International Year of Youth begins: Join us in addressing the challenges of rural youth

The International year of Youth begins today. “We must not fail these young women and men,” said IFAD President, Kanayo Nwanze. “The International Year of Youth is an opportunity to raise awareness and galvanize action”. This should be the year when IFAD develops a strategy and action plan on rural youth. The challenge is how to promote  employment and income-earning opportunities – in particular in the agricultural sector – which are gainful and attractive to young people. Otherwise, as the Farmers’ Forum 2010 participants asked, ‘who will feed the world tomorrow?’

There are some interesting experiences in IFAD-funded operations, but they have tended to be piecemeal – they need to be scaled up and systematised.  And it isn’t just about creating new and more profitable economic opportunities, in and around agriculture, as well as in non-farm employment and services. It’s also about rural areas being better places to live, of being (far) better equipped in terms of services and infrastructures, less isolated and better connected (roads, radio, internet, telecommunications and more.  And not being the backwaters that young people just want to run away from.  Life in rural areas needs to become better for women for whom city life means –more often in their dreams than in reality – escaping from the daily drudgery of fetching water and fuel, hard work in the fields which is largely unrewarded, headloading produce to distant markets….. Basic services for rural development and wellbeing,  schools and health centres,  often suffer from chronic difficulties in recruiting an retaining staff, who also find living in rural areas difficult and/or unattractive…

There will simply be no future for rural economies unless rural development efforts manage to use and retain the talents and energy of young people. This we realize fully here in IFAD. But the challenges are many - and interconnected. Apart from the general situation of rural areas which I recalled above, factors which specifically affect rural youth include:

  • scarcity of land;
  • high mobility of rural youth (within rural areas and between rural and urban areas);
  • lack of conditions for young people to access sufficient capital to invest in gainful enterprises with a future;
  • infrequent consultation of rural youth in programming and policy-making;
  • lack or low quality of skills and vocational training, also poorly matched with labour demand;
  • low investments in the kinds of services that young people seek (internet connectivity, recreation, sports…);
  • limited voice and representation of the young in farmer organizations;
  • cultural norms and intergenerational conflict which limit and delay the autonomy of the young…and many more.

As in the case of women,  empowering young people socially, politically and economically is an issue of profound social change, which is not without tensions.

Let’s use the International year of Youth as an opportunity to listen to young people, to share learning on what works, to strengthen partnerships that can carry forward a new action agenda for rural youth.

Annina Lubbock,
Senior Technical Adviser, Gender and Poverty Targeting, IFAD


Could not agree more! We need to establish vocational training centres for those interested in to make a living in agriculture, offering pratical courses on sustainable agriculture technologies. This should include options which generate good yields and income. Practical expamples need to be schown how to earn money farming the land, in order to motivate young people!
Mendu Srinivasulu said…
The youth in the villages must get involved (irrespective of their educational qualification) in specific trainings on latest practices and know-how in agriculture/livestock sectors and must provide the extension services to the fellow farmers on commercial way. Then only it will be accepted for scale and will certainly lead to the much expected change in the existing scenario. IFAD can support in providing such trainings with appropriate technology/implements or share the experiences from other parts..

I welcome this initiative and youth role is very critical in sustaining any good work in promoting technologies/producer organizations as they can provide required leadership for a long while to ensure the desired results.

Mendu Srinivasulu
Manager-New Initiatives
BASIX Krishi Samruddhi Ltd
Andhra Pradesh, INDIA
Anonymous said…
ya..its very true..though I hail from rural area and I always had the desire to live in my own place but still lack of opportunities and lack of basic facilities always make me wonder about settling in my village.

This article is eye opener for everyone...what we need in addition to it is a little bit of motivation factor for youth of today..
Atrazine said…
In the case of agriculture, humans have the ability to modify the niche beyond the scope of animals. But in doing so continually fights the natural forces towards equilibrium that built the niche.
Mlayhi fateh said…
youth of tunisia praised President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali's avant-garde initiative proclaiming 2010 an International Year of Youth, as it marks a decisive turning point in boosting the role of youths nationally and internationally.