You Can’t Eat Your Payslip

Well-nourished children grow up to become employable youth – why nutrition-sensitive programming leads the way to enhanced youth employment

Youth employment and climate action for the future of African rural development were centre stage at the SNRD Africa conference in Pretoria. H.E. Ibrahim Mayaki, the renowned NEPAD CEO, also delved into this subject in his keynote address. However, food and nutrition security did not receive the limelight attention it actually needs.

I assume that we did not fall into the trap to believe food and nutrition security would be equivalent to sufficient economic growth. Still, I want to provide details on how critically important it is to integrate food and nutrition security aspects in any intervention of rural development.

Integrate food and nutrition security into ARD interventions

Developing productive capacities to boost industrialisation was a common African position in the negotiations leading up to the Agenda 2030. This requires working on early childhood development, including cognitive skills at the same time. Stunting is a burden that already starts before conception, determined by the nutritional status of the mothers-to-be. The nutritional status not only has an impact on the economic productivity of individuals but also on that of consecutive generations. Overall economic growth is at risk when many people to a large degree cannot develop up to the potential they had with adequate food and nutrition security.

Stunting rates in societies have long-term and even intergenerational impact on economic growth as well as on resilience. Food and nutrition sensitive programming and planning are of the essence. The Agenda 2063 offers the chance to reduce stunting rates if its paradigm of constructing industrialisation based on agricultural transformation is translated into food and nutrition sensitive policies, guidelines as well as action on the ground.

Another vector to boost the nutritional status of entire societies is to include climate action in the transformation efforts right from the start. Climate-smart agriculture technologies are an established way to raise agricultural productivity, especially on smallholder farms, but also to increase the diversity of agricultural produces and thus resilience. Climate-smart and nutrition sensitive agriculture combined are bringing together food security and nutrition security.

It is not enough to only look at macronutrients, micronutrients are equally important.

How does this result in more youth employment, providing jobs for the current and next young generation?

Large parts of African populations will remain in rural areas, despite high urbanisation rates. At the same time, rural youths will still contribute to the food security of their households with considerable input through on-farm and off-farm employment in the future. But higher levels of education and better technological facilities will create opportunities for the youths to improve productivity by running farms more business-like, increasing profits. Therefore agriculture has to become more attractive for the youths and based on innovative nutrition sensitive value chain development. Involving the private sector and providing financial services is also imperative. It offers employment opportunities not only on-farm but also through ancillary off-farm and alternative skills based activities along these value chains.

SNRD Africa’s working group on Food and Nutrition Security and Resilience, albeit recently formed, sees itself at the centre of the sector network’s contribution to rural development in Africa. Our work is multi-sectoral and needs to cross-pollinate with other established sectors apart from health and agriculture. Some to mention are social protection, energy and education. Although the mini-workshops at the conference in Pretoria provided a first intensive exchange with representatives from other fields of expertise, our working group plans to strengthen these ties further. We will disseminate relevant programming and

We will disseminate relevant programming and planning documents towards the end of this year among the wider circle of experts. Furthermore, we would like to see participation in our webinars and open discussions also from outside the working group.

By Ulrich Bormann
Deputy Speaker, Agribusiness Working Group