YALTA Regional Summit Provides Platform for Youth in Agroecology

Netherlands Food Partnership, in collaboration with PELUM Uganda, organised the YALTA Regional Summit on October 25 and 26. Building on the outcomes of the Youth in Agroecology and Business Learning Track Africa, the summit’s theme was based on 'Accelerating youth-driven agroecological businesses for sustainable food systems'. It attracted more than 300 young agroecological entrepreneurs and agroecology and business experts from Kenya, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and Uganda gathered in person and virtually, with youth being at the center of the discussion, sharing their experiences on stage as well as during a field visit, interactive breakout groups and a market expo.

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During the past two and a half years, NFP (under the YALTA initiative) in collaboration with different partners, has supported young entrepreneurs in agroecology to improve their business opportunities and capacity to apply agroecology principles to their work. YALTA has supported the development of agroecology networks and coalitions working on issues for change. This in turn has enabled youth to feel more involved in agroecology initiatives, which has also increased the effectiveness and efficiency of youth agroecology initiatives, whilst increasing the level of attention towards youth in agroecology in research, policy agendas and education curricula. Find out more about the results of the YALTA programme in this video:

During the summit, several young entrepreneurs were given a platform to share their agroecological business experiences. Jannifer Muthike, a young agroecological entrepreneur from Kenya,explained how she ventured into a black soldier fly farming business. Jannifer began by expressing her excitement about working with mentors who guided her on agroecology as a business. Jannifer expressed her appreciation for the support provided through the YALTA initiative, noting that she had benefited from the Business accelerator Programme, whilst gaining knowledge through the mentorship programme. This improved her ability to think critically and maximise her skill sets. Jannifer wrapped up by outlining how the exchange visits/youth caravans, as well as the peer learning she engaged with, were extremely beneficial in fostering growth, improvement, and adversity.

Reflections on the importance of accelerating youth-led businesses in agroecology.

Mr. Buizer, the Agricultural Councillor of the Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands in Uganda and Rwanda, expressed his appreciation of YALTA for the great work it had been carrying out. This includes the efforts to drive change and innovation in the region, to pave a way for youth to develop more sustainable solutions to food security in the region, through the application of agroecological principles. “There is a need to develop skills especially through the youth programmes, as well as by supporting them to build networks as well as with grant applications. ” In his conclusion, Mr Buizer also urged youth to utilise the Youth Knowledge Exchange Programme, offered through the NUFFIC Netherlands Education Programmes. There are many ways to support youth through awareness EXPOs, best farmer competitions (e.g., best youth farmer of the year) upskilling programmes and platforms such as Youth Forestry Committees.

Dr. Million Belay, General Coordinator for the Alliance for Food Sovereignty in Africa, also expressed appreciation for the work delivered through the YALTA initiative. Dr. Belay informed the Summit that the type of food system needed to solve the challenges stated, is one that follows agroecology principles. With the increasing recognition of agroecology, he stressed the importance of agroecological entrepreneurship. “This is an agricultural business strategy on increasing value for society, the environment and the company or business” explained by Dr. Million.

Dr Million concluded by emphasizing the role of youth in facilitating the transition to agroecology. “Youth should learn from practice and action research, practice agroecology, whilst creating a movement around agroecology, educating others, thinking about the business side aspect, and participate in advocacy for change”.

The summit participants were subsequently challenged to identify best practices for replicating and scaling in the fields of market access, as well as the effective adoption of agroecological principles, and creation of business ecosystems conducive to the success of young entrepreneurs. Development partners, government representatives, research institutions, investors, and business development service providers from across East Africa pledged to take up these issues and address the remaining needs in order to continue supporting young agroecology entrepreneurs in the coming years.

On day two the young entrepreneurs from the region and agroecological businesses from Uganda showcased their agroecology products and services at the first Agroecological Market Systems Expo (AMASE). The event also identified barriers to existing and developing market opportunities for agroecological products and services.

In general, the young entrepreneurs from Kenya, Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Uganda, were eager to meet, connect, and learn from one another. They were advised to think outside the box and to expand their businesses in accordance with the market size. Development partners and agroecology experts are committed to continuing support entrepreneurs and collaborate in advocating for agroecology promotion in their respective countries.

A big thank you to everyone who participated in the YALTA Regional Summit 2022 including young entrepreneurs, our donor IKEA Foundation and YALTA hosting partners such as PELUM Uganda, Three Mountains Learning Advisors, Africa Agribusiness Academy Kenya and Fair and Sustainable Ethiopia. We also thank our partners that financially contributed to the regional summit including Biovision Foundation, Help a Child Rwanda, and SHONA Uganda. Their collaboration made this regional summit a success! Together we can promote agroecology and empower our youth to achieve sustainable food systems.