South African delegate, Ms Kate Bilankulu, has put forward a series of proposals aimed at accelerating the implementation of the Malabo Declaration, fostering youth engagement in agriculture, and integrating youth parliaments into the agricultural development strategy of the Southern African Development Community (SADC). Ms Bilankulu presented her ideas during the opening symposium of the SADC PF 53rd Plenary Assembly held in Arusha, Tanzania.
Themed “Modernizing Agriculture to Address Food Insecurity and Youth Unemployment in the SADC Region: Role of the Parliaments,” the five-day assembly aims to discuss the vital role of agriculture in combating food insecurity and unemployment while exploring avenues for youth participation in the sector.
In her address, Ms Bilankulu emphasized the untapped potential of the agriculture sector as a source of employment for the youth. She urged SADC member parliaments to invest in the development of youth capacities by providing training, education, mentorship opportunities, and access to new technologies. Ms Bilankulu highlighted the diverse career opportunities available beyond farming, such as macroeconomists, soil scientists, plant production specialists, agricultural scientists, and food technologists.
To ensure progress and accountability, Ms Bilankulu proposed that all SADC member parliaments engage their national ministries of agriculture to assess the implementation of commitments made under the Malabo Declaration. She stressed the importance of oversight by parliamentarians to monitor the progress made by national ministries.
Additionally, Ms Bilankulu called for the establishment of consistent platforms focused on youth and agriculture within the SADC PF. These platforms would facilitate sustained interaction between young people and parliamentarians, allowing them to share experiences, learn about current agricultural support programs, and explore diverse career opportunities in agriculture.
Lastly, Ms Bilankulu encouraged the mainstreaming of youth and agriculture in national youth parliaments as engagement platforms for discussions on agriculture, exchange of experiences, learning about support programs, and building networks and partnerships within the sector.
The proposals put forth by Ms Bilankulu align with the objectives of the 53rd Plenary Assembly, which seeks to address food insecurity and poverty reduction through the growth and modernization of the agricultural sector—the backbone of many African economies. The assembly’s agenda includes the swearing-in of new members, country reports on the progress of previous decisions, discussions on financial and policy matters, and reports from standing committees and the regional Women’s Parliamentary Caucus.
Leading the South African parliamentary delegation is the National Assembly Speaker, Ms Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula. In her address to the Plenary, she will provide updates on the implementation of decisions made during the 52nd Plenary Assembly held in December 2022 in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo. The delegation also includes Mr Seiso Mohai, Mr Desmond Moela, Mr Darren Bergman, and Mr Xolile George, the Secretary to Parliament.
The SADC PF Plenary Assembly, held twice a year, serves as the policy-making and deliberative body of the SADC Parliamentary Forum. Composed of Speakers and elected representatives from each national parliament, the assembly plays a crucial role in shaping the region’s agricultural development strategies.
With Ms Bilankulu’s proposals centered on youth engagement and agricultural development, it is hoped that the SADC member parliaments will embrace these ideas and work towards harnessing the potential of the youth in modernizing the agricultural sector. By empowering young people with the necessary skills and resources, the SADC region can address food insecurity, reduce unemployment, and create a sustainable future for its citizens.