Some experts and leaders see risks in pursuing this “synergistic” strategy for rural YEO. These skeptics recommend, instead, more evidence-based programming, investing in diverse, customized strategies, gathering and sharing data and lesson, and ensuring that initiatives include risk mitigation strategies.
There is no historical precedent for the vision that large numbers of young people will increase their involvement in agriculture over time, or reside in rural areas over the long run. In fact, economic development has been accompanied – with varying degrees of speed and hardship – by urbanization and a significant structural shift away from small-scale family farming to large-scale industrial farming. Most rural families are working to help their children get off the farm and into better opportunities.1Is investing in youth-driven agricultural or other rural development rural a waste of resources? Could resources be more cost-effectively used to make the transition to urbanization and industrial agriculture smoother? Or, less radically, is rural YEO work mainly a strategy to slow down and ease the inevitable transition? How optimistic should we be about the potential for Rural YEO to achieve development goals and simultaneously meet the needs of young people raised in rural areas? Risk management integrates itself into the rural YEO field as a call for gathering evidence about what happens in general in different situations, and about what initiatives work for what goals, for whom and how. Meanwhile, experts caution against pursuing policies whose main strategy for improving food security is to keep young people on the farm.2