International youth day series: 3 ways of giving women and youth

Land is a factor of production and has been described just as such. While in deed it is, food insecurity is still being registered across the globe but even more within the IGAD region. As reported in the 2020 IGAD regional report on food crises; there are three countries that are worst hit including; Ethiopia (8 million), South Sudan (7 million), and the Sudan (5.9 million). In recognizing these issues, the Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy in Africa defines poverty as the inability to satisfy basic needs. The framework opines that poverty is widespread in both urban and rural settlements in Africa but, with proper management, equally distribution and secure land tenure improvement bears the answers to poverty eradication. The big question is; are the measures put in place towards building food sovereignty working? If they are working why is the situation not changing but if they are not what can be done differently?

The youth day gave some insights through my paper titled The status of land governance in the IGAD region: Perspective of women and youth and in this story, I am submitting that there are three ways through which food security can be addressed under the conference theme; “Secure land rights for youth as a key to attaining climate change and intergenerational equity.”

Figure 1. Photo Credit ILC 2022

In this paper I contend that secure land for youths can be brought to fruition if perception around the role of youth and their capacity is appreciated and not questioned. The promotion of tenure security for young people means integrating or involving them in the following three key areas that, in my opinion, stand out in the process of giving women and youth access to land. These are; Land Use Planning, Policy and Legal Framework, Green economy

  1. Land use planning

    The aspirations of the Framework and Guidelines on Land Policy in Africa and other policy and country blue prints like Vision 2030 of Kenya cannot be realized unless there’s full recognition of the importance of Land use Planning. Firstly; young people remain on the periphery in the growth and development initiatives because of lack of effective land management and this cannot be realized due to absence of plans.

    Therefore, putting land use planning at the center of growth and development by states is a recognition that it plays developing a framework for holistic growth and development in a country and poverty reduction in the society. The role of youth who inform critical mass in most African countries can make this effort more practical through easy access to and ownership of land. There are opportunities in the agroindustry that can accelerate growth and youth led investments based on technology and innovations this can only be realized based on a foundation of secure land and resource tenure rights. Such initiatives also enable promoting youth access to finance and supporting youth-led programs.

    Therefore, sustainable land use will mean investing and appreciating meaningful participation and or engagement by the youth in promoting the land use planning initiatives specially to ensure that both crop and livestock production systems enjoy the sustainability and system-based resilience for improved rural economy.

  2. Involving youth in policy discussion

    Youth hold the future of any nation. Secondly; policies define the future. It is important then that the youth are fully included and become part of thinking, processing and delivering policies. In facilitating the full realization of the role of the youth in economic development of a country, it is in the best interest of a country and or a society to tap the available social capital, energy and innovation in developing investment plans and guidelines for shaping the investment policies. There is a sense in which policies and legal frameworks in their current state do not protect adequately youth interest. This as such undermines the whole production and productivity by this generation and in turn, protection frameworks with evolving land governance systems and commodification for those who own land make it quite difficult for youth and women to access productive land.

    Policy makers therefore, should recognize that young people are diverse individuals with unique local knowledge and skills that can add positive value to decision making process and thereby consider inclusion of young people in land debate as a way of promoting youth leadership and representation in matters policy. Therefore, I believe, bridging this gap requires the Kenyan Government through the state department for youth affairs for example, to actively develop a strategy to ensure that opinion and ideas of the marginalized rural youth are considered as meaningful as adult opinion in policy discussions.

  3. Empowering youth in green jobs

    Thirdly; Promoting youth access to land can catalyze young farmers’ access to corresponding skills and knowledge, financial services, markets and green jobs. While most of the world’s food is produced by adult smallholder farmers in developing countries, they are less likely to adopt the new technologies needed to sustainably increase agricultural productivity, and ultimately feed the growing world population while protecting the environment. This therefore calls for the need to re-engage youth in green jobs as such Agro-based practices such as agroforestry, livestock keeping, building tree nursery, crop farming, among other practices, are important factors to climate change mitigation, adaptation and resilience. The use of technology in climate mitigation,including climate change modeling and prediction can easily be done by the youth innovation generation, if their governments provide them with the space and tools.

    Figure 3 rural youth in Mwea rice farm contributing to food security in Kirinyaga county-Kenya: Photo BY L. Ongesa

    I believe that supporting young people to access and own land provides them with an opportunity to participate in rural economies whereas making progress on food security, gender equality, and adaptation and mitigation to climate change. Therefore, ensuring that youth have secure land rights is like a channel on which to stake their future and invest in green spaces and farm-related productive activities. Government and development partners need to leverage on technology, skills development, as well as regional collaborations and cooperations of non-state actors to transform the entire economies. Youth are more likely than adults to lack finance, as land access, ownership and control is often an option to accessing finance. Thus, securing youth land rights can unlock their financial potential by bridging access to more than just land. Contrary to the perception that youth are not interested in farming and prefer office work for employment, a 2017 survey of 10,000 young Africans ages 18-35 living in rural areas confirmed that almost quarter of them are passionate about agriculture (Rural21, 2017). This therefore indicates there are still chances to expand youth interest in farming provided there are right incentives, thus, securing tenure for youth will be an important part of any sustainable growth and most importantly open the door to more gender and intergenerational equity. I believe that youth has much unrecognized potential on land as a resource and exploiting and recognizing this potential will not only break the poverty cycle for youth but also transform rural economies.

Blog by Laureen Ongesa: project officer at RECONCILE for the East Africa Solidarity platform project on customary tenure systems for pastoralists and indigenous communities in East Africa