Dar es Salaam – Sunlit skies, animated chatter, a tapestry of over 3000 delegates from more than 70 countries, and at the center of this vibrant collage, stood Heifer International. At the Africa Food Systems Forum (AGRF) 2023, amidst an array of discussions and panels, one voice echoed with undeniable clarity: the voice of youth-powered innovation.
Amidst the tents and stalls, we met Adesuwa Ifedi, Senior Vice President of Africa Programs at Heifer International. Her energy, infectious as she speaks, tells a tale of how Heifer’s footprint in Africa, spanning nearly 50 years, has evolved with the continent’s rhythm.
Journey with Heifer: Transforming Landscapes
A stroll through their dedicated pavilion at the forum feels like walking through history. From black and white photos of their initial days in Africa, where their efforts were primarily focused on direct farmer assistance, to vibrant visuals of present-day youth employing tech-driven solutions in farms.
“It’s not just about feeding a community but empowering it to feed itself,” says Ifedi, as she points to an interactive display showcasing young African entrepreneurs championing agri-tech innovations.
AYuTe Africa Challenge: A Beacon of Aspiration
Tewodros Ayele, with his soft-spoken demeanor, serves as Heifer’s Country Director for Ethiopia. He narrates a transformative story of the AYuTe Africa Challenge. What began as a simple idea is now a beacon for young professionals channeling technology into farming. This challenge annually disperses up to $1.5 million to these ‘changemakers’ of agriculture.
Holding a tablet, Ayele shows a young woman from Kenya, an AYuTe champion, employing a new irrigation tech she developed. “It’s innovations like these,” he says, “that are not just changing how we see farming but are also ensuring we are ready for tomorrow.”
Beyond Finance: Crafting the Future of Agripreneurship
In an intimate sit-down discussion at Heifer’s tent, Ayele dives deep into the unique tapestry of support they weave around these young agripreneurs. “We’ve realized that traditional funding avenues often miss out on understanding the holistic needs of these young pioneers,” Ayele shares. They need mentorship, networks, and guidance just as much as they need capital, if not more.
Heifer’s strategy goes beyond mere funding. It’s a blend of mentorship, financial guidance, and skill enhancement. A confluence that ensures these budding entrepreneurs have all they need to succeed and, in turn, reshape Africa’s food systems.