Like many young people in Sankuru province, in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Paul Tshisapa was struggling to find a decent job. Difficult access to markets, poor state of rural roads and limited access to resources (especially land) discourage young people from engaging in agricultural production activities.
“After my studies at the Higher Institute of Agronomic Studies in Mukumari (ISEA), I could not find a job in the agriculture sector”, says Paul, a young graduate from Tshula Otenga village, in the Lomela territory.
The majority of young people in the village work in the informal sector. They generally receive little income, and are employed on a casual or seasonal basis. This precarious situation pushes many of them to migrate to surrounding cities. “In order to feed my family, I opened fish ponds and cassava fields. I even thought of going to Mbuji-Mayi to work as a digger in the diamond mines”.
Increased production through farmer field schools (FFS)
Paul’s life has now changed. He works as an FFS facilitator as part of the project called “Actions of Food Security, Information, Nutrition and Environment in Sankuru (Actions SAINES)”. Funded by the European Union, the project targets a total of 6 000 households (36 000 people). The idea is to reduce the food insecurity and malnutrition of children under five, and pregnant and lactating women in Lomela in a sustainable and structural way.
To facilitate the monitoring of projects in the field, FAO has partnered with ISEA in Mukumari. This collaboration allowed for the recruitment of 50 young graduates who assist smallholder farmers under the supervision of FAO experts together with agents form the Territorial Inspectorate of Agriculture, Fisheries and Livestock.
“I was selected as an FFS facilitator. We teach smallholder farmers how to identify good crops. They were used to only planting local varieties, which dramatically lowered yields”, explains Paul. “Thanks to the introduction by FAO of improved varieties, crops are more resistant to plant diseases”, he added.
FFS is a learning method for farmers’ groups that takes place in fields during growing seasons. It provides a platform for exchanging experiences and expertise by helping farmers to learn by doing, providing them with the tools needed to analyse their practices and to identify solutions to their problems.
Paul explains that he and the other farmers have learned many new things from FAO and its partners, for example, working together and respecting seed sowing to increase production. “People used to sow in bulk. Now they have learned to adopt good farming practices”.
A varied and balanced diet
Paul and other community members also received training from FAO on good nutritional practices. Through cooking demonstrations, households are encouraged to use a wide variety of local products to prepare meals rich in micronutrients. “In addition to rice with cassava leaves ̶ the staple of the region ̶ the main meals should include pulses and lots of fruits and vegetables”, explains Paul.
He now has an income that supports his family. He can afford basic care for his children and begin building his house. Today, Paul is proud to provide his household with a balanced diet of rice, flour, cowpea and vegetables.
Investing in youth
According to FAO, youth employment in agriculture is a strong solution to contribute to ending hunger and poverty in Africa. The mobilization of African youth is essential in order to achieve sustainable development, which is possible by creating more job opportunities in the agriculture sector to maximize this potential.