6.1.1 The "Crisis and Opportunity" Perspective on the Current "Youth Bulge" is Equally Relevant for Young People in Rural Areas, and for Rural Development
A. “Crisis” - Rural Youth Poverty and Political Volatility
From the “crisis” perspective, poverty rates among young people in rural areas are higher than in urban areas, and there is lower access to education and employment in rural areas. Despite rapid urbanization, rural populations remain significant and will remain so for decades, especially in Africa, the world’s poorest region and the region that will have the highest portion of youth population for decades. Thus, significantly reducing poverty will require reducing rural poverty among young people. If left unaddressed, the crisis in rural poverty among young people will accelerate urbanization, and – because of the dearth of appropriate urban jobs and service - add to the exponentially growing pool of politically volatile young, urban youth. In Latin America and West Africa, even in rural areas, young people are engaged in violent conflicts rooted in rural poverty. 1
B. “Crisis” - Food Security
The global food security challenge is, at the core, a rural, agricultural challenge. In spite of general advanced in agricultural productivity, global food supply has been declining and food prices have been rising due to a combination of factors. These include:
- population growth
- the expanding middle class and its corresponding demand for meat (which increases grain consumption)
- the increase in agricultural land and crops used for biofuels
- the increase in land use for non-agricultural purposes, due to urban sprawl and rural infrastructure expansion for transportation, energy, mining, etc.
- reduced farm size in densely populated regions, reducing land productivity
The big question is: how will the next generation feed itself? All strategies for increasing global food security call for significant increases in agricultural productivity, but by whom, for whom and how? 2
C. “Opportunity” - Rural Development and YEO experts seek synergy in solving these crises simultaneously; they are leveraging young people as a resource and transforming the “food shortage” into a market opportunities in the agri-business sector into which for young people can enter and thrive.
Rather than a drain on resources, high young populations can become very productive and innovative, propelling social change and economic growth.3If we invest in rural youth, might they in turn help solve the global food crisis? Will they slow their urban migration, reducing the physical and social strain on the cities? How can engaging youth improve outcomes for agricultural development? What opportunities does the farming and agribusiness sector offer young people and how can these be enhanced? What non-agricultural opportunities are there for rural youth? How can incentives for these broad development goals and young people’s aspirations be aligned? Section 6.3 Rural YEO: Principles and Practice and Section 6.4 Youth Agricultural Development and Food Security, present lessons and experience in rural YEO work that addresses both rural development and YEO goals.