Scoring Goals for Young African Farmers – Divine Ntiokam's Story

Scoring Goals for Young African Farmers – Divine Ntiokam's Story

Scoring Goals for Young African Farmers – Divine Ntiokam's Story

By / Leaders / Saturday, 24 November 2018 01:02

The scream could be heard on the other side of the pitch. It was louder than the screams of the other boys who had joined Divine in celebrating the goal he had just scored. The boisterous boys were all students of the Government Bilingual Primary School Biyem-Assi in Yaoundé, Cameroon’s Capital. This is one of the primary schools that Divine Ntiokam attended before proceeding to secondary school and thereafter higher education at the University of Buea. This is the only English-speaking university in the Central Africa region.

At about this period when Divine was burning the midnight oil at university studying for exams, a British man in his mid-fifties was working as Senior UN System Coordinator for Avian and Human Influenza. At the time, Avian Flu was wreaking havoc in the world. Scary headlines were blaring from newspapers. Although poultry was the ground zero of the outbreak, jobs were being lost as the economy took a hit from the destabilization of the poultry industry.  Working diligently from the eye of this storm was Dr. David Nabarro, the British man in his mid-fifties.

He stepped out of this particular storm straight into three others.David NabarroDr. David Nabarro, Photo Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Between 2008 and 2014, he served as Coordinator of the High-Level Task Force on Global Food Security (HLTF). Along a similar vein, he served as Coordinator of the Movement to Scale up Nutrition from 2010 to 2015.

In 2009, he was also appointed as Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Food Security and Nutrition, a role that he is still serving in. His most recent appointment in 2016 was as Special Adviser to the United Nations Secretary General on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Climate Change.

Given this experience, it is no wonder that when Divine Ntiokam is asked who his role model is, he answers without hesitation, “Dr. David Nabarro.”

In 2010, a historic paper was presented at the Hague Conference on Agriculture, Food Security and Climate Change. This Paper set in motion events that led to the paths of Divine and Dr. Nabarro crossing.

Many papers are presented, applauded and buried. But this one refused to follow that route. Known as ‘Climate-Smart Agriculture: Policies, Practices and Financing for Food Security, Adaptation and Mitigation,’ this paper essentially birthed the Climate Smart Agriculture concept and movement. This is something that the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), the author of the paper should be proud of! While many of the principles they espoused in the paper were already in existence, especially in traditional Africa and indigenous communities globally, FAO did play a critical role in articulating and coalescing these principles.

In 2014, four years after this epic paper was presented, Dr. Nabarro was playing a role in steering discussions around Climate Smart Agriculture. Some of these discussions were part of a webinar that Divine attended. Through this webinar and subsequent interactions with the Climate Smart Agriculture stakeholders, he realized that youth were not represented in the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture. This led him to birth the Climate Smart Agriculture Youth Network (CSAYN).

Working closely with Divine in these formative stages of CSAYN were three dedicated young men: Samuel Ayvivite from Togo, Andre Molirio from DRC and Eje from Nigeria. Considering that in most African countries, the agricultural sector employs an average of 54 percent of the working population, these four young Africans definitely knew friends and family members who depended on agriculture for their livelihoods. Their mission to roll out climate smart agriculture amongst youth was therefore both personal and professional. Through their unwavering efforts and those of other young agricultural leaders across the continent, CSAYN has since spread out to thirty African countries.

Since the founding of CSAYN, Divine has been to many meetings around the world to dig deeper not just into climate smart agriculture, but into sustainability as a whole.

Does he think that money spent on his travel could be better spent on actual agricultural activities on the ground?

“Meetings are important to ensure experience sharing but most importantly, all declarations or meeting outcomes should be implemented. In other words, all declarations should be transformed into concrete actions towards addressing the needs of the communities.”

I definitely agree that if you are an African and are not in the kitchen participating in cooking the meal, only pasta will be served on the table and not ugali, sadza or fufu. The problem however is that millions of dollars are spent on meetings with very little spent on implementing outcomes of those meetings. As the Managing Director of CSAYN, Divine is keen on ensuring that resolutions of the meetings he attends will end up assisting young African farmers to engage in climate smart agriculture.

In 2011 when the 17th Conference of Parties (COP 17) was held in Durban South Africa, there was a lot of optimism in the air. It was the second time in five years the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Chane was converging in Africa. There was a lot more excitement than had been the case during COP 12 in Nairobi. Many people were hopeful that this time, there would be a major breakthrough and Durban would be remembered as a critical turning point for the climate change discourse. Divine was right in the thick of things at Durban. He facilitated the UN Youth Booth which enabled him to meet dozens of young climate activists that were part of over 12,480 participants who attended the Conference.

The dozens of official meetings that were held during the Durban conference resulted in the adoption of 19 COP decisions and 17 CMP decisions.

“To what extent did these decisions result in actual and lasting change in African communities?”

Divine posed this question five years later in Marrakech, Morocco when he attended the 22nd Conference of Parties (COP 22). Coming right after the historic COP 21 that had been held in Paris, Divine understood that the world now had a chance to turn the Paris Agreement into a detailed blueprint for action. This spoke to the fact that tackling climate change and its accompanying effects was a journey, not a singular destination.

But even before that detailed blueprint could emerge, the Marrakech Conference suffered a huge blow when Donald Trump was elected President of US during the Conference. All through the campaigns, he had made his opposition to the Paris Agreement very clear. Divine was so disappointed that when he was later asked what he would say to Donald Trump if he happened to bump into him somewhere, his answer was brief, “nothing at all.” What do you say to a man who went on to announce six months later on 1 June, 2017, that the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Agreement and immediately cease implementing the agreement including implementing the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and financial contributions?

For Divine, USA’s withdrawal meant that the young African farmers he represented would suffer since climate smart agriculture doesn’t come cheap. But despite this huge blow, the young Cameroonian remained undeterred. What kept him going were young farmers like Michael from Ghana, a Bee farmer who spends long days educating youth on the profitability of bee farming due to some of the derivatives that are used for cosmetics.

Whenever he thinks of Michael and the thousands of young farmers who are now stakeholders of the Climate Smart Agriculture Youth Network, Divine soldiers on irrespective of the hurdles. He will attend every meeting that he can so that these young farmers can have a seat at the table. But even as he does that, he is committed to do his best so that these young farmers can increasingly feel the positive effects of meetings decisions.

You can reach Divine Ntiokam on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. www.csayn.org

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DJ Bwakali

DJ Bwakali

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