policies that support the development of crop markets so that farmers can increase their harvest, earn more income and improve their families’ lives.
All I can say is that here is so much opportunity in farming. I think young people all over Africa should look to farming to improve their lives and improve our continent. We’re always crying of not having jobs. Well, we can find land. We’re not disabled. Why can’t we just make our own job? Our governments just need to make it easier by building roads that lead to markets and by providing marketing information and training to farmers.
I dream of owning 1000 hectares in ten years where I can have a herd of cattle and provide so many jobs to contribute to poverty alleviation. I know this is possible and with the right policies from government, all of us here will be farming.
Sep 10th, 2012 6:27 PM UTC
By Guest Blogger
This post by Kadiatu Blango was kindly provided by Restless Development
My name is Kadiatu, I am 20 and have two daughters. I had my second child when I was 18. Like every mother, I want the very best for my children and do everything I can for them, but I worry that it will be difficult for them, just like it was for me. My father died when I was very young and I was only able to go to school up until the age of six. I left my mother’s home to go and live with my uncle, but he was hardly ever around. His wife, my aunt, did not care for me as she did her own children and we did not get on. I was forced to carry out domestic chores while her children were able to attend school.
Kadiatu and her two daughters in their community
As the war became more intense, we moved to Freetown. Upon my return to the village my mother forced me to be initiated into the bondo society, a group that practices female genital cutting. I did not want to. I wanted to go to school.
My mother told me that she couldn’t afford to pay my school fees and yet she could afford to spend a lot of money on the initiation process. Once initiated, I was forced into marriage at the age of twelve and became pregnant the same year. The baby’s father left when I was six months’ pregnant. I haven’t seen him since. I suffered a lot to raise the baby with no support from my mother or any other relative. Selling wood, potato and cassava leaves were the main sources of income for myself and my child.
There was no way I could continue with schooling without parental support. Later I met another guy who fooled me around and made me believe he could handle my problems. He started well, but then he got me pregnant and ran away to Liberia. I got my second child at the age of eighteen. Life is very hard and quite challenging for us coming from a very poor family but we all do our best.
It need have been like this for me and it should not be like that for my two daughters. I want them to be free to get an education, to not be worried about marrying too young or experiencing violence. I want them to grow up to be strong young women who can make their own choices, go to school, own land and control their own lives.
What challenges do women face in your community?
The main challenges faced by women are numerous to name but a few are:
How does your family make a living?
What opportunities would you like to see for your kids?
What would you like to see leaders promise to do to help communities like yours?
What would you like world leaders to focus on that would have impact on your life?
Underlying this are high rates of teenage pregnancy – 34% of women aged 15-19 have either already had a baby or are pregnant. This also often leads to interrupted education, reduced earning potential, poor marital outcomes and reduced health outcomes for surviving children.
Furthermore, youth unemployment is a major problem in Sierra Leone, with an estimated one third of urban and one sixth of rural 20-24 year-olds out of work and over 17% of the urban populations aged 15-35 years unemployed. Work opportunities are rare (around 9% of the workforce are formally employed), which means that stories like Hawa’s are mainly the norm rather than the exception.
Featuring contributions from African citizens who are living in communities affected by extreme poverty, ONE’s African Voices series will follow their progress to give a better understanding of the day-to-day challenges they face and also to track changes that occur over time. Find out more at one.org/africanvoices.
Restless Development is an agency that places young people at the forefront of change and development. It works in Africa and Asia to empower young people to take their lives into their own hand and trains, educates and inspires young people to be part of the solution. Find out more at www.restlessdevelopment.org
Dec 13th, 2011 3:39 PM UTC
By Edith Jibunoh
AYT was founded by a group of five young people in 2005, all working in different sectors, but with a common interest to profile the youth agenda. They recognized that scattered initiatives, which they were all individually involved in, were not going to be powerful enough to bring about change. With this understanding, they combined their efforts and today their model promotes partnerships between the younger and older generation with a focus on economic empowerment and governance. Three of the original founders are still involved with AYT today.
AYT staff and Network Members
The bulk of their programs are carried out by young people and builds in a research component, in order to assess change and impact, capacity building for sustainability, as well as an advocacy component, driven by youth and targeting policy-makers. They have produced a guide to youth action against corruption and have used this guide to train 96 young people to date. AYT is also involved in employment training as a way to engage young people in entrepreneurship. African youth are very active users of twitter and facebook, and especially in Kenya, and this medium has allowed AYT to more effectively engage young people and encourage discourse.
At the onset of AYT’s activities, they found that so many of the youth population were involved in corrupt activities without realizing they were complicit in corruption, simply because of their lack of knowledge. In order to address this they collaborated with the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission (KACC) to train youth about what corruption meant and organized them to monitor and report acts of corruption. With the support of a USAID funded program, AYT also organized young people to conduct audits of Constituency Development Funds, which are designed to channel resources to youth programs. These funds have been notorious for the misappropriation of funds, but with the AYT’s organizing capacity, young people started to ask questions about the funds that were meant to aid their development and monitor their disbursement.
Beneficiaries of AYT’s empowerment programme
While there are other youth organizations in Kenya, very few are engaged in the promotion of an inter-generational discussion that allows a platform for young people to engage in policy. The culture of civil society in Kenya is known to be primarily confrontational, a defensive reaction to the previous governments hostility to civil society. But since 2002, the new government has been much more receptive to civil society. So rather than become a watchdog of the Kenyan government, AYT’s approach has been to promote dialogue between policy makers and young people. Their non-confrontational approach is really one of the key strategies that have enabled them to be successful. In adopting such an approach they are also cautious to safe guard against becoming “yes-men” and instead demonstrate value to the government by proposing alternatives to perceived systemic problems that promote corruption.
The Africa Youth Trust has been doing amazing work! We commend their efforts and congratulate them for joining the list of 2011 ONE Africa Award finalists!
Feb 15th, 2011 7:30 AM UTC
By Dadirayi Agnes Sibanda
Last year I turned 36, and a friend sent me an SMS to wish me a happy birthday and inform me that I was officially no longer considered a “youth”. In my new role as an “elder”, I can now take the time to ponder the role of young people, whose growth I have invested much of my life to, especially in regards to determining the future of Africa.
This afternoon, as part of a selection process for a high school scholarship programme, I had a flash-forward experience where I met the future president of South Africa – She is 12. I know who she is because she told me. The young lady gave a clear synopsis on the state of the nation, and what she would like to do. When challenged on some of her views she replied, “I don’t have all the answers yet, but this nation is not excellent, and when I am president I will solve the challenges.” A friend once told me that when someone tells you who they are, you should believe them – she’s onto something.
As I continuously work with 12–30 year olds, I am struck by the commonalities that they have as a generation. They are fearless, audacious, moralistic, courageous, and have a clear understanding of the shift that has taken place in the world. We, the non-youth, have an awareness of it, and yet they live it. They are a generation with an absolute belief in themselves, both as members of their community and as individuals. The youth of today are unconventional and are not afraid to show “the man” the middle finger. They have personalized the future, and have a clear understanding of what they can do and what they will dare. They are prepared to search the horizons for new solutions simply because they can, and they are not afraid of the answers – unconventional (for us!) as they may seem.
Today’s youth speak the same language as their peers and are largely on the same page. They understand their differences and similarities, and they are hungry for change. They were born into a world with HIV/AIDS, increased natural disasters and environmental degradation, unstable food security, and the golden arches. They have watched the leaders of the day make decisions, and our responses to them. They are not afraid to hold us accountable, and they have begun to do so. They are not afraid to “be the change they want to see” − the movement has begun.
They have mapped their own path, they know the direction – ours is to support them and follow. The child has become the parent; it’s a new world order. Their role is to maintain focus and direction, and ours is to invest in them with useful education, and preserve their courage and ability to believe in themselves.
When I met the “president”, she and her peers had several things in common: they understood the need for self-preservation, loyalty and need to protect others, even those that have hurt them. They could not connect to failure – they each had varied appetites for risk. What was apparent was that each one had a clear vision and was prepared to attempt it. In the words of Seneca, “It is not because we dare that things are difficult, it is that we do not dare that they are difficult.”
The youth of this continent are like a well-thought through pension fund portfolio – if we make the right investment, in protecting the capital, it will pay off in the coming years.
Feb 15th, 2011 7:30 AM UTC
By Angelique Kidjo
Computer technology today can help us better educate girls in Africa. A birth certificate is the key to enrolling girls in school, and with a computer in villages we can register kids at birth. That can help us also fight child trafficking. Especially in my country, Benin, it’s is a big issue for me. I am working with UNICEF for example so we can get computers into villages and also at the main ports and borders to stop children being taken out of the country, because if a child is not registered he or she does not exist.
Technology can also help girls report any abuses they are encountering and stop the problem of hearsay, which allows teachers and adults to get away from abuses that they commit.
The Internet also allows girls in school to connect with the rest of the world. Where they can chat together and work together. It gives them a window outside of their world and makes them understand the importance of the education that they are having at this time.
With my Batonga foundation every time I meet my girls their dreams for the future always amaze me. And computer technology can help realise them. To the ones who want to become doctors and neurosurgeons, I always ask them “Where do you get all those big names from?” They say they know what they want to do; they know how they want to impact their community, their country and Africa, and to take the lead in the future in a different way. So computer technology will help them connect with other doctors or other children who are studying and open new perspectives to them.
One day one of my girls was telling me that she wants to become a future president of Benin and I said to her “Why do you want to get yourself into politics? Why do you want to be president?” And she looked at me and said “With all due respect to you ma’am, men have been leading our countries for so many years and what good comes out of that for us?” Computer technology empowered the girls to speak out for their own right to report abuses not only done to them, but to their community, and to empower them in a way so that they can see the future of what they are learning and what they are going to become tomorrow.
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