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Learning Route Nicaragua

Posted by Greg Benchwick Wednesday, October 24, 2012

‘Passion rebuilds the world for the youth. It makes all things alive and significant.’ -
Ralph Waldo Emerson

Advantages, challenges and lessons learned from Latin America’s young rural talents

By Adolfo Castrillo

As we continued on our learning route in Nicaragua, the passion and potential of youth took the forefront. 

This learning space was presented to us by Procasur with the support of the Ministry of Family Economy, the implementing agency for the IFAD-funded PROCAVAL and PRODOSEC projects that we visited along the route. 

Some questions come to mind from the interesting discussions fostered along the way. How can we empower young rural talents to rebuild our world? How can we invest resources, know-how and manpower to ensure long-term sustainability, peace and progress?

First off, we must understand the context that frames the issue. According to Procasur, there are 120 million young people in Latin America and the Caribbean today, if we define “youth” as people between 15 and 29. Of these, about 30 million live in rural areas, with boys outnumbering girls (53 to 47 per cent). In the countryside as a whole, young people comprise about 25 per cent of the population today.

Their access to opportunities, education, assets and the such will be a deciding factor in the future of food security, economic development and environmental sustainability not just in Latin America but across the globe.

The stakes are high, indeed. As we learned during the presentations by Procasur and from the young people themselves, besides having an abundance of passion, energy and ambition, there is a competitive advantage of this new generation of rural talents. If we look at the region as a whole, young people have higher levels of education than their parents, they know how to use new technology and are open to innovation.

Perhaps most importantly, young people stand at a crossroads. In the next few years, these rural talents will choose to stay in their communities, leave for the bigger cities (or mid-sized rural hubs that are growing exponentially in the region). They will decide to follow the road of peace and inclusion into the society as a whole or they will fall into a non-virtuous cycle attached to the drug trade, gangs and easy money.

It’s not going to be easy making these choices. And while there are numerous comparative advantages to being young, there are tons of disadvantages, too. 

With complex inheritance systems and relatively high levels of population growth, we simply don’t have the land, assets, institutions or policies in place to empower these youth.

If we continue on the path we are on today, most of Latin America’s young people will remain an invisible majority. 

So what can we do to make it better? 

Four clear themes are emerging from this Learning Route and our work with youth in the region over the past several years. 

Young people need

•    Access to technical and business development assistance

•    Insertion into labor markets

•    Access to land and productive capital 

•    Access to financial services

Young Rural Enterprisers Program

The IFAD-supported Procasur Corporation is running this Learning Route along with similar learning spaces across the Global South. Procasur started looking at rural youth in the region in 2008 with the Young Rural Talents Program. The program sought to identify problems and needs, challenges and opportunities. 

The Young Rural Enterprisers Program builds on this work, promoting innovation and focusing its energies on meeting the unique demands of today’s rural youth. The project will achieve this goal and work toward reducing rural poverty by using knowledge as a key driver for change, by fostering political dialogue and by co-financing innovative youth-run micro-enterprises. 

This venture funding will invest at least half of its resources in women-run enterprises, also providing the means to share these lessons between a new network of tomorrow’s rural leaders.

Procasur presentations