By Muvengwanehama Vatogwavachindida
Young farmers in Zimbabwe have been called upon to harness the power of technology to enhance their farming enterprises.
The call was made by UNDP Country Director, Georges Van Montfort at a Zimbabwe Farmers Union, ZFU, young farmers  ‘Agripreneurship summit in Harare.
“With the development of ICTs has come easy access to information as well as new and improved means of production which is key in an increasingly competitive market.”
He said there were many technological options that young farmers could use to their benefit.
“The digital age in which we live has introduced many tools and apps, which have become a key input for business.
“The almost natural and quick adoption of such tools by the youth present immense opportunities for efficiency gains and cost savings.”
UNDP and ZFU are in a partnership to support livelihoods capacities using training, financial inclusion, market access interventions, and locally available endowments.
More than 30 000 youths  countrywide are members of the ZFU young farmers initiative.
Precisely the partnership includes:
  1.  Technical training, including production and value addition
  2.  Market access
  3.  Provision of value addition equipment
  4.  Financial inclusion and the building  of a savings culture
  5. Seed capital to enable the youth to set up meaningful farming enterprise

“In addition, through project interventions, young farmers  are able to access real time farming and business support through ‘Agritalks’, which enable them to make critical decisions in their farming enterprises.

“The Agritalks forum provides young farmers with access to sector  experts in all areas of the farming enterprise, from research and inputs, to financial management for farming income,” said Van Montfort.

Value Chain

Value chain development was very important, he added.
“Value chain development for instance, would provide the backward  and forward linkages which allow people to graduate  from subsistence farming towards more  sustainable income.
“This needs to be complemented by access to finance, knowledge and resources.”
The UNDP head applauded the young farmers saying: “Youth and agriculture is not always an easy relationship. And indeed, many countries struggle to get youth involved in agriculture.”
Sustained  youth support in agriculture  will make a significant contribution  to not only the economy, but to sustainable development since agriculture is the backbone of Zimbabwe’s economy, he said.
“Agricultural enterprise  becomes all the more important  when we consider the fact that the formal sector  is unable to meet the employment needs  of a growing youth population across the African continent.
“Thus entrepreneurship is not only an alternative source of income, but a livelihood necessity for many young people- including in Zimbabwe.”
Van Montfort said the  youth were a source of energy and innovation and Africa’s youth  were increasingly using innovation to solve some of the most pressing development challenges.
He revealed that their sister agency, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, FAO, was implementing the ‘Small holder irrigation development Programme’ in 34 irrigation schemes.
The programme is focused on five key result areas, including the promotion of Agribusinesses development.
This includes training and capacity building in the area  of ‘Farming as a Business’, and it is done through supporting commercial crop production, linking farmers to financial markets and promoting value addition initiatives.
Under the Livelihoods and Food Security Programme, FAO is also implementing a three pronged approach, combining provision of technical assistance, credit lines and a risk sharing mechanism to ensure the inclusion of small holder farmers in the financial value chain.
This is done in partnership with banks and microfinance institutions who are providing a wide range of financial services which include credit, savings and insurance.
Over 18 000 farmers have so far benefited from these interventions, said Van Montfort.