The world today is confronted by grand global challenges, with food security prime among them. Today millions, and very close to a billion, people are food insecure. In 2050 how will we feed 9+ billion people? This makes the notion that amidst the global food insecurity challenges, there is an enormous opportunity within the food and agriculture industry.

As a Thought For Food Global Ambassador from Zimbabwe, I was pondering this monumental challenge throughout my one-month training program in Business and Entrepreneurship Development at the Young African Leaders Initiative (YALI) in South Africa. I was selected to be one of 134 young leaders representing Africa, chosen from thousands of applicants who applied to the cohort. My friend Kennedy Nyavaya helped me tell my story, which you can read below.

Ngonidzashe Kativu’s Experience at YALI

Edited by Kennedy Nyavaya

A problem solver in his own right and capacity, Ngonidzashe joined one-hundred and thirty-three other leaders from across fourteen countries in the South African region for a month of intensive experiential business and entrepreneurship learning. It was during this month that his capacity would both be challenged and tested. Presented by real-world socio-economic problems, the TFF Ambassador says the learning experience was the best he has had this entire year of 2017:

“I have been enrolled in many different learning programs, but the YALI Regional Leadership Center in South Africa takes the learning experience to a whole new, higher level. The space allows you to challenge both yourself and also the challenges affecting society. Coming from an agricultural economy, I have made it one of my lifelong priorities to ensure that agriculture serves to drive sustainable socio-economic development, thus ensuring food secure societies in the process.”

Hands Held High: Kativu (Centre) raising his hand to engage with facilitators at the YALI Regional Leadership Center in South Africa during the first cross-cutting week focal on sustainable development.

When Kativu joined TFF as a participant, he contested his idea, Agri-YouthVest Africa. For reasons understating limited resources, he never made a final submission of his idea. Yet it didn’t stop or deter him from developing his vision further. Today, though still confronted by economic challenges of operating in an informal economy, the Ambassador continues to develop the entity Agri-YouthVest Africa.

Through projects and solutions tailored specifically to challenges within the agricultural economy, Kativu continues to make a difference at home in Zimbabwe and in Africa at large. He operates as an independent researcher and consultant in the agricultural development space and depending on the size of the projects, he works with four other consulting fellows making his team of five. One of his projects is currently using low cost communication means and unconventional learning platforms to bring education to underprivileged and marginalized young people across Africa.

“Did you know that social media, perhaps the cheapest means of communicating on the web, can be used for professional learning? One of the projects that I am working on, Young Emerging Sustainability and Agricultural Leaders in Africa (YESALA) does just that. Young people in the agricultural economy are confronted with challenges every day and are keen to learn from each other and from professionals how best they can tackle these challenges and develop. The cost of conventional learning is unforgiving, and yet even the most marginalized young people have access to social media. I have taken advantage of this to create virtual classroom spaces on different social media platforms to ensure that these young people can mentor each other and also learn from gurus and experts in key fields of agriculture and food security development, whom they cannot learn from under conventional circumstances as a result of marginalization.”

Farmer at work, carrots in the soil: Kativu engages in nutrition gardening with other YALI participants and workers at the African Children Feeding Scheme (ACFS) during a volunteering session in Soweto, part of the leadership development program. Kativu, who studied agronomy and horticulture, always feels he is making impact to society when he is contributing towards fighting hunger.


Asked about what he has taken away most from his time at YALI Regional Leadership Centre in South Africa, he says, “The YALI experience is a great balance between intensive learning and a lot of fun rolled into one. From serious classroom situation learning to excursion learning, the program takes learning to a whole new level. On a more important note it has enabled me to put my imagination and visioning to work. Societies across Africa have been lagging behind when it comes to incentivizing innovation. YALI has proven to me that it is possible to be ‘crazy innovative’, enabling me to confront some of the fears and challenges I face as a young fellow trying to make it and bring about shared, positive socio-economic progress in a challenging entrepreneurial space, especially the one we have in Zimbabwe where 94% of the economy is informal. The situation in Zimbabwe, with its lack of incentives for both innovation and proactivity is constantly shouting ‘give up’. But if I give up, which I believe is not an option, who will do my part in making Zimbabwe and Africa a better place? Giving up means becoming part of the very same problem I am trying to solve and Africa needs more solutions than problems right now, starting with solutions to food insecurity. YALI has reinforced in me the stubbornness that young people need to be bold, fearless and committed to defying the odds and be the change I wish to see in society.”

But if I give up, which I believe is not an option, who will do my part in making Zimbabwe and Africa a better place?

The YALI Regional Leadership Centres in Africa develop young leaders under three tracks, Business and Entrepreneurship Development, Civic Leadership, and Public Management tracks. On the reason why he chose the Business and Entrepreneurship Development track, Kativu says,

60% of Africa is very young. We have the youngest population globally and it is safe to say it also the least socio-economically empowered young population in the world. Empowering this young population calls for young leaders who can help the majority to navigate through the challenges in the ailing African economy and make a living for themselves and the lesser privileged. Entrepreneurship is one such frontier to do just that. When I applied for YALI, this is the thought that hung over my head, how to make better the livelihood of the next young person. I was and am now even more convinced that Africa needs a strong millennial crop of effective business leaders. In the end, my choice did not disappoint in proving me right and better equipping me to confront challenges of our society from an entrepreneurial standpoint.”

I was and am now even more convinced that Africa needs a strong millennial crop of effective business leaders.

On a word of encouragement to other TFF Global Ambassadors, TFFers and the young global community at large Kativu says, “We are living in a world more interconnected than ever before, with mutual or co-shared problems. That in itself is both reason and opportunity to unite and find lasting co-shared solutions to confront these problems as young people. I would recommend the YALI RLC leadership program to any young person from Africa, and more so for the TFF Global community in Africa who are daring to challenge one of the most complex challenges of our time, food insecurity or any challenge affecting society for that matter. While there may not be a YALI program for young people outside Africa, there are equivalent programs you can attend. Take advantage of such programs and co-learn. It is guaranteed by the end of the program, you will never be the same individual. You will have new and stronger peer-and-professional networks, a better equipped version of your former self, confident and stronger in your capacity to confront everyday challenges in better and more informed ways.”