BLOG: Youth and Agriculture – Eradicating Rural Poverty, August 2016

Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

In September 2015, the 193 Member States of the United Nations adopted a new sustainable development agenda entitled Transforming Our World: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. This agenda contains 17 goals that aim to end poverty, promote prosperity and people’s well-being in a sustainable manner, with a special focus on youth.

One important aspect of the Agenda is that the negotiation process on the Sustainable Development Goals involved the unprecedented participation of civil society and other stakeholders. In particular, many young people were engaged from the beginning on social media platforms. Therefore, since the inception phase of the Agenda, the international community has recognized young women and men as a critical resource, which can be nurtured and mobilized to achieve higher development goals. It could not be otherwise.

The world’s population is young. Some 1.2 billion youth (age bracket 15-24) live in the world today - just over 14 percent of the global population. Almost 88 percent of them come from developing countries. Although this figure is expected to grow, employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for rural youth remain limited and of poor quality, particularly for those living in rural areas of developing countries. Rural young women and men typically earn low wages and face unsafe, exploitive working conditions that compel many to migrate to urban areas. While most of the world’s food is produced by smallholder farmers, older farmers are less likely to adopt the new technologies needed to sustainably increase agricultural productivity, and ultimately feed the growing world population while protecting the environment. Hence, it is crucial to re-engage youth in agriculture.

Young women and men can and need to play a leading role in ensuring rural poverty eradication and achieving sustainable development through sustainable consumption and production. In this context, governments’ organizational and administrative capacities must be strengthened to ensure effective implementation of employment generation policies targeting rural youth. Youth themselves must be better equipped to harness their energy and capacity to innovate and take active part in the policy dialogue.

FAO and Rural Youth

The need of guaranteeing full and productive employment and decent work for young people, reducing the proportion of unemployed youth, is stated in the Sustainable Development Goals themselves, under Goal 8.

These tasks have been part of FAO’s work for the last four decades, in the form of strengthening and expanding young people’s capacities, knowledge and skills and rural employment creation, while engaging them in major policy debates at global-level. Indeed, Strategic Objective Three of FAO’s New Strategic Framework 2010–2019, Reduce Rural Poverty, recognizes that rural youth should be treated as a priority group when it comes to accessing decent employment opportunities.

To promote employment opportunities for rural youth, FAO has focused its efforts and resources around the implementation of a complementary set of activities. Through awareness-raising, policy assistance, capacity development and technical support activities, FAO seeks to develop a strong enabling environment in which young people can thrive, while simultaneously empowering youth to seize current and future opportunities.

As part of its strategy on youth employment, FAO engages with governments, private sector and civil society partners at all levels to ensure a unified and coherent approach to creating decent employment opportunities for rural youth.

FAO’s Country-level Activities

In order to ensure that increased awareness translates into tangible results on the ground, FAO assists governments in formulating and implementing policies, strategies, programmes and projects to effectively support rural youth. For instance, the second phase of the Integrated Country Approach programme started last year in Senegal, Uganda and Guatemala, with the aim of enhancing the youth employment content of national strategies and polices for agricultural and rural development.

An important part of FAO’s policy assistance to the governments is represented by the identification of policy gaps and the formulation of policy recommendations. This was exactly the objective of the "Youth - Feeding the future" online consultations, launched in May 2016, focusing on the challenges that young women and men face in preparing for and accessing decent work in rural areas, including in agriculture. In particular, the discussion focused on the 15 to 17 age group, which so far has not been targeted enough by programmes and policies, falling through the cracks of both child and youth initiatives.

FAO also develops tailor-made educational programmes (such as the Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools approach) to provide young farmers with the skills and insights needed to engage in farming and adopt environmentally friendly production methods. Empowering youths by facilitating their access to land, markets, and credit helps them become entrepreneurs, improving their self-esteem and the feeling that they can make a living in rural areas, as proven also by the YEAP programmeimplemented in Nigeria.

FAO’s Regional-level Activities

A good example of FAO activities conducted at regional-level is provided by the FAO/FIDA-Youth Caribe programme, launched in 2015 by FAO and IFAD to tackle the growing level of youth unemployment in the Caribbean. The programme is built on the effective collaboration between the two UN agencies in the region and is implemented in coordination with a number of regional governments and key stakeholders.

Better job prospects for the youth in rural areas would also contribute to reducing distressed migration to urban areas, where labour markets are often already saturated. For this reason, last year FAO launched the Rural Youth Mobility (RYM) project in Ethiopia and Tunisia. These two countries share youthful demographic profiles and similar challenges in ensuring employment opportunities for rural youth. Through the RYM project, FAO is working to promote innovative mechanisms to mitigate distress migration among rural youth, by generating productive employment and entrepreneurial opportunities in agriculture. In the framework of the project, FAO is organizing rounds of consultations at national and regional-level on youth employment and seasonal migration. The outcomes will also contribute to FAO’s normative work and generate evidence and lessons learned that will inform the global debate on migration and the dialogue between the European Union and African countries.

FAO’s Engagement at the Global Level

FAO also furthers rural youth needs at global level. For instance, the Organization is actively involved in the United Nations Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development (IANYD), which was established to increase the effectiveness of UN work in youth development.

FAO is also part of the kick-off team of the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth (DJ4Y), launched in February 2016 under the auspices of the ECOSOC Youth Forum 2016. Led by the ILO, the Initiative is the first ever UN system-wide effort to scale up action in support of youth employment, involving in its development 19 entities of the United Nations, among which: FAO, UNIDO, UNICEF, UNESCO, UNDESA, World Bank, as well as the Secretary-General's Envoy on Youth. FAO has fully endorsed the Initiative, considering it an example of how support for youth employment and poverty reduction could be pushed to scale in a coordinated and coherent manner.

Originally published by: Food & Agriculture Organization of the United Nations