Growing a Future: Liberian Youth Reflect on Agriculture Livelihoods

Organization/Affiliation(s): 
Mercy Corps
Publication Date: 
Jan, 2017

Over the next few decades, agriculture will continue to be the dominant sector of employment and a vital source of labor for most young people in Africa. Harnessing youth’s potential to participate meaningfully in their food systems, from production to plate, has the potential to increase their productivity and revenues, as well as ensure the resilience and food security of their households. On the other hand, the general consensus in the research literature on youth perceptions of agricultural production, both in Liberia and across Africa, is that the majority of youth would like to transition out of the sector. Broad sweeping generalizations often highlight that youth are disinterested in agriculture, turned away by the difficulty of the work, social stigmas and the challenges faced in earning a suitable income.

At the same time, ‘youth’ are not a homogenous group. In Liberia, there has been a gap in research that seeks out youth’s own voices to elaborate on their attitudes towards agriculture, their ambitions and the challenges they face. In order to engage youth’s potential, the diversity of their aspirations need to be understood better, as do the ways in which household status and access to resources may impact youth’s
perceptions across the agricultural sector.
 
In response to the observed opportunities to engage youth in agricultural production and along various value chains, as well as the clear gap in research in Liberia that captures the voices of youth themselves, Mercy Corps undertook a research study in Bong County Liberia in August 2016.
 
Data were collected over a period of two weeks in 16 diverse sites throughout the county, including both peri-urban communities and rural communities that face challenges due to isolation and lack of infrastructure. A total of 32 focus group discussions (FGDs) were conducted with male and female youth between the ages of 15 and 24 (16 male FGDs, 16 female FGDs), 31 community elders and 9 youth were interviewed individually, as were 8 key informants drawn from representatives of NGOs, local government officials and local agriculture experts.
 
The study focused on the following areas of inquiry:
 
  • The perceptions, attitudes and aspirations that Liberian youth have towards agricultural livelihoods;
  • The constraints and barriers these youth face and, conversely, the opportunities available to them in considering their longer-term engagement in the agricultural sector.
  • The ways gender impacts these attitudes, perceptions and differences in access to, and control over resources and decision making among male and female youth;
  • The perceptions, aspirations, and challenges faced by rural and, at times, isolated youth in relation to agricultural livelihoods; and
  •  The differences between the aspirations and perceptions of youth themselves, with regards to agriculture, and the perceptions of and support offered by their elders, policy makers and development agencies.
The overarching goal of the study was to gain a better understanding of the roles youth play, or could potentially play, in the agricultural development of Liberia with the primary purpose being to provide concrete recommendations for various stakeholders engaging youth in the sector.
 
Read the full report.
Topic: 
Workforce Development
Regions: 
Sub-Saharan Africa
Tags: 
Community Development
Livelihoods
Rural Development