That youth and women are an essential component in Africa’ agricultural transformation is no longer debatable. Although they form the majority among poor, rural smallholder farmers, they hold the key to ending hunger and poverty.

In Kaduna State, Nigeria, 250 youth drawn from six Local Government Areas (LGAs) across the state recently underwent training in the safe use of crop-protection chemicals to not only support smallholder farmers against crop pests and disease but also to prepare young people for self-employment.

This is one of the interventions supported by the Partnership for Inclusive Agricultural Transformation (PIATA), a program involving AGRA, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Rockefeller Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to stimulate agricultural development by linking them to agribusiness opportunities that ignite the spark for job creation, food security, sustainable livelihoods, economic advancement and poverty reduction for 30 million smallholder African farm households.

The $280 million PIATA program is stimulating agricultural development in 11 African countries, including Nigeria, by advocating for increased linkages between smallholder farmers and agribusiness to create economic opportunity. It further embodies the principles of the 2014 Malabo Declaration on Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation for Shared Prosperity and Improved Livelihoods where the African Union (AU) pledged to end hunger by 2025. PIATA also corresponds to the AU’s national economic strategy, ensuring seamless implementation of the initiative.

The critical link in these efforts are investments in improved seeds, machinery, technologies, knowledge and training that increases productivity and opens up access to markets. For the newly trained youth in Kaduna State, intervention has led to an immediate windfall for them.  Although 45 of the youth trainees received spray-kits and other equipment to start them off, farmer groups in Kaura LGA purchased additional spraying kits, creating a demand for spray-agents across several LGAs guaranteeing the youthful entrepreneurs of an assured livelihood as they work with local farmers to ensure their crops are well protected, at the same time securing human and environmental health. They have also been linked to agro-dealers and village level stockists for business partnerships.

At this point in time, the lessons generated from PIATA are that the technologies, practices and policies necessary for the required transformation are known and ready to be taken to scale. To complement the moment, is the broad sustained economic growth being experienced across the continent that has led to significant increases in public and private investments with firm commitments from African leaders to take ownership of their own national agricultural plans for broader economic growth.

PAITA’s strategic objectives for an inclusive agricultural transformation include increased staple crop productivity as well as strengthening and expanding access to national and regional markets for smallholder farmers. In increasing the capacity of smallholder farming households and agricultural systems to be better prepared and adapt to shocks and stresses, some outcomes are inevitable such as the importance of strengthening the policy environment for public-private partnerships and increasing youth and women’s empowerment.  All these efforts call for strengthened multi-sectoral coordination at the continental, regional and national levels that support mutual accountability in the agricultural sector.