Advocating for the active Engagement of the Youth in the Agricultural Value Chain

19 - 23 September 2011
Ezulwini, Swaziland

Feeding future generations: Young rural people today - prosperous, productive farmers tomorrow

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Proceedings of the Governing Council High-Level Panel and Side Events
In conjunction with the Thirty-fourth Session of IFAD's Governing Council, February 2011

The global population is projected to rise from its present level of 6.9 billion to 9.2 billion by 2050. An estimated 1 billion people already are going hungry, and young rural people are increasingly disillusioned about working in the agricultural sector, which in many countries is stagnant and unproductive. So the question must be asked: Who is going to feed this growing world population?

Today's generation of young people is the largest in history. In developing countries, young people (defined by the United Nations as those aged 15 to 24) make up 20 per cent of the population on average. They represent a huge potential resource to their countries. Yet ironically, rural areas are not benefiting fully from this resource. In fact, many rural communities are ageing precisely because, in the absence of incentives to remain, young women and men are leaving rural areas to seek opportunities elsewhere.

Resolving this paradox and responding to the challenges of expanding agricultural productivity and rural economic growth demand at least three things: investment in social and economic infrastructure in rural areas; creation of remunerative economic opportunities for young people in agriculture and the rural non-farm economy; and expanded opportunities for young men and women to build the skills they need to take advantage of these opportunities.

For years young people have been underused and neglected by their communities, by governments and by international organizations. Globally, young people are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults. Equally worrying is the plight of the estimated 300 million young people classified as working poor. They earn less than US$2 a day, outnumber young unemployed people by a factor of four and typically work in rural areas.

Compared to their older peers, young rural people face particular constraints in gaining access to land, credit and new technologies. They also need wider educational opportunities and access to relevant vocational training programmes. They are a group who need and deserve special attention, support and follow-up. With their energy, their passion and their talents, they can help to solve many of the serious problems the world faces today. But first we must give them the tools they need.

With this background in mind, Tumi Makgabo, former co-producer and host of CNN International's award-winning programme Inside Africa, moderated a discussion with a distinguished panel during the thirty-fourth session of IFAD's Governing Council. The audience consisted of representatives from the 166 IFAD Member States, including new member Uzbekistan.