Youth as Champions of Plant Health through Safe Trade and Digital Innovations in Africa

As we celebrate the International Day for Plant Health, it is important to recognize the role that youth can play in ensuring plant health, promoting safe trade, and leveraging digital technology. Young people are the current and future of agriculture, and their involvement in innovative and sustainable practices is essential for addressing food systems challenges and creating green jobs. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) stands out as a key strategy in this endeavour, offering a holistic approach to pest control that minimizes pesticide use, promotes biodiversity, and ensures human health.

Plants are the backbone of our ecosystem, providing oxygen, food, and raw materials. Yet, over 35 percent of food crops are lost annually due to pests and diseases, significantly impacting food and nutritional security. Climate change and human activities facilitate these challenges, altering ecosystems and creating new niches for pests. Maintaining plant health is thus essential for life on earth and for the economic stability of regions like Africa, where agriculture is a critical livelihood source.

The traditional over reliance on pesticides for pest control poses severe health risks and environmental challenges, including the emergence of pesticide-resistant pests. Integrated Pest Management (IPM) offers a sustainable alternative. IPM integrates various pest control methods, emphasizing natural predators, biological control agents, and environmentally friendly practices. This approach not only reduces the need for chemical pesticides but also enhances ecosystem services such as pollination and soil fertility.

Youth can be at the forefront of adopting and promoting IPM practices. Through education and capacity-building programs, young farmers can gain the knowledge and skills needed to implement IPM effectively. Organizations like AGRA, in partnership with public and private entities, are leading the way in providing resources and support for sustainable plant health practices. For instance, in Kenya, AGRA is facilitating capacity-building programs that help farmers practice IPM through regenerative agriculture and sustainable land management.

Digital technology plays a key role in this transformation. Mobile apps, online platforms, and digital extension services can provide real-time information on IPM practices, pest identification, and management strategies. By integrating digital solutions, young farmers can access up-to-date knowledge and tools to manage plant health more effectively. The Village Based Advisor (VBA) model, which reduces the farmer-to-extension worker ratio and is supplemented by digital solutions, is a prime example of how technology can enhance the reach and impact of IPM programs.

The adoption of IPM and digital technology in agriculture presents significant opportunities for creating green jobs, especially for youth. The production of biological control agents, the provision of extension services, and the implementation of sustainable farming practices can generate employment in Africa’s food systems sectors. These jobs not only contribute to economic growth but also promote environmental sustainability.

Safe trade is another important aspect of plant health. Ensuring that agricultural products are free from pests and diseases is essential for maintaining market access and trade relationships. Young people, equipped with knowledge of IPM and digital tools, can play a key role in monitoring and ensuring the health of crops, thereby supporting safe trade practices.

On this International Day for Plant Health, we must recognize the important role of youth in promoting plant health, safe trade, and digital innovation. By investing in education, capacity-building, giving them the tools and digital technologies, we can empower young farmers to adopt sustainable practices that enhance food security and create green jobs. The collaboration of public and private entities is important in providing the necessary resources and support.

As we look to the future, let us harness the potential of our youth to champion plant health, drive sustainable agricultural practices, and build resilient food systems. Together, we can achieve a healthier, more sustainable, and prosperous future for all.

By Jeremiah Rogito, Ag Partnerships Officer Generation Africa

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