REPORT: Youth Engagement in Agricultural Value Chains Across Feed the Future: A Synthesis Report, October 2016
As global youth populations and unemployment swell to unprecedented levels, it is comforting to imagine the development of a stable, secure, and diversified rural economy powered by youth, with trade and services industries growing alongside the traditional agricultural sector. This vision has been gaining traction in the global development agenda. Much emphasis has been placed on what rural youth do and do not want to do and what meets their needs. So far, however, there is little information on what specific agriculture value chain activities have the capacity to absorb youth and transform their futures, and even less on how to effectively mainstream youth aged 15–24 as mandated in the USAID Youth in Development Policy (2012).
This report aims to inform Feed the Future (FTF) efforts moving forward to more strategically and deliberately engage youth in market systems by providing insights from current FTF country programs. Commissioned by USAID’s Bureau for Food Security/Office of Country Strategy and Implementation, a research team with the Leveraging Economic Opportunities (LEO)1 activity scanned all 19 FTF countries and analyzed four FTF country programs in more depth through site visits to Guatemala, Liberia, Nepal, and Uganda. 2 These countries were chosen based on 1) their relatively high youth involvement in the portfolio; 2) youth mention in Country Development Cooperation Strategies (CDCS) and FTF strategy documents; and 3) geographic diversity. Case studies and success stories from these countries accompany this report and cover the following themes: Uganda - Adaptive Program Models; Guatemala – Engaging Rural Youth through Experiential Education; Liberia – Building Youth Resilience in Weak Market Systems; and Nepal – Household Approach to Reaching Youth.
Overall, this report is the result of discussions with program stakeholders from 13 FTF-funded programs, including 207 male and 177 female youth aged 10–40; 67 implementing partner staff members; and 26 FTF/Mission staff members from countries visited or consulted. The research team drew the bulk of the conclusions in this report from the four site visit countries, and reinforced and triangulated conclusions with experiences from other missions and youth technical experts. There are limitations to this approach as explored in the Methodology section; however, through the field work and vetting process and building on broader research from both youth development and agricultural systems, the research team feels confident that a set of useful, relevant findings have emerged from this work.
In each of the four countries, the research teams aimed to collect data around the following questions:
· What innovative approaches and entry points have resulted in improvements in youth skills and opportunities?
· Has youth engagement in agriculture filled unmet needs within the larger agricultural market system/value chain?
· Have upgrades in the value chain opened up new opportunities for youth employment/engagement?
The team was surprised to discover that the findings around these key questions were slim—primarily because few FTF programs track age. Youth have not been a group targeted in most FTF programs. Many Missions are becoming aware of the need to target youth—more general market-driven programs may be creating opportunities, but without targeted support and skills development in place, youth are not effectively accessing market opportunities. Many programs with a stronger youth focus are just getting started, so it is too soon to know if their program designs will effectively address youth needs and help youth to grow and learn. Finally, most FTF programs in the countries visited tend to be highly focused on production, where youth face specific barriers that might be mitigated in potential roles higher up the value chain. However, the team did identify a number of findings and promising practices around youth engagement strategies, including specific FTF strengths and recommendations related to youth mainstreaming that may be useful to policymakers in designing youth FTF initiatives in the future. These findings, addressed in detail throughout this report, are summarized below.
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