By Joyce Ojanji

Heifer International, a leading global nonprofit working to end hunger and poverty in low- and middle-income nations while prioritizing environmental sustainability, has called upon stakeholders in Africa’s agriculture sector to enhance their backing for youth-driven innovations, technology adoption, and the establishment of strategic partnerships.

These initiatives aim to bolster smallholder farmers and communities, ultimately raising incomes and catalyzing a transformation in the continent’s food systems.

Adesuwa Ifedi, Senior Vice President, Africa Programs, Heifer International, speaking to global stakeholders at this year’s Africa’s Food System Forum in Tanzania , said: “Our profound experience of partnering with smallholder farmers and communities has provided us with a unique perspective – one that harnesses the innovation and energy of young innovators, alongside the limitless potential of technology, to craft scalable and enduring agritech solutions tailored to the unique needs of smallholder farmers. The impact of these have been transformative – driving heightened productivity, amplified incomes for farmers, job creation, unlocking commercial capital fostering agripreneurs, and elevating the capabilities of our food systems.”

Ifedi noted that concerted efforts need to be made to boost Africa’s food systems urgently to be able to accommodate the continent’s forecast population of 2.5 billion people by 2050. And the good news is that in the face of this challenge, Africa is endowed with two critical tools – our youth and technology.

“Africa possesses the youngest population globally, with nearly 40% of the continent’s population aged 15 or below, as of 2022. In sub-Saharan Africa alone, an estimated 500 million people will be under 25 years old by 2050. Within these massive numbers, we see a reservoir of energy, ingenuity, and determination being leveraged to solve societal problems across the continent,” she added.

Heifer International also advocated for increased innovative capital for young innovators working on transformative solutions for the agriculture ecosystem

Tewodros Ayele, Country Director Ethiopia, Heifer International, said: “Through various initiatives, we have provided innovative capital to young professionals developing and deploying tech innovations that are enhancing smart farming and food production across the continent. The impact of the various programs we have partnered with these young innovators on is heartwarming and encourages us to do more.”

Ayele identified one of such initiatives as the Agriculture Youth and Technology ( AYuTe) Africa Challenge, one of the most ambitious agriculture competitions on the continent which empowers and supports young professionals who are developing and deploying tech innovations that are reimagining farming and food production across the continent.

“Since 2021, we have awarded up to US$1.5 million annually to our AYuTe Champions,” said Ayele.

“Our support doesn’t end there. We also deploy a team of expert advisers—accomplished business veterans—to support AYuTe Africa Champions as they translate this funding into aggressive business expansion strategies. We believe innovative capital includes everything that helps these young agripreneurs innovate beyond their talent. It is a sum of the assets, tangible and intangible, that power them. It includes financing, networks and partnerships, human capacity, and mentorship.”

Heifer International has been working with farmers and communities in Africa for nearly 50 years to help them build sustainable and resilient food systems that can withstand shocks and stresses.

Part of the organisation’s work in the continent is innovative investments in young Africans working on transformative solutions and products within the agriculture ecosystem that have strengthened smallholder farmers’ outputs, increasing women participation in agribusinesses, and enhancing climate-smart practices.