Mogadishu – The United Nations in Somalia in partnership with FAO Somalia, held a joint virtual event to mark this year’s International Youth Day. The event was attended by participants from across government, UN agencies, civil society, private sector, and the media. The event created a platform for meaningful engagement with youth, agripreneurs and key stakeholders, to share innovative ideas on how to transform food systems in Somalia and focused on empowering young people with the necessary information to thrive in the agriculture and agribusiness sector.
Aligning with this year’s theme “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health”, the virtual event highlighted how youth need to be at the centre of food system transformation through an inclusive approach. This focus on food systems transformation reflects the systemic changes required to eradicate poverty and inequalities, sustaining biodiversity and boost economies by creating employment opportunities for the youth. ‘We need to create better food systems that meet the food and nutrition needs for all, while withstanding covariate shocks. Food systems must be inclusive and economically sustainable to have higher positive impacts,” said Said Hussein Iid, Minister of Agriculture and Irrigation of the Federal Government of Somalia.
The backbone of the economy
According to the African Development Bank (AfDB) report, Africa has 420 million young people aged between 15 to 35 and every year there is an influx of 10 to 15 million young people joining the job market. In Somalia, young people make up over 75 per cent of the population and there is a need to harness this growing workforce for it to contribute to the Somali economy. “This year’s International Youth Day couldn’t have come at a better time as most of the population in Somalia is dependent on agriculture for their livelihood. Therefore, a dialogue on how to invest and empower Somali youth in agribusiness is crucial as they are the backbone of our economy,” said Hamza Said Hamza, the Minister of Youth and Sports of the Federal Government of Somalia.
Today’s youth have the capability to amplify the restoration of lives and livelihoods, while integrating biodiversity in the transformation of food systems, but only with considerable investment in skills and access to agri-business opportunities. “The benefits of this generation of youth will greatly depend on how well they are prepared for doing business, accessing employment and generating income from their livelihoods, especially in this digital economy,” said Cesar Arroyo, acting Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator & WFP Representative in Somalia.
A greater urgency
Avenues for youth to obtain an education, gainful employment, as well have opportunities to engage politically, economically, or socially remain limited. Despite these challenges, young Somalis are already contributing to the resilience of their communities, proposing and adopting innovative digital solutions, and driving social progress in urban as well as rural contexts.
“Now, more than ever, there is greater urgency to work with the youth, Government and other stakeholders, in ensuring sustainable, youth-centric, socio-economic livelihoods and promote their empowerment whilst transforming food systems in Somalia,” said FAO Representative Etienne Peterschmitt. The Representative also noted that the COVID-19 global pandemic has further widened the divide between youth and development and jeopardizes progress made in food systems.
The webinar featured a recital by Somali youth poet and activist Suhayra Sahal, as well as contributions from
UN Youth Advisory Board members, Kheyriya Mohamed Abdirahman Sabrie and other members. The Youth Advisory Board members led break out discussions in the thematic areas of ‘Youth and Digital Revolution in Agri-business in Somalia and ‘Opportunities for youth in Agri-Food Systems and livelihoods in Somalia’.
Name: Will Swanson
Title: Communication Specialist
Office: FAO Somalia
Phone: (+252) 61 351 7689 Country Twitter Handle: @FAOSomalia
Name: Abdilatif Adan
Title: Development Coordination Officer
Office: Integrated Office of the DSRSG/RC/HC
Phone: +252 614 125028
Country Twitter Handle: @UNinSomalia