There are approximately 500 million smallholder farms worldwide, and they are responsible for producing some 80 percent of the food consumed in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa. Young people account for a large percentage of the rural population, and are often unemployed or underemployed, despite the need for an increased labor force in agriculture. In Africa, for example, 200 million people are aged between 15 and 24 years, comprising more than 20% of the overall population. Generating productive employment for this category of the population is one of the continent’s major challenges. At present, three out of every four youth live on less than US$ 2 per day lacking the resources and skills to be competitive in the labor markets.
Rural youth do not perceive agriculture as a prestigious and remunerative profession, and until they find meaningful economic opportunities and attractive environments in rural areas, the rural exodus will continue. This trend not only contributes to the emerging phenomenon of over-urbanization and growing unemployment in urban areas, but is also expected to affect global food production. Investing in young people living in rural areas is therefore key to enhancing agricultural productivity and food security and boosting rural economies. It is also fundamental to ensuring future food security and nutrition objectives.
However, young farmers face particular constraints, in addition to those faced by the agriculture sector in general. In poor rural settings, young people have insufficient or inadequate education and vocational training; a lack of access to productive resources; and limited support from farmers’ networks and organizations.
Therefore, young farmers are increasingly disenfranchised, and are abandoning the rural areas in search for better opportunities in the urban areas. The need for generational renewal in the farming population is an issue which is common across the world – agriculture is essential for economic growth and job creation in rural areas, for environmental sustainability and nature conservation, and, ultimately, food security.
Therefore, agriculture needs specific favourable accession policies, because of the barriers to entry which arise in the sector in all regions of the world, developed and developing. Development partners are partnering with young farmers and their organizations to develop innovative projects and programs.
Mr Matteo Bartolini, President, CEJA, Brussels
Mr Nicolas Pinto, President, Ateneo Sociedad Rural Argentina, Buenos Aires
Mr Denis Kabiito, Area Coordinator, CAPCA Project- Sustainable Livelihoods Department, Caritas Kasanaensis, Kampala
Ms Charlotte Goemans, Gender and Rural Institutions Specialist, Office for Communication, Partnerships, and Advocacy, FAO, Rome
Mr Marco Marzano de Marinis, Executive Director, World Farmers’ Organisation, Rome