Young men and women are engaged in the agri-food system in a variety of ways — through formal and informal wage work, unpaid family labor, self-employment, and cooperative membership — and across all levels of the value chain. Overall, youth earn “mixed livelihoods” from various sources — on-farm, off-farm, and non-farm — and with self-employment and migration playing particularly important roles. While there is some debate that youth are not attracted to agriculture and are leaving the sector, the evidence paints a nuanced picture. Some countries are indeed experiencing trends of youth turning away from agriculture and/or working fewer hours per week in agriculture than older age groups; however, the absolute numbers of youth who are dependent on farming or livestock production is likely to increase because of population growth. Primary data across multiple countries confirms that youth are not attracted to low-wage, low-value production, and are instead attracted to modernization/ new practices, use of technology, and opportunities for “quick money” with relatively higher earnings than staple crops. Youth decisions to engage in work are also shaped by the environment in which they live: the economic and political context, social norms and customs, the nature of the agri-food system, institutions, laws and regulations, parental and peer influence, media, previous experiences, and gender relations.

Overall, the literature consistently agrees that the top three key constraints to youth engagement in agriculture are access to land, finance, and skills. While there is some debate about whether these structural barriers are specific to youth (as older populations are marginalized in the same ways), youth- and gender-specific issues appear in each of these areas. The agriculture sector writ large is characterized by a number of structural barriers, and these barriers are often more pronounced for specific subgroups, including youth who experience vulnerability across multiple fronts. Broadly speaking across all constraints, there is a need for youth engagement in collective action and advocacy for agriculture policy.

More evidence is needed on youth participation in agri-food systems, and especially the benefits of taking a youth mainstreaming and/or youth-focused approach to agri-food systems development. Future research must also acknowledge the diversity of different youth segments and the different contexts in which they operate. To this end, policymakers must avoid a one-size-fits-all solution, distinguishing between long-term approaches (employment through on-farm productivity) versus short-term approaches (youth self-employment and entrepreneurship), as well as “demand-side” versus “supply-side” solutions, tailored to the specific context of the country and its agri-food system, the local context and its stakeholders, and the target youth segments.

Youth and Agriculture: Key Challenges and Concrete Solutions

This seminal report summarizes the findings from a joint, global Mouvement international de la jeunesse agricole et rurale catholique (MIJARC/IFAD/FAO) project on Facilitating Access to Agricultural Activities for Rural Youth. It identifies six challenges with respect to increasing rural youth’s participation in the agriculture sector: [1] access to knowledge, information and education; [2] access to land; [3] access to financial services; [4] access to green jobs; [5] access to markets; and [6] engagement in policy dialogue. Youth-specific aspects are presented for each challenge, as are case studies that illustrate how each challenge may be overcome.

Young People and Agriculture in Africa: A Review of Research Evidence and EU Documentation

This desk review examines the research on young people’s engagement with agriculture in Malawi, Ethiopia, and Kenya. It finds that while there are trends of youth turning away from agriculture, the absolute numbers of youth who are dependent on farming or livestock production is likely to increase because of population growth. It also seeks to validate the theories of change for youth rejection of agriculture, which are: (1) structural issues within the agricultural sector/agrarian economy; (2) increases in education and rising youth aspirations; and (3) a lack of youth awareness of the opportunities offered by the agriculture sector. Overall, the causal links for all three hypotheses are not well supported by evidence. The review finds strong evidence for research, technology, and productivity as determinants for youth engagement, as well as access to land. However, these variables, as well as the chains of explanation, are not necessarily youth-specific, and “there is a strong argument that until and unless the deep structural issues that are at the heart of these chains are addressed successfully, much of the more youth-specific programming will remain largely irrelevant.”

Africa Agriculture Status Report: Youth in Agriculture in Sub-Saharan Africa

This report provides an in-depth analysis of barriers and challenges youth face to gain secure and sustainable employment or self-employment in the agricultural sector. It also provides insight into opportunities, experiences, good practices and emerging innovations and concludes with forward-looking recommendations. The report contributes to the growing body of knowledge on youth employment in agriculture with a specific focus on agricultural productivity, entrepreneurship, inclusive finance, information and communications technology (ICT), capacity-building, and policy.

Are the Youth Exiting Agriculture en Masse?

This conference paper investigates the extent of youth engagement in agriculture in six African countries using data from the Living Standards Measurement Surveys-Integrated Surveys on Agriculture (LSMS-ISA). The analysis suggests that youth work fewer hours per week in agriculture in select countries than the older age groups, with strong correlations between age and hours worked in Nigeria, Tanzania, and Malawi, a weaker correlation in Niger and Uganda, and an insignificant correlation in Ethiopia. Other important correlates of hours worked per week in agriculture include education, gender, rural residence, wealth index, farm size per capita, land ownership, and livestock ownership.

Who Wants to Farm? Youth Aspirations, Opportunities and Rising Food Prices

This primary research explores the attitudes of young people and their families to farming within the context of price volatility, drawing from qualitative data from interviews conducted with around 1,500 people across 10 countries. It uncovers four major determinants that shape youth expectations and aspirations in agriculture: (1) Perceived risks of agriculture production vs. benefits in light of price increases from the producer side; (2) Access to land; (3) Youth access to inputs, including input subsidies (and the degree to which access is influenced by higher commodity prices); and (4) The relative attraction of formal sector cash incomes when youth consumers experience increases in the cost of living.

A Viable Future: Attracting the Youth to Agriculture

This issue paper discusses why young people are not attracted to agriculture and presents short case studies of initiatives being taken to encourage youth to consider careers in agriculture. The discussion represents the results of a literature review coupled with national consultations and participatory research conducted by Asian Farmers’ Association (AFA) members in nine countries involving 660 rural youth, and regional consultations with 17 national farmer organizations in 13 countries.

Perceptions and Aspirations: A Case Study of Young People in Ghana’s Cocoa Sector

This article considers the question of young people’s aspirations in agriculture, acknowledging the diversity that exists across different rural youth segments. Using the case of the cocoa sub-sector in Ghana, it analyzes how the differences in young people’s backgrounds and experiences with cocoa influence their expectations of the role of cocoa farming in their future.

Youth and Agriculture in Uganda: An Assessment

In Uganda, there is great potential value in developing youth participation in agriculture value chains, namely through continued expansion of agricultural modernization alongside increased public and private attention to an upgraded workforce development system. This assessment report provides an overview of agricultural growth in Uganda and identifies opportunities for developing youth leadership, skills, and livelihoods. Drawing from a desk review of 90+ secondary sources, interviews with 50+ key informants, and 24 focus group discussions with 400 youth ages 15 to 25, concrete project-level recommendations are provided.

Invisible Lives: Understanding Youth Livelihoods in Ghana and Uganda

This report explores the diverse livelihoods of rural young people age 18-24 in Uganda and Ghana. Those individuals undertake a mix of informal sector employment, self-employment and agriculture-related activities to sustain their livelihoods. Agriculture production is central to rural youth livelihoods, but agricultural incomes are meager. Both formal and informal wage employment is rare and sporadic. Entrepreneurship (self-employment) remains an important economic activity. The research found that mixed livelihoods allow for risk mitigation and help to maximize young people’s economic opportunities within vulnerable geographic areas; mixed livelihoods are therefore a logical choice and may be the most economically viable course of action for many disadvantaged rural young people in Africa.

Future Farmers: Youth Aspirations, Expectations and Life Choices

This discussion paper reviews existing research on youth aspirations, expectations and life choices. It describes the dynamic processes through which aspirations are formed, shaped and influenced by economic context, social norms and customs, parental and peer influence, media, previous attainment, and gender relations. The paper then links these considerations to the agrarian context of sub-Saharan Africa. The paper concludes with a series of tentative hypotheses about youth aspirations, how they link to outcomes in the rural African context, and the implications for agricultural policy and practice.

Creating Opportunities for Young People in Ghana’s Cocoa Sector

This paper presents young people’s experiences of growing up in Ghana’s cocoa belt and identifies key barriers to their involvement in the sector. The paper also highlights opportunities to promote youth participation in cocoa farming. Based on findings from focus group discussions with youth ages 15-25 in the cocoa-growing belt and from key informant interviews, the key issues raised are access to land, finance, and skills development, as well as perceptions of the cocoa sector, particularly among women.

Creating Opportunities for Young People in Northern Uganda’s Agriculture Sector

This paper explores the realities of young people’s livelihoods and their transition to adulthood in rural northern Uganda. It seeks to shed light on how and why young people find employment in the agriculture sector, describing the transitions that young people experience from childhood into adulthood while growing up on a farm. It also provides a general overview of the agriculture sector in northern Uganda, highlighting the obstacles youth face and the opportunities available to them. Among the findings and recommendations, the report identifies three priority areas for increasing productivity and youth engagement: improved skills training, tailored financial services and warrantage schemes for youth, and more youth-targeted programs, policies, and services.

Quick Money and Power: Tomatoes and Livelihood Building in Rural Brong Ahafo, Ghana

This article uses the example of small-scale, labor-intensive tomato production in Brong Ahafo, Ghana, to explore youth engagement in the agri-food sector in Africa. It emphasizes the heterogeneity of youth and that their patterns of youth farming vary “from short-term involvement in small-scale, labor-intensive commercial farming or agri-business activities, to lifelong but fluid and shifting engagement with different crops and types of production.” It calls for policymakers to acknowledge these different scenarios and not think about the issue as a single “youth in agriculture problem.”

Rural Transformation, Cereals and Youth in Africa: What Role for International Agriculture Research?

This article argues for a more nuanced understanding of the youth-specific issues associated with agriculture transformation, and a need to differentiate how various youth segments engage in the agriculture sector based on structural constraints. It puts forth a framework through which to analyze young people’s abilities to exploit opportunities within the agriculture sector. The case of staple cereals illustrates the nuances of young people’s engagement with agri-food systems, based on the interplay between the macro context, local context, and social structures.  The article also identifies key areas for additional research, highlighting themes of structural considerations, youth specificity, differentiation, and youth relationships and networks.

Addressing Rural Youth Migration at its Root Causes: A Conceptual Framework

“Distress migration is particularly acute among rural youth. Agriculture and rural development are central to the rate of rural out-migration to urban areas. The agricultural sector needs to engage youth in order to increase global food production. In doing so, agricultural transformation can balance out-migration from rural areas and thus contribute to stable growth.
This document presents the conceptual framework for distress migration of rural youth. The framework focuses on the migration of rural youth (ages 15–24), who account for a large proportion of migrants and are a particularly vulnerable group. The framework comprises three sections: 1) Analysis of the main factors determining the propensity of rural youth to migrate; 2) Assessment of the likely impacts of distress migration of rural youth in terms of rural development for local areas of origin; 3) Illustration of the most promising policies and programmes to reduce distress migration of rural youth and maximize developmental benefits for the communities of origin.” Based on available evidence, it may be concluded that within the ongoing processes of sustainable agricultural intensification and structural rural transformation in Sub-Saharan and North Africa, the root causes of distress migration of rural youth need to be addressed by offering more and better on-farm and off-farm employment opportunities.

Young People in African (Agricultural) Policy Processes? What National Youth Policies Can Tell Us

This article discusses youth policies in international arenas, noting the great variation in the ways in which youth is conceptualized and operationalized in policy and legislation. The next section explores policy discourses to assess assumptions that underpin youth policies in Nigeria, Tanzania and Zambia. It first summarizes key debates in the international development community, and then analyses the philosophies of intervention of case country youth policies. Next, the article places the national youth policies within the context of academic debates on youth participation. The last section reconnects the discussion to the theme of youth in agriculture.

Lessons Learned Supporting Rural Young People in IFAD Projects

A review examined 19 IFAD-financed projects with strong pro-youth features and/or promising innovations in reaching young people in rural areas of 11 countries: Argentina, Colombia, Egypt, El Salvador, Ghana, India, Madagascar, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal and Vietnam.

Youth Engagement in Agricultural Value Chains Across Feed the Future: A Synthesis Report

The report informs Feed the Future (FTF) efforts to more strategically and deliberately engage youth in market systems by providing insights from current FTF country programs. The research team assessed 13 Feed the Future programs, carried out field visits to four countries, and held focus group discussions with 384 individuals aged 10-40. The report presents examples of how FTF activities have engaged youth to date. Overall, the research team found that few FTF programs track age, and youth have not been a group targeted in most FTF programs. Moreover, 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. A major finding is that intentionality in youth engagement matters. Many activities as designed do not align with the specific needs of youth, particularly young women. The review also found that youth are engaged at all levels of the value chain, and thus the prevailing assumption that youth are not interested in agriculture is not only wrong but damaging. The report makes five major recommendations for increased youth engagement across the FTF portfolio.

Youth: The Future of Agricultural Cooperatives

This briefing paper discusses and provides examples of how agricultural cooperatives can facilitate youth’s empowerment in the sector, namely by facilitating access to land and water, markets, financial services and information, communication and knowledge.

Youth—A Guidance Note. Designing Programmes that Improve Young Rural People’s Livelihoods

This concise note provides a two-page list of concrete steps to take at the pre-design and design stages to develop projects that benefit young rural women and men. It also offers a two-page list of project activities that benefit young rural people, outlined according to theme, with resources and examples of best practice provided for each. Finally, it offers examples of good practice from IFAD projects around the globe. Topics cover youth engagement in policy dialogue, youth-inclusive rural finance, and business services.

Promoting Agricultural Entrepreneurship Among Rural Youth

This note describes lessons learned regarding how youth-serving organizations can effectively create holistic programming around rural youth entrepreneurship, based on the International Youth Foundation’s experiences in carrying out a youth agribusiness project in Senegal. Key recommendations include adopting a holistic approach to training, taking a value chain approach, facilitating access to financing and capital, and fostering community buy-in.

Project-Based Learning: Equipping Youth with Agripreneurship by Linking Secondary Agricultural Education to Communities

This research paper explores how project-based learning can be used to equip students with agripreneurship competencies and other valuable life skills while linking secondary agricultural education to communities for improved livelihoods. It discusses the background of agripreneurship, summarizes the role of extension services in this context, introduces the concept and provides examples of project-based learning in agricultural education and extension, and presents the relative strengths and weaknesses of the approach.

A Market Systems Approach with a Youth-Inclusive Lens

International development practitioners have been applying a market systems approach to agricultural value chains to work within the systems’ new or existing rules and promoting access to the supporting functions that foster, rather than impede, agricultural growth. Recently, the industry has been asking, “how can a market systems approach facilitate greater youth inclusion and allow youth to thrive in the global agri-food system?” The Feed the Future Project Design Guide for Youth-Inclusive Agriculture and Food Systems: Volume II for USAID had a chance to address this question by applying the Market Systems Development (MSD) approach to youth’s engagement in agriculture. This poster graphically illustrates how the MSD approach interacts with youth and agriculture and highlight the 3 most relevant questions to be addressed: 1. How and to what extent are youth already engaged in agricultural value chain activities? 2. How and to what extent can youth access and are served by the supporting functions of a market system? 3. In what ways do the rules facilitate or hinder youth engagement in agriculture?