Youth in Agriculture

Ariel Pagaspas, 17, harvests potatoes in Bangao, Buguias, Benguet,
The role of young people in the agricultural sector have been debated extensively, and for good reason. Youth unemployment is a huge challenge with potentially severe consequences, and the agricultural sector is the biggest employer in most developing countries.

Currently, the global population of young people aged 12-24 is around 1.3 billion, and projected to peak at 1.5 billion in 2035. The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) estimates that globally, around 55% of young people reside in rural areas. In Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) and south Asia, this number increase to as much as 70%. In SSA alone, youth (aged between 15 and 24) comprise as much as 36% of the labor force. With food production having to increase with 60% by 2050 in order to sustain expected food demands (FAO, 2011), adequate integration of young people in the agricultural sector can be a vital factor for reaching those targets..

Consequently, I am often asked the question: “How can we facilitate for increased youth participation in the agricultural sector?”.

In order to answer that question, I would like to first identify some of the key challenges I believe young people face when trying to enter the job-market:
  • Limited jobs: There are limited jobs available, and those that are available tend to go to "more experienced adults", often leaving entrepreneurship as the only possibility;
  • Perception: The agricultural sector is regarded as a poor man’s job and something you do to survive, and not a career. Consequently, many young people are simply not interested in working with agriculture;
  • Not everyone is an entrepreneur: statistically less than 20% of the population globally are entrepreneurial. In developing countries, entrepreneurship is often due to circumstances and not by choice. Globally, 44% of business start-ups have failed by the third year;
  • Lack of experience: By nature of being young, one would not have obtained as much experience as adults. Lack of experience is reportedly the leading reason for business failure, after incompetence;
  • Access to finance: Many financial institutions simply refuse to serve young people as they see them as higher risk than adults; and
  • Being taken seriously: Young people can often miss out on important opportunities as they are simply not taken seriously by their adult peers.
The solution is complex, but I would like to offer two suggestions I believe could make a difference:

Develop educational mobile-phone games: There is limited data available on mobile-phone gaming in Africa, but most young people own a phone and many use it for gaming. Most phones used by young people in Africa today can run simple java-based games. By developing a mobile phone game that young people find entertaining, based around the concept of starting a business in the agricultural sector, young people could learn more about important business principles such as planning, budgeting, marketing, and profit-margins.

A study by Doorway to Dreams (D2D), a not-for-profit organisation that works on improving the finances of low- and middle-income consumers, on the effect of D2D's financial education games, showed that both financial self-confidence and financial-knowledge increased when playing finance-educational games [1]. A potential game would also expose young people to a different side of agriculture other than “as a poor person’s job”, which could possible encourage young people to consider the agricultural sector as a potential career. Games for Change and "half the Sky movement" worked together on developing educational games to teach about important social issues in Africa (and other places), which was played by more than 500,000 gamers globally. See 

Promote microfranchising: Microfranchise as a concept has been around for a while but surprisingly not made the traction in the international development arena as I would have expected. Shortly explained, Microfranchising apply the concept of franchising to businesses at the bottom of the pyramid, where the franchisee replicate a proven business-model by following a consistent set of well-defined processes and procedures. The franchisor removes a lot of the entrepreneurial responsibility from the franchisee by managing many key aspects of running a business, such as marketing, establishing and improving operational procedures, procurement, and so forth. As such, many of the key business-decisions necessary for a startup have already been made and the success of the business rely more on the ability to implement step-by-step procedures than ones entrepreneurial skills.

Youth Business International argue that having access to a mentor is a key success-factor for youth entrepreneurs as it limits the possible negative impact of lacking experience. However, maintaining a mentoring programme is difficult and expensive, as one would have to compensate for the mentor’s time. With microfranchising, the comprehensive implementation support provided by the microfranchisor, who has a financial incentive to see the franchisee succeed, may substitute much of the function of a mentor. Working with an established microfranchise should remove some of the perceived risk by financial institutions. Financial services could possibly even be provided in-kind by the franchisor and paid back with a monthly repayment schedule.

There is limited data about Microfranchising, but preliminary findings suggests that the absolute majority of microfranchises established are still running after three years of operation.You can learn more about microfranchising here , or read about Grameen Foundation’s mobile microfranchising activities here.

What do you think? Could mobile games and microfranchising be the solution for unemployed youth?

Doorway to Dreams, "Can games build financial capacity? A financial entertainment report", Available at: