Youth and agriculture: key challenges and concrete solutions

The publication on Youth and agriculture: key challenges and concrete solutions provides real life examples on how to re-engage youth in agriculture. It shows how tailor-made educational programmes can provide rural youth with the skills and insights needed to engage in farming and adopt environmentally friendly production methods. Presented here is the Executive Summary of the publication.

Global population is expected to increase to 9 billion by 2050, with youth (aged 15–24) accounting for about 14 percent of this total. While the world’s youth cohort is expected to grow, employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for youth – particularly those living in developing countries’ economically stagnant rural areas – remain limited, poorly remunerated and of poor quality. In recognition of the agricultural sector’s potential to serve as a source of livelihood opportunities for rural youth, a joint MIJARC/FAO/IFAD project on Facilitating Access of Rural Youth to Agricultural Activities was carried out in 2011 to assess the challenges and opportunities with respect to increasing rural youth’s participation in the sector. Over the course of the project, six principal challenges were identified. For each challenge, this publication presents a series of relevant case studies that serve as examples of how this challenge may be overcome.

The first principal challenge identified is youth’s insufficient access to knowledge, information and education [Chapter 1]. Poor and inadequate education limits productivity and the acquisition of skills, while insufficient access to knowledge and information can hinder the development of entrepreneurial ventures. Particularly in developing countries, there is a distinct need to improve young rural women’s access to education, and to incorporate agricultural skills into rural education more generally. Agricultural training and education must also be adapted to ensure that graduates’ skills meet the needs of rural labour markets. Case studies from Cambodia, Uganda, Saint Lucia, Pakistan, Madagascar, Brazil, Ghana, Kenya, Rwanda and Zambia illustrate innovative ways of making this happen.

The second challenge identified during the project is youth’s limited access to land [Chapter 2]. Although access to land is fundamental to starting a farm, it can often be difficult for young people to attain. Inheritance laws and customs in developing countries often make the transfer of land to young women problematic, and so are in need of amendment. Loans to assist youth in acquiring land are also needed, while leasing arrangements through which youth gain access – though not ownership – to land may also prove effective. Case studies from the Philippines, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Mexico, Egypt and Uganda all highlight possible means of improving youth’s access to land.

Inadequate access to financial services [Chapter 3] was identified as the third principal challenge. Most financial service providers are reluctant to provide their services – including credit, savings and insurance – to rural youth due to their lack of collateral and financial literacy, among other reasons. Promoting financial products catered to youth, mentoring programmes and start-up funding opportunities can all help remedy this issue. Encouraging youth to group themselves into informal savings clubs can also prove useful in this respect. Case studies from France, Canada, Uganda, Moldova, Senegal, Cambodia, Bangladesh and Grenada all offer examples for policymakers and development practitioners of how rural youth’s access to financial services can be improved.

Difficulties accessing green jobs [Chapter 4] was identified as the fourth challenge to strengthening youth’s involvement in agriculture. Green jobs can provide more sustainable livelihoods in the long run, and can be more labour intensive and ultimately involve more value added. However, rural youth may not have the skills (or access to the necessary skills-upgrading opportunities) to partake in the green economy. Improving youth’s access to education and training – including formal and informal on-the-job training – is needed to redress this skills mismatch. Case studies from the Zanzibar Archipelago, Rwanda, China, the United States, Bahamas, Kenya and Uganda all illustrate innovative ways of improving youth’s access to the skills and opportunities needed to generate green jobs in agriculture.

The fifth principal challenge identified was young people’s limited access to markets [Chapter 5], as without such access youth will not be able to engage in viable and sustainable agricultural ventures. Access to markets for youth is becoming even more difficult due to the growing international influence of supermarkets and the rigorous standards of their supply chains. Young rural women in developing countries face additional constraints in accessing markets, due in part to the fact that their freedom of movement is sometimes limited by cultural norms. Improving access to education, training and market information can all facilitate youth’s access to markets, with niche markets offering particularly significant opportunities for young farmers. Facilitating their involvement in (youth) producers’ groups can be similarly beneficial in this respect. Case studies from Kenya, Ghana, southern Europe, the United States, Tanzania, Colombia and Benin all offer examples of how youth’s access to markets can be improved.

The sixth challenge identified was youth’s limited involvement in policy dialogue [Chapter 6]. Too often young people’s voices are not heard during the policy process, and so their complex and multifaceted needs are not met. Policies often fail to account for the heterogeneity of youth, and so do not provide them with effective support. To remedy this, youth need the requisite skills and capacities for collective action to ensure that their voices are heard. Policymakers themselves must also actively engage youth in the policymaking process. Case studies from Togo, Nepal and Brazil, as well as regional-level examples from Africa and Europe, all highlight ways to involve youth in shaping the policies that most affect them.

Addressing these six principal challenges will prove vital to increasing youth’s involvement in the agricultural sector, and ultimately addressing the significant untapped potential of this sizeable and growing demographic. In developing countries in particular, facilitating the youth cohort’s participation in agriculture has the potential to drive widespread rural poverty reduction among youths and adults alike. While these challenges are complex and interwoven, a number of key conclusions can be drawn from the case studies: ensuring that youth have access to the right information is crucial; integrated training approaches are required so that youth may respond to the needs of a more modern agricultural sector; modern information and communications technologies offer great potential; there is a distinct need to organize and bring youth together to improve their capacities for collective action; youth specific projects and programmes can be effective in providing youth with the extra push needed to enter the agricultural sector; and a coherent and integrated response is needed from policymakers and development practitioners alike to ensure that the core challenges faced by youth are effectively addressed. Indeed, a coordinated response to increase youth’s involvement in the agricultural sector is more important than ever, as a rising global population and decreasing agricultural productivity gains mean that youth must play a pivotal role in ensuring a food-secure future for themselves, and for future generations.


Note: This is an Executive summary of the original publication, FAO,  Youth and agriculture: key challenges and concrete solutions, Published by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in collaboration with the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), 2014


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