Zimbabwe: Gender Budgeting Helps Cultivate Youth Interest in Agriculture

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For Maidei Chaka (54) of Mandaza village, Mahuwe in Mbire District, “catch them young” is no longer just a phrase, but a major tool to keep her children interested in agriculture.

Many farmers are battling to keep young people interested in tiling the land and looking after livestock.

In most parts of the country, parents do not involve children in planning and managing their resources at household level.

The youth are rarely given allowances nor their share of crop harvest sales.

The result is the construction of an army of youths who hate agriculture.

“I have learnt a lot through the Spotlight Initiative about gender budget,” says Chaka. “This merely tells us to ensure everyone at household level be it children, men or women, are active participants in the budgeting process.

“When it comes to budgeting, everyone has a role to play. Our children must have a voice and also benefit from the crop harvest. This helps to keep them interested in agriculture.”

Chaka got six bales of cotton and gave one to her son to sell.

She has also given him a calf and money to buy a mobile phone and a radio.

“We were taught to never leave our youth behind through the gender budgeting training,” said Chaka. “Even when my husband and I decide to sell a cow, we have to consult my son. This makes him to feel he has a stake in our farming work.

“And, when he knows he is benefiting, he will be interested in farming.”

Says headman of Fume village in Mahuwe, Norman Mtukudzi: “ln the past, it was unheard of to involve children and women in the budgeting process. This was an area for men alone. Times are changing and we are learning that involving our children and women will help us to win together.

“As men, we are realising that our youth and women matter most in our budgeting process. Men can make mistakes and our children or women can have different view points that can help us become better and make good decisions.”

Making agriculture more attractive to young people can help create decent employment opportunities for them in rural areas and reverse perceptions and stereotypes that agriculture is hard and less attractive to venture into.

A number of young people still complain that agriculture is hard and boring, with little income.

The youth make about half of the country’s 13 million people and should play an important role in shaping and influencing the direction of the Zimbabwe’s future food security.

To address problems related to early child marriages, farmer suicides and sexual abuses in Hurungwe, Guruve, Mbire and Muzarabani a consortia comprising Caritas, the Lower Guruve Development Association and other community based organisations (CBOs) are spearheading programmes to raise awareness on the impact of GBV on women and girls.

The programmes running under the Spotlight Initiative supported through a partnership between the European Union and the United Nations are aimed at ending violence against women and girls and harmful practices.

Zimbabwe is among the 20 countries in Africa, Latin America, Asia-Pacific and the Caribbean which are participating in the four-year programme which started in 2019 and ends in June 2021 for the first phase.

The country was supported by the EU to the tune US$30 million for the first phase to help Zimbabwe meet some of its Sustainable Development Goals (SDG 3 and 5) on empowering women and girls to realise their full potential in a violent free, gender-responsive and inclusive environment.

The Spotlight Initiative has trained scores of farmers in Hurungwe, Guruve, Mbire and Muzarabani districts on gender budgeting.

This is being done to influencing local community structures to start dialogues around GBV issues and bring greater transparency and accountability in household management of crop harvest sales.

“We trained farmers on gender budgeting to help enhance transparency and accountability at household level,” says Tavirai Marega, a Lower Guruve Develop ment Association programme officer for the Spotlight Initiative.

“We realised that most of the family disputes and lack of youth interest in agriculture were due to budgeting problems at farmer households. Very few men believed that women and children have a role to play when it comes to managing domestic financial matters.

“Through this initiative men are beginning to embrace gender budgeting as a vital cog for their homes. This has reduced GBV cases and stimulated youth interest in agriculture.”

Migrating to urban areas no longer guarantees jobs and employment opportunities and increasingly many development organisation now say it is critical to mainstream youth participation in all rural development programmes.

Many youth live in rural areas where there are vast arable lands, yet they are not keen to engage in agriculture for various reasons.

It is through gender budgeting, a strategy that aims to achieve equality between women and men by focusing on how financial resources are collected and spent that more men are seeing the light.

Incorporating gender perspective at all levels of the budgetary process, planning and calculation of income and expenditures, the local community is now seeing the benefits.

This way, the local community is now promoting gender equality helping to enhance accountability and transparency at domestic level.

Marega says this has also increased gender responsive participation in the budget process for women and children helping to advance gender equality and women’s rights, as well as children’s rights.

“When you pay fees from school children crop sales proceeds, you are helping to build confidence in your children, they see no reason to get married early or to engage in child prostitution just to buy sanitary pads, shoes, clothing or a ball or mobile phone,” he says.

“These thing matter for the youth. Giving their share of benefits also protects them from other social problems.”

When the youth get benefits of agriculture, it helps to deter young people away from stereotypes associated with traditional farming.

Engaging the youth in agriculture and making them more visible in the country’s development agenda is critical.

In Zimbabwe and elsewhere across the world young people have become disenchanted with agriculture and there is a need to arrest this through programmes that encourage their participation to see agriculture as business.

With such soft skills on gender budgeting, it is possible to encourage youth participation in farming.

Agriculture offers the young generation a chance to make a difference by growing enough food to feed the Zimbabwe and the rest of the continent.

Some farmers in Hurungwe, Guruve, Mbire and Muzarabani are now supporting young people to start goat breeding and poultry rearing, as well as growing cash crops to help them see the value of agriculture in improving their lives.

Many also believe strongly that gender budgeting and supporting youth with some goat and chicken projects can lead to a reduction in gender-based violence, alcoholism and improved joint planning, sharing of household tasks and increase in the number of women in leadership positions.

Africa has the youngest population in the world, according to the United Nations.

There were 226 million people aged between 15 and 24 in 2015, about 19 percent of the global total and this figure is expected to double by 2045.

Southern Africa also has one of the highest youth unemployment rates on the continent, with 53 percent of young women and 43 percent of young men, not employed.

Making agriculture attractive to young is critical for employment creation and to spur economic and social transformation.

Development experts say Africa’s rural youth face particular barriers to accessing productive employment.

They tend to encounter challenges in accessing adequate knowledge, information and education, sufficient land, inputs, financial services and markets.

Finding innovative ways to make the agricultural value chain more attractive to youth to curtail “distress migration” as well as unlock the potential of the sector in providing decent employment and improved livelihood could be one route to help Zimbabwe attain Sustainable Development Goal 8 which calls for productive employment and decent work for all.

With adequate support and encouragement, it is possible for young people to become farmers and have the opportunity to be the generation that end world hunger and alleviate malnutrition, as well as helping the sector adapt to climate change.

Experts say there is need to reignite the love for farming by creating a conducive environment for the youth to play their part in agriculture.

In the end, perhaps the biggest step is to change youth perceptions on farming.

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