This year’s International Youth Day theme which focuses on the role of the global young population in food security is brilliant since it will awaken our consciousness on the importance of their creativity in feeding the world.
Although the youth have performed impressively in many other aspects of our lives, the same cannot be said of food security.
This is particularly so in developing countries where traditional techniques of farming continue to rule despite burgeoning populations that are increasingly facing hunger threat and require new ways of tackling food shortage challenges.
Apart from creativity, their sheer size is another great advantage. Today, the world has 1.2 billion people aged between 15 and 24 years, the largest youth generation in history.
A whopping 19 per cent of them are in Africa, one of the most food insecure regions in the world. This population is expected to double by 2030.
If well used, this huge number can have a significant impact because of its energy as we gradually transition to modern techniques of farming based on their skills, attitudes and aspirations.
The theme of this year’s International Youth Day, “Transforming Food Systems: Youth, Innovation for Human and Planetary Health” signifies and rightly recognizes that the success of global food security can only be achieved by meaningful participation of young people.
This day, that is commemorated on August 12th, came into being in 2000 and has provided the world a pivotal platform of ventilating and confronting its challenges.
As the UN Secretary-General António Guterres once remarked, “Realizing the promise of this generation means investing far more in young people’s inclusion, participation, organisations and initiatives.”
In Kenya, it is important to focus on the exceptional talent and potential of youth by recalibrating our efforts to scale up the country’s youth capacity by mainstreaming their role in all the policies we make.
This will give the country an opportunity to tap the youth reservoir of energy, creativity, boldness and innovation- making them our most valuable resource.
But they must first be provided the foundational structure – the right education, skills and opportunities to engage in economic activities.
The Covid-19 pandemic, which came with a great need for innovation, taught us that we have a highly creative youthful population that can turn around our economy.
Youth in Kenya were able to develop, in record speed, a range of items from simple but practical interventions such as setting up hand washing stations to complex and path breaking innovations, such as manufacturing hospital beds and homegrown ventilators to help treat patients affected by the Coronavirus.
It is also encouraging to see young people leading the way in the fight against the disease, and stepping up to help their communities.
It is good that they have finally realised that the future depends on them.
The writer is a Public Policy Analyst