Youth Rural Inclusion: insights from a Learning Route in Dominican Republic

By Elisa Mandelli

Participants of the Learning Route in Damajagua @Procasur, 2017
The issue youth employment has increasingly gained visibility in the development agenda. Awareness is growing on the importance of putting young people at the center of the design of strategies and policies to promote decent employment opportunities for youth. With the objective of exploring existing solutions and innovative practices on rural youth inclusion, the IFAD Land Tenure Desk as well as representatives from the Gender Desk and the Near East, North Africa and Europe Division (NEN), were part of the Regional Learning Route on Strategies for sustainable youth inclusion in rural development initiatives which took place in Dominican Republic, from 6 to 12 November 2017. This Learning Route was organized by Procasur in the larger framework of a regional grant developed by FAO and financially supported by IFAD on Strengthening Decent Rural Employment Opportunities for Young Women and Men in the Caribbean. The project aims to contribute to the reduction of poverty for rural youth by promoting an enabling environment for the development of regional policies for rural youth employment in the Caribbean. The collaboration with Procasur focuses on knowledge management and lesson sharing on youth rural inclusion within FAO and IFAD and across the region. Thirty young people and representatives from civil society organizations, Ministries of Agriculture and Youth Inclusion as well as research institutes joined the Route from 11 countries in the LAC Region. The participants visited three cases studies that have significantly contributed to promote youth employment and entrepreneurship of rural youth in Dominican Republic:
  • Association of Ecological Bananas of the Northwest Line (BANELINO). An association of small producers of organic banana created in 1996 which now exports high standards products through the Fair Trade label. Concerned by the progressive aging of their members (54 per cent of the members are over 50 years old and 30 per cent over 61) and the increase of migratory rates of rural youth to urban areas, BANELINO has developed different strategies aimed at ensuring the inclusion of the next generation of farmers. Strategies include the negotiation for land transfers from fathers to sons and daughters but also the creation of the BANELINO farmer field school where young people can learn how to farm organic banana or become a technical worker supporting the association in different sectors of the value chain. Since its creation, 270 youngsters between 17 and 25 years old have graduated from the BANELINO School.
  • Association of Tourist Guides of Damajagua. After the decline of sugar industry in the area, unemployment rates were very high in Damajagua, especially among young people. Taking advantage of the untapped potential of the 27 falls of the Damajagua River, young people from the local communities started to informally work as tourist guides. In the nineties the guides have created a formal Association of Tourist Guides of Damajagua which today co-manages the protected area of the Damajagua River together with the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources, the Ministry of Tourism, provincial and municipal authorities and private owners. The Association has attracted many young people who describe their work in Damajagua as a stimulating and dynamic employment that is providing them with financial and social security to invest in the future (family, education and new businesses) but it also giving them the opportunity to continually grow and be exposed to different cultures and languages. 
  • Support Center for Entrepreneurship. The center of services of integral support for the micro, small and medium enterprises is a joint initiative of the Ministry of Industry and Commerce and the private University of Technology Barahona (UCATEBA) with financial support from different stakeholders. The center provides trainings, mentoring services, technical support and seed capital. In two years, the center has contributed to significantly stimulate entrepreneurship and improve self-employability of students and vulnerable people in the region.
Young technician of the Farmers Support Team trained 

by the BANELINO School on organic banana 
production @Mandelli, 2017 
A recurrent challenge in the cases visited as well in the experiences shared by the other participants was the youth’s access to land. In fact, while off-farm opportunities (like the tourism in Damajagua), or along agricultural value chains (as the technical services of BANELINO) are often emerging as valid and feasible alternatives for youth employment, improving the access to land of young women and men remains an essential condition for the effective socio-economical inclusion of rural youth. Land access is not only the essential requirement for starting farming and other rural related business, it also offers opportunities for accessing finance and can contribute to the upgrade of youth social status and their involvement into decision-making. The experiences shared by the cases studies and the participants highlighted how with the increasing pressure and competition on land and natural resources, young people, and particularly young women, face grater challenges than adults to access land. Moreover, land ownership is commonly perceived as an adulthood privilege, young people are often working on the family plot and usually only access land through inheritance or when they marry or start a family. However, the subdivision of land among a large number of siblings leads to fragmented and unviable land parcels, and young people are increasingly left landless or as secondary right users. At the same time, life expectancy is increasing in many countries and young people have to wait longer to inherit their shares of family land. Thus, it is rare to encounter inter-vivos transfer of land to youth.

While the issue of youth’s limited access to land has become a recurrent challenge of the development agenda (see also blog on the 2017 Conference on Land Policy in Africa); little is shared on the existing solutions and the innovative strategies to improve the situation. As such, IFAD participants will take advantage on the exchanges during the learning route but also on the experience of IFAD-supported projects to draft an Innovation Plan on Youth Inclusion which will specifically look at capitalizing lessons learned on innovative solutions for youth’s access to land. The plans will also integrate the issue of young girls’ inclusion and will explore opportunities to pilot innovative options for youth inclusion.

On this topic, IFAD has recently approved a regional grant in Central America that intends to improve youth’ social inclusion by (i) supporting the collection and the dissemination of challenges and innovative strategies across Central America and through South-South learning; by (ii) fostering informed and inclusive policy dialogues and policy-making processes; and by (iii) transversally address youth access and control on land as an essential asset for rural youth inclusion.

Moreover, the Indonesia Young Entrepreneurship and Employment Support Services Programme (YESS) is being developed to promote employment opportunities for young rural men and women that are looking for a sustainable source of income and an alternative to migrating to the urban centres or abroad. Since youth’s access to land has been identified as a potential constraint, the start-up phase of the programme will carry out a review of the situation and inform the design of different options for young people to benefit from the programme, also by accessing land.

The issue of youth access to land is also being explored as a topic for future Learning Routes in the framework of the IFAD grant on Large Regional Grant Strengthening Capacities and Tools to Scale Up and Disseminate Innovations. The grant is implemented by Procasur and supported by the Regional Divisions of East and Southern Africa (ESA), Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) and the West and Central Africa Division (WCA) and by the Land Tenure Desk in the Policy and Technical Advisory Division to specifically look at the cross-cutting issue of land tenure and natural resources management. As part of this focus, a learning route has been implemented on securing land and water rights in Senegal and Mauritania (see blog post) and another on has been organized in Tanzania and Kenya based on the demand of IFAD-supported projects in Nigeria which wanted to learn on innovative practices and tools to reduce conflicts between farmers and livestock keepers (see Procasur report). The Land Tenure Desk, The Sudan Country Office and Procasur are currently exploring the possibility to support a Route on the good practices on natural resources management of the Butana Intergrated Rural Development Project (BIRDP) in Sudan. Moreover, a cross regional Learning Route on Forest Governance is currently under design and is expected to take place in India in April 2018.