Faustina Obeng Adomaa, a PhD candidate from Wageningen University and a member in the Young African Researchers in Agriculture (YARA) network, represented the voices of youth in the panel discussion. She pointed to the broad diversity of youth and the need to prioritize adaptation of conventional practices to the changing climate realities. In general, youth have high aspirations for green jobs, wanting to acquire skills for climate-smart agriculture practices, increase market access and shift to organic food production as potential business and employment opportunities. In addition, youth want green jobs to be decent, gender-smart and with low implementation requirements. This can be ensured through an enabling environment for the rural economies with a credit and financial system that is sensitive to green investments.
Dr. Janet Edeme from the African Union Commission explained the multiple challenges the continent is facing: to build an inclusive economic transformation during a youth employment crisis, where the transformation to green jobs may destroy or displace unsustainable positions. She thus focused on the importance of a transition that also reduces inequalities and promotes social protections. To build back both from the pandemic and natural disasters, like Cyclone Idai and extensive floods and droughts, the AUC established a recovery action plan, which focuses on resilient agriculture, inclusive economic development and green jobs. Dr. Edeme concluded her remarks with the reminder that both public and private investments are needed to establish green jobs and an inclusive and resilient rural agricultural economy in Africa.
Michael Sudarkasa, the CEO of Africa Business Group called for sharing knowledge, technologies and jobs with young people in rural areas. Local markets can provide great opportunities for business development and entrepreneurship. Youth need support to aggregate their economic activities, and to increase their production to economies of scale. He emphasized the potential of dialogue platforms where investors and youth can come together based on their common interests, for example, regenerative agriculture or productive use of energy. Michael concluded by highlighting the need for intra-African trade and peer-to-peer learning.
Jane Lowicki-Zucca shared experiences from USAID, particularly from working on a white paper about green jobs. She emphasized the importance of just and inclusive pathways to green jobs, ensuring representation of rural youth, women, and other marginalized and/or underrepresented groups. She pointed to the fact that many green jobs in agriculture are simply “greener” versions of their current states, so support for transitioning to more sustainable practices is key. Summarily, Jane focused on the nexus of job quality, youth engagement, agriculture, and climate as a central opportunity for the transition to a sustainable agricultural economy.
The presentations and panel discussion offered substantial food for thought on the topic of green jobs for rural youth. The speakers described a variety of initiatives, examples and practices that can be used as reference points to explore the topic more thoroughly. A short poll underlined the high interest to dig deeper into the topics like training and re-skilling youth for green jobs, gender implications of green jobs for youth, and specific green job project examples. Overall, the experts underlined the need for a just transition to a green economy, exploring opportunities for inclusive employment for rural youth in agriculture and agri-food systems.