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Where are the youth in agriculture?

The statistics

According to the International Labour Organization (ILO), the global youth unemployment rate reached 13.1% in 2013. Looking at age groups, we can see that, in the 15-24 years old range, global youth unemployment in 2013 reached 74.5 million people, with more than 700,000 compared to 2012. All these tell us that 37.1 million fewer youth people were employed in 2013 compared to 2007.

Taking the 15-39 age range (as young professionals are defined by YPARD), the youth employment in agriculture decreased by 14.7% worldwide.

The Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) tells us the story of Africa, where two-thirds of the inhabitants are under 25 years of age and 44% of its population is under the age of 15. 70% of the youth resides in rural areas and employed African youth work primarily in the agricultural sector, where they account for 65% of the workforce.

The issue

As the world population is forecasted to grow at 9 billion by 2050 needing a 70% increase in agricultural output, the percentage of youth will also grow. Today, worldwide, half of the global population is under 25. By 2050, it will increase to about 65%. The percentage of Africa`s urbanization reached in 2013 about 40% and it will increase as Africa develops. Most of those heading to cities for (better) employment are young people under 39 because On average 74% of the youth population in Africa lives on less than US$2 per day lacking the resources and skills to be competitive. Thus, the agricultural population will grow older (today`s average age of farmers is 58 worldwide). And this will lead to, at least, stagnation in agricultural outputs (if not a drop).

The voice

With such a high percentage of youth in the global population AND in agriculture, it should be expected that youth have a strong voice in the future of agriculture: from research (directions) and education to policy making and farming.

Youth in agriculture: from researchers to farmers and policy makers
Youth in agriculture: from researchers to farmers and policy makers

The phrase “youth in agriculture” is not a buzzword yet, so researchers, policy makers and many, many others are not interested in discovering what youth want and how they could impact the agricultural value chain.

International conferences started having youth sessions, only to have youth take part in them. Some high level people started mentioning “youth in agriculture” as a phrase in a 20 minutes speech. More open-minded organizations (CGIAR Consortium, FAO, GFAR) started involving youth in their decision-making process.

Is this good enough? I would say NO. Perhaps youth don`t have yet the ability of deciding what`s best for the agricultural sector, but some of their ideas are better than what has been done by now.

Should we listen to youth more? I would say YES. The decisions taken today will influence tomorrow`s generation. I am a so-called “millennial”, one of the lost generations that had access to good education, but low access to resources, employment, decision-making. We should not have another lost generation.

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