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THE 2015 African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Lusaka ended with a firm call to action and clear sense of the concrete solutions putting women and youth at the forefront of African agribusiness.

This comes after a week of intense and productive deliberations involving 600 delegates from African countries and around the world.

There was a strong consensus at the AGRF 2015 that agriculture will not fulfill its potential to create a new era of economic prosperity across the continent unless officials in the public and private sector focus on increasing participation of women and youth.

A communiqué delivered at the end of the meeting noted that women are “the backbone of African agriculture” and warned that “Africa’s very survival depends on attracting young people to the agriculture sector’’.

Agriculture Minister Given Lubinda told delegates that Zambia’s way of “walking the talk” on women and youth involvement was to ensure they would get a large portion of the one million hectares of land the Government was opening up for agriculture development.

Mr Lubinda said the programme already called for at least 30 percent of the land to be made available to women farmers, but that officials were considering increasing that percentage.

And Vice President Inonge Wina said Zambia was working to open up more land to women and youths as part of an aggressive effort to attract significant new investment in agriculture.

“For us in Zambia, involving women and youth is a key development pillar that we treat seriously,” she said.

Meanwhile, AGRA President Dr Agnes Kalibata said Africa’s biggest challenges was its fight to achieve food security and its urgent need to find employment for its young people who she said  could be transformed into its biggest assets.

Dr Kalibata said in many ways Africa was in an enviable situation, adding that youths under 25 years of age now account for 65 percent of the African population.

“We grew up with smallholder farmers. We went to school because our families farmed. We had food on our tables because our families farmed. That’s why we are very passionate about giving back. They worked so hard to get us here and because we grew up seeing what they were lacking, we are working to make sure that we close the gap,” she said.

AGRA’s board chairperson Strive Masiyiwa said Africa’s youth were the energy of the world, but that they were not just going to go out and work the land for nothing.

Mr Masiyiwa said women and youth faced significant barriers obtaining the finance, inputs, land and machinery required to take advantage of the business opportunities in Africa’s fast-growing domestic food market.

“They want markets. And by 2030, the market for food on the African continent will be one trillion US dollars,” he said.

And COMESA secretary general Sindiso Ngwenya implored participants to develop approaches for increasing access to finance and to lucrative markets that would enable youth and women to engage in agriculture as a business enterprise.