Youth and innovation: the key to food sovereignty?

Ayute Challenge
Ayute Challenge promotes farm modernization in Senegal


Innovations could transform agriculture. However, their adoption by smallholder farmers, particularly young people, remains weak. To promote agricultural innovation in Senegal, our Foundation (SFSA) and Heifer International have built a partnership around the Ayute Africa Challenge competition. The competition kicked off recently with a panel discussion on the benefits of innovation in agriculture. 

Only 23% of young Africans in the sector use any form of agricultural technology. That, at least, is what a 2021 study found, initiated by Heifer’s regional office. To improve this situation, Heifer launched the Challenge. This competition encourages innovation by rewarding technological initiatives in the agricultural sector. Its name comes from 'Agriculture, Youth, Technology'.

Agriculture in Senegal and across Africa needs the energy and creativity of young people. We recognize their enormous potential. That’s why we initiated the AYUTE Challenge Senegal. It aims to help these agri-tech innovators launch an agricultural renaissance

Dr Daouda Ndao, Heifer International’s National Director


This initiative fits perfectly with our Foundation’s efforts to bridge the gap between development of innovations and their availability for smallholders. We have therefore joined forces with Heifer for this third round of the Challenge. In January, the partners organized a panel discussion in Dakar. It discussed the question “Youth, Employment and Innovation in agriculture – the key to food sovereignty?”

Our Country Director Alassane Aw believes that scaling up successful innovations is essential for significant improvement of smallholders’ incomes and resilience. As he stressed at the opening ceremony: “Lots of innovative products, services and business models have been tested. But only a few get adopted, particularly in smallholder farming”. Alassane adds: “We want to strengthen the partnership with Heifer Senegal and other stakeholders to advance innovations towards wider dissemination and adoption”. 

Alassane took the opportunity to present our approach to agricultural technologies and their adoption. He shared results from some of the innovations we have tested. These include digitization of rice extension with RiceAdvice, the dissemination of solar pumping, and the management of agricultural equipment with Hello Tractor. Further SFSA innovations to transform agriculture involve the introduction of new seed varieties, Farmers’ Hubs (FH) and agricultural machinery centers.

Young FH agri-preneur Anne Marie Cisse sees the benefits: “Thanks to digital solutions, in particular the e-Farmers’ Hub, I can record all my transactions, train myself and make good decisions. Starting with only 200 000 FCFA (~$ 330), I now earn 1 500 000 FCFA and have created six jobs.” The expansion of technologies is a way to accelerate the modernization of agriculture and make this sector more attractive to young people.

Following the launch of Ayute Senegal, the partners will run a nationwide info campaign. The target audience are young people with innovative projects in university incubators. The campaign will climax in a Grand Final for prizes worth around 13 000 000 FCFA (> $20,000). Watch this space!