Youth in the Agri-Food System
This guide applies a classic Making Markets Work for the Poor (M4P) Market Systems Development (MSD) perspective to youth in agriculture. As illustrated below, a MSD approach begins with the functions within the value chain, located at the center of the system indicating where youth participate along the value chain—from inputs to markets. These core functions of the value chain, however, are influenced by a number of supportive features and formal and informal rules, denoted by the surrounding half circles. These supportive features include laws and regulations, social and cultural norms, access to technology, infrastructure, skills, and services. Similarly, youth as actors in the agriculture value chain are also influenced by these rules and supportive features, but they are influenced differently than other actors in the chain.
Figure: Viewing Youth-Inclusive Agri-Food Systems from a Market Systems Development Perspective*
*Adapted from: The Springfield Center (2015). The Operational Guide for the Making Markets Work for The Poor (M4P) Approach, Second Edition. See also: The Springfield Centre (2017). An Introduction to Market Systems Development.
Identify Value Chain Entry Points
Industry best practices suggests that the best long-term economic opportunities for youth are determined by value chain performance, suggesting a strong argument for selecting the most competitive value chains irrespective of the opportunities they offer youth. Indeed, USAID Missions often select value chains based on considerations unrelated to the potential for youth inclusion. For these reasons, the focus of this section will be on the identification of entry points based on a set of pre-selected value chains or value chains that have been identified independent of youth-related considerations. In certain cases, particularly for youth-focused activities, USAID may choose to select value chains with youth-specific considerations in mind. The following section provides information on selecting value chains based on their potential for youth integration.
“Entry points” in the context of youth inclusion are defined as functions within a value chain that are both relevant and accessible to young people. Click here to see the full table.
Relevance: refers to youth’s level of interest in the activity.
Accesibility: refers to the ability of young people to act on the opportunity, given their collection of skills and other assets.
Entry points can be found in product-specific value chains or in cross-market functions (typically services provided to multiple value chains, such as integrated pest management or input supply). It is important to note that value chain entry points are not end points. As youth and economies mature, their activities and corresponding opportunities will evolve, and they may move throughout the chain and/or into new value chains (see the figure below).
Figure: Youth Entry Points in the Agricultural Value Chain
Develop Transferable Skills
When youth possess the right skills, competencies, and attitudes, they are able to succeed as market actors in agri-food systems. However, not all youth possess the necessary skills and competencies to perform in agriculture markets; as youth cohorts differ in education level, age, etc., their skill levels also vary. Feed the Future activities are likely to achieve greater results with youth when accompanied by strategies that help youth build foundational skills and positive attitudes.
Figure: Skills Pyramid: Range of Skills Necessary for Youth Success in the Agri-Food System.
Create a Supportive Environment
Youth engagement and success in food systems exist within the larger context of youth’s interaction with their family, community, and peer units and within the larger agriculture, institutional, and policy structures. The supporting environment is defined as the set of external factors that have an impact, either on facilitating the successful integration of young people into the agricultural sector, or conversely, serving as barriers. For activities to be successful, youth must be seen within the context of their environment, making a systems approach most effective as illustrated in the figure below.
Figure: Adaptation of Bronfenbrenner's Ecological Model
Access Volume II, Section 4 for guidance on how to apply a conflict-sensitive youth lense in conflict environments.
For additional considerations and approaches to engaging the family, community and peer environment, and how to establish systems or supporting functions for youth to successfully integrate, consult Volume II, Section 3.
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