The 2023 annual conference of the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU) held in Polokwane, Limpopo, witnessed an engaging panel discussion on investible opportunities for young agripreneurs in climate action.
Bringing together a diverse range of participants, including representatives from farmers’ organisations, commercial banks, development financing institutions, and agricultural experts, the discussion shed light on the crucial role of the youth in driving sustainable agricultural practices and addressing climate change.
Ishmael Sunga, CEO of SACAU, carefully selected panel members to ensure a comprehensive representation of different perspectives and expertise. “The panel that we see here has been selected carefully to try and get perspectives from the farmers’ organisations, from the commercial bank, from the development financing, from policy, and many other perspectives,” Sunga explained.
Importance of facilitation and support
Puxley Rasekgala, Standard Bank’s head of agriculture in Limpopo, emphasised the availability of ideas to combat climate change but pointed out the need for facilitation and support.
“The ideas in terms of climate change, are available and in abundance. But then, by the look of things, the main thing that is required is actually facilitation, in terms of support, especially for finance, to make this happen,” Rasekgala stated.
He further highlighted the evolving role of commercial banks, noting that they are no longer solely focused on making profits but are also expected to contribute to environmentally friendly initiatives.
Youth representation and involvement
Dr Paul Zakariya, director of the Zimbabwe Farmers Union, expressed his concerns regarding the representation and involvement of the younger generation in climate change mitigation efforts.
Referring to a weight chart representing population distribution, he voiced his apprehension, saying, The weight was flat at the very fat at the base, and that’s where most of the young ones were. And then as I was going up looking for that figure, which represents where I am, I got scared.”
Zakariya’s remark underlined the urgency of engaging young agripreneurs in climate action and ensuring their active participation.
High vs low-technology
Jennifer Chow, senior director of climate-resilient food systems at the Environmental Defense Fund, drew attention to the intersection of high-tech and low-tech approaches in agriculture.
“I think the young presenters and the kinds of conversations we’ve had today have given examples of how we’re using technology and the kind of promise agriculture holds for the future. This sums up my struggle, what we’re being inundated with at Environmental Defense Fund, which is this balance between sort of high-tech technology and low-tech technology,” Chow shared.
She emphasised the importance of preserving traditional practices and incorporating them alongside modern advancements to achieve sustainable agricultural development while mitigating climate risks.
Volker Klima, a German agricultural economist, expressed his admiration for the dynamism observed in the African agricultural sector. Acknowledging the transfer of knowledge traditionally flowing from the north to the south, Klima underscored the need for a two-way exchange.
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