6.4.2 Adapt Value Chain Development to Incorporate Youth as Family Members, Farm Workers, Farmers, as Owners and Workers in Off-Farm Agri-Business Enterprises, and as Community Mobilizers and Leaders

Value chain development (VCD) can help farmers gain access to appropriate inputs, technology, and services, and to reach markets that provide a viable and improved income.   Rather than focusing on one group of farmers, the strategy is to increase competitiveness of particular crops as a whole, to expand opportunities for larger numbers of farmers. In this systemic approach, value chain developers strengthen a range of related agri-businesses, including input and technology suppliers, financial service providers, agricultural advisors, farmers groups, business associations, wholesalers, processors, transporters, retailers, etc. In one form or another, value chain development is replacing traditional agricultural extension work – primarily government-provided advice on agricultural production – because it is more effective at transforming agricultural systems, on a sustainable basis for larger numbers of people. More commonly used for commercial crop production, value chain development is being adapted to meet food security goals.[1]  Value chain development is a form of a broader, somewhat similar strategy, “Making Markets Work for the Poor.”[2]

Most VCD programs work with established farmers groups, and/or perceived “heads of households.” This is how they often exclude young people and women, who are generally not members of these formal groups. In addition, VCD programs tend to offer “one size fits all” packages, that tend to exclude young people who are not considered when the package is designed. Young people may have lower skill levels and experience, lower access to land and capital, lower physical mobility, and a shorter time horizon. Young men may have a higher risk tolerance than men with families, and higher literacy levels. Young women may have higher demands on their time. Pioneering VDC programs are including young people in several ways:

  • As unpaid, family workers: Some VCD programs seek to improve working conditions of family farm workers, getting buy-in from heads of households by demonstrating that the farm will be more productive if all family members are engaged. The Farming as a Family Business approach, for example, facilitates engagement of the entire family in understanding and making decisions about improvements on the farm and how increased income will be spent. See ACDI/VOCA Farming and a Family Business.
  • As farmers: Recognizing a cohort of young people engaged in farming in their own right, or who could be engaged, some VCD programs are adapting services to meet specific needs of young farmers. They may be young male heads of household, young wives in extended family systems, orphan heads of households, or young independent men and women looking to make some money on the family farm in order to invest in other occupations. See Winrock in Nepal.
  • In agri-businesses, as business owners or workers: There are many off-farm opportunities in agricultural value chains, at the basic labor end of the income spectrum and up into the high-tech provision of market information and inspections/certification for meeting food production standards. Typical, often unrecognized roles for young people include: hauling sacks of produce on and off of vehicles, retail food processing and vending, working in food processing facilities as laborers and skilled clerks or technicians, book-keepers and secretaries for farmer groups and cooperatives, clerical workers and sales representatives for agro-input supply companies, etc. Some more innovative roles in VCD initiatives include:  microfinance credit agents, agricultural extension agents, information providers (answer phones at call centers), inspectors and advisors in agro-chemical traceability systems, and pioneers of innovative IT solutions for agriculture.
  • As community leaders: Some educated young entrepreneurs are becoming leaders in their rural communities, developing their family farms and finding innovative ways to strengthen farming in their communities. See Arenst Subbumba and Simeon Ogonda

These are but a few directions VCD initiatives are pursuing. By paying attention to the roles young people have, and the roles they seek in target value chains, VCD programs can better adapt their initiatives to accommodate the particular desires, opportunities and constraints of key cohorts of young people and entrepreneurial young leaders in their target value chains and communities.

Youth Agricultural Sales Agents

Ethiopians Fighting Against Child Exploitation (E-FACE) provides livelihood opportunities for youth and increases household resiliency though increased knowledge of and access to agricultural inputs. One strategy is to support young people to become effective agro-input dealers in areas where the government and other private sector are not penetrating. The project trains 250 young people, ages 14-17 to supply seeds, seedlings, agro-chemicals and advice to farmers so they can grow apples and bamboo and earn a more stable and higher income. The project links the sales agents with a wholesale broker who supplies inputs and mentors the village sales agents. E-FACE is a four-year project (2011-2015) funded by the U.S. Department of Labor and implemented by Mennonite Economic Development Associates in partnership with World Vision.

[1] For example, USAID’s Microlinks, www.microlinks.org

[2] More information available at www.m4phub.org