Dryland Restoration: Africa’s Youth Unemployment Solution in Plain Sight

Helina Teklu explaining the seed balls project during the virtual event

BY RICHARD DRASIMAKU

ARUA: Thursday, June 3, 2021

“When you start restoration, you create jobs and eradicate unemployment. But only if the youths are awake and working.”

Those were the words of Helina Teklu, Ethiopia’s youth champion, co-founder of climate change Africa and seed balls project in Ethiopia.

She was addressing a youth session during the two-day Global Landscape Forum for Africa on the potential of dry-lands for youth employment.

The first ever virtual conference dedicated to specifically address degradation and restoration of Africa’s dry-lands was hosted in Bonn, Germany.

Teklu drew reference to the seed balls project that uses simple technique of mixing clay and chicken droppings to create a cover for jakaranda seeds that are thrown in degraded forests.

The clay wall protects the seed during dry season and from being eaten by birds while the chicken residue fertilizes the spot when rains fall so that the seed germinates with vigor.

With that approach the seed balls project has provided jobs to young people and promoted urban farming among women by providing vegetable seeds in seed balls cheaply.

This and other numerous innovations in various African countries, when scaled-up would get many youths engaged in re-greening the continent while earning decent living.

“Africa is a land of opportunities, just grab the one next to you,” she said.

Africa lost 3.9 million hectares of forest area every year between 2010 and 2020 compared to 3.4 million hectares between 2000 and 2010 according to the Food and Agriculture Organisation.

With the continent having almost half of the world’s dry-lands, FAO noted, restoring Africa’s dry-lands would address the urgent need to rapidly increase and improve efforts to restore the world’s dry-lands.

However the UN body indicates that Africa’s population median age is only 19.7 years which is much younger than that of other continents.

The median age figures are even lower in countries such as Uganda that stands at 16 years as per United Nations Development Programme, with more than 40 percent of it’s total land area dry-land.

It is this unique demographics which is seen as offering a significant advantage in the drive to revive the ecosystems and safeguard people’s livelihoods.

“Africa is a land of opportunities, just grab the one next to you,” Teklu told the young people.

But Desmond Alugnoa, a youth activist from Nigeria said while we need young people who have the energy to step in, it still remains the role of industries and the government’s to crate new opportunities for the youths to make their contribution.

“As government’s and as industry profile yourself and take action to halt degradation,” he said.

He proposed facilitating policies to create conducive environments for youth participation, explaining ecosystem restoration and teaching entrepreneurship skills as a starting point.

“We have young people infused in the government systems. That is where we need to penetrate to induce policy change,” Alugnoa visioned.

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