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SACAU: 2016 Annual Policy Conference: “Youth, technology and Agricultural Transformation in Southern Africa”

 

 

 

With the support of SFOAP, the German Technical Cooperation through AFC Consulting International, the African Union-Inter-Africa Bureau for Animal Resources (AU-IBAR) and We Effect, the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Union (SACAU) held its 2016 Annual Conference (23-24 May 2016) in Mbabane, Swaziland under the theme “Youth, technology and Agricultural Transformation in Southern Africa”.

The Annual Conference is SACAU’s biggest advocacy event for the year. It was hosted by the Swaziland National Agriculture Union (SNAU) and attended by 184 delegates from 17 countries. More than 91 representatives of young farmers from 11 countries also joined. SACAU put together an excellent team of panelists, presenters, moderators, both young and old, and ensured a high level facilitation.

The event was officially opened by the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Swaziland His Excellence Dr. Sibusiso Banabas Dlamini, in the presence of the Ministerof Agriculture and other senior government officials. Other attendees included local industry captains, the development sector including intergovernmental agencies, representatives from the diplomatic community, academia, research, civil society.

The Prime Minister opened the conference by emphasizing the significance of agriculture in the economic development of the southern African region and the relevance of investigating the underlying factors and challenges that hinder youth participation in the sector. He reminded that The African Union (AU) through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) is making efforts to ensure that Governments support agriculture adequately by ensuring that 10% of their budgets support the sector. Most governments including Swaziland are struggling to comply with this AU policy. To address the challenges, stakeholders need to work together to come up with comprehensive solutions encompassing a transformative agenda which is growth oriented and results in wealth creation. The Prime Minister commended SACAU for its efforts in ensuring that the youth participate in the agricultural sector.

In his key note address to theAnnual Conference, Mr Sunga, CEO of SACAU, observed that “the digital revolution has and will expand the realms of possibilities in agricultural development”. He added that possibilities abound in the application of ICTs in agriculture, and that the nexus of young farmers and ICTs will fast-track agricultural developmentin southern Africa. This, combined with doing agriculture as a business, could help bring the shine in farming by sorting out the negative image associated with the sector.

Plenary discussions were organised around main sessions including: (i) Envisioning the Future of Agriculture in Southern Africa  - A New Perspective aiming to paint the anticipated picture of future agriculture and how ICT will play a vital role for African agriculture to remain profitable and competitive; (ii) ICTs-A Key Driver of Agriculture into the Future aiming to expose participants to current cutting-edge technologies that are likely to change the future outlook of agriculture globally and in Africa; (iii) Enabling factors for young Agri-Entrepreneurship - Trends in Agribusiness models focusing on exploring some of the factors that have enabled young people to succeed; (iv) Enhancing the image of agriculture through professionalization of the sector aiming to discuss options for making agriculture attractive and profitable ; (v) and Reporting back on Young Farmers’ Programme.

All sessions featured lively discussions and the success of the event was highly acclaimed by delegates.

The attendees were invited to document the key messages that were being taken away from the conference. These included the following:

  • It is very important for young farmers to have a conducive environment to grow their farming businesses from within;
  • Mentorship, planning and organization are imperatives for growth and in order to succeed there is need for cooperation with other farmers. The youth have to be part and parcel of farmers‟ organizations;
  • Inner drive and motivation are critical to start any farming business. The question is how to replicate the success stories;
  • There is need to open the spaces for the different categories of farmers.
  • SACAU needs to define the growth strategies at national and regional levels. As well, 
mechanisms need to be put in place to ensure perseverance even in times of trouble.

The Conference was closed by Mr Absalom Z Lukhele, President of SNAU and Dr Theo de Jager, President of SACAU. In his closing remarks, Dr Theo de Jager emphasized that farming is hard work and that young farmers should maintain the integrity of farming. He further highlighted that there is need for a paradigm shift in agricultural finance. This cannot be achieved through conventional banks and farmers as such need to make themselves bankable. Farmer organizations must do their bit and assist farmers to become bankable. Furthermore, value chain financing schemes are required. It is important for agricultural service providers- fertilizer companies, seed companies, amongst others to share risk. He ended with the axiom: “Do not walk where the path may lead you. Walk where there is no path and leave a trail”.

To learn more on the Annual Conference please read the report from the event by clicking here and read the special edition of the SACAU Newsletter. 

 

Photo credit: SACAU

from 23/05/2016 to 24/05/2016
Thematic Areas: Access to Services, Capacity Building, Gender, Knowledge Management, Markets and Value chains, Policy Dialogue
Region: South Africa
Countries: Swaziland