From Africa to Brazil and back: empowering youth through South-South learning exchange

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From Africa to Brazil and back: empowering youth through South-South learning exchange

They are young, passionate about agriculture and dedicated to small rural businesses in their countries. These seven women and men are beneficiaries of IFAD projects in Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria and Ivory Coast, and have recently participated in a one-week learning exchange programme in Brazil focused on climate resilient post-harvest management of cassava.

“The techniques that I have learned in Brazil will be so innovative in my home area that I will even hire employees to expand my business,” says Felicité Bedzigui, a 27-year-old participant who runs a cassava processing initiative in Cameroon. During the training in Brazil, she was so inspired seeing the production of snacks made of cassava (beiju and chips) that now she plans to start making them in her home village.

Felicité’s motivation to replicate the knowledge acquired in Brazil is good for her community in different ways. It encourages innovation through the introduction of new agricultural techniques. Local jobs are created, It promotes climate change adaptation by stimulating the use of climate resilient agricultural products and improving cassava processing practices. All these positive results contribute to making agriculture more attractive to rural youth

Funded by the second phase of IFAD's Adaptation for Smallholder Agriculture Programme (ASAP II), the exchange programme was held in November 2018 in partnership with the Brazil Africa Institute (IBRAF) and the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation (EMBRAPA). It was designed for young African agripreneurs who can contribute to a climate resilient rural transformation in their home countries.

"They come from countries where climate change has significantly impacted on agricultural production and the livelihoods of rural families, prompting many young people to leave the countryside in search of a better life in urban areas. We want to reverse this trend by empowering young people from rural areas with knowledge and skills to make agriculture more sustainable and a more attractive market for the new generations," stresses Amath Pathe Sene, IFAD’s environment and climate specialist for West and Central Africa.

The participants visited cassava processing units and farming cooperatives in different municipalities in Brazil's Bahia state. All activities were planned and coordinated by Joselito Motta, a charismatic 71-year-old agricultural engineer with impressive skills and knowledge about cassava manufacturing. To the youth, he speaks enthusiastically: "It would be a shame to keep this knowledge to myself. I am really pleased to share it with them".

Cassava, South-South exchanges and how much Brazil and Africa share

Cassava is a symbol of the historical ties between the two sides of the South Atlantic. The plant was brought from Brazil to Africa over the centuries by Portuguese navigators. Today both benefit from this nutritious vegetable which grows well in tropical areas and is pretty resilient to climate change, and cassava farmers from these nations have a lot to learn and share.

November's youth training programme in Brazil is in in the spirit of South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTC), acknowledging how natural exchanges are between peoples from different parts of the so-called Global South. "Our goal is to make them learn from Brazilian expertise and returning to their countries of origin to replicate the acquired knowledge," explains João Bosco Monte, president of IBRAF and a leading promoter of Brazil-Africa relations.

All training activities took place in Bahia, a state with a large semi-arid landscape and the most African descendant population in Brazil. The baianos (people from Bahia) are deeply connected to their African roots through several habits and practices, including religious syncretism, colourful dress, percussion-based music and capoeira dance.

"People in Bahia are very hearty and welcoming. When they noticed we were Africans, they got very interested in meeting us and talking with us to exchange ideas and discover African cultures", said Biam Diaby, a participant from Ivory Coast. "I am happy to see how much Brazil and Africa share in terms of history and culture".

After the workshop, participants attended the Sixth Brazil Africa Forum, held in Bahia's capital Salvador. Organized by IBRAF, the two-day event focused on youth empowerment, with conferences and panels on the wide range of Brazil–Africa ties.

“We had a very educative experience learning useful techniques and meeting interesting people in Brazil”, says Clement Ati, a 23-year-old participant who now wants to implement starch extraction techniques learnt in Bahia into his small business in Ghana. “It was an experience of a lifetime”.