Youth and agriculture : key challenges and concrete solutions
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
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
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; youthspecific
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