021 Agriculture is not cool?! Think Again. Closing the generation gap

Strengthening capacities that empower youth to carry out and benefit from responsible agricultural investment is key for future food security.


  • Comité National Suisse de la FAO (CNS-FAO)
  • Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG)
  • FAO
  • World Farmers' Organisation (WFO), Young Farmers' Committee
  • Brazil, Special Secretary for Family Farming and Agrarian Development (SEAD)
  • Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD)
  • Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS)


Youth are the future of food security. Yet around the world, few young people see a future for themselves in agriculture or rural areas. The average age of farmers is on the rise and there is little prospect for younger generations to replace ageing farmers, resulting in what is referred to as the "generation gap" in the food and agriculture sector. This trend can be explained by both subjective perceptions and objective constraints. On the one hand, young people are reluctant to consider agriculture as a viable livelihood option and associate it with low returns, hard work and low social status. On the other hand, young entrepreneurs wishing to succeed in agricultural and food value chains face numerous challenges, in particular inadequate access to land, credit and markets. These challenges are multidimensional and require interventions at various levels. Firstly, it is key to strengthen the enabling environment, the policies, laws and incentives for agricultural investment, and to ensure that these empower young entrepreneurs in agricultural and food value chains. Furthermore, it is crucial to ensure that young entrepreneurs have access to a wide range of services. Finally, it is important to strengthen the individual capacities of young entrepreneurs through adequate education programmes. Responsible investment includes priority investments, in, by and with young agri-entrepreneurs. The 4th CFS Principle for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems addresses the engagement and empowerment of youth in particular. In this context, FAO has developed a tool to identify existing and needed capacities to empower young people to carry out and benefit from responsible investment in agricultural and food systems. The tool has been applied by the Swiss National FAO Committee, by FAO (in Ivory Coast, Uganda and four countries from the Southern African Development Community) and by others with relevant stakeholders in workshops and expert meetings. The side event intends to share the diverse experiences from the application of the tool and the general discussions about the challenges of the generation gap in agriculture and food systems in these countries, and to launch the publication of the tool.

Key speakers/presenters

  • Welcome Remarks: Mr Alwin Kopše, Head, International Affairs and Food Security Unit, Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture (FOAG)
  • Keynote speaker: Mr Denis Kabiito, CEO/National coordinator, Young Farmers’ Federation of Uganda; Coordinator, Youth Committee, World Farmers’ Organization


  • Ms Janetta Carlucci, Decent Rural Employment Team, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
  • Mr Hur Ben Corrêa da Silva, General Coordinator, Brazilian Special Secretariat for Family Farming and Agrarian Development (SEAD)
  • Mr Michel Oulai, President, Fédération Nationale des Organisations Professionnelles de la Jeunesse Rurale de Côte d'Ivoire (FENOPJERCI)
  • Ms Poorva Pandya, CEO, ETG Farmers Foundation
  • Dr Anne Roulin, Swiss National Committee for FAO (CNS-FAO); President, Agripreneurship Alliance
  • Moderator: Mr Michael Riggs, RAI Team Leader, FAO

Main themes/issues discussed

Three questions guided the discussion: Why is there a generation gap in agriculture; why is it important to close this gap; and, how can this be done?

The world population is growing, and increasingly urban. Demand for food is rising. Youth suffer high unemployment. Yet the average age of farmers and rural populations is increasing. In some areas a significant percentage of farms will be abandoned in the coming years.

Agriculture is unattractive to youth for several reasons, including a bad image (something for the less educated or as punishment), neglect by society and governments, drudgery and low income opportunities.

Youth who do go into agriculture face many challenges that limit their capacities to invest in agriculture, such as insufficient infrastructure, limited opportunity for involvement in policy-making, and limited access to land, markets and financial services.

The generation gap needs to be closed urgently to provide youth employment, ensure food and nutrition security, reduce unplanned migration.

The fourth CFS Principle for Responsible Investment in Agriculture and Food Systems states that investment much engage and empower youth. Ideas on how to do this were shared, including:

  • Enhance the enabling environment to support youth agri-entrepreneurs along the full value chain (beyond production);
  • Promote agriculture as a business for success, including role models and demonstrate that agriculture is “dope”;
  • Expand education, including vocational and practical training, entrepreneurial education, direct technical assistance;
  • Encourage knowledge exchange between youth and adults, stimulating trust and recognition;
  • Improve access to financial services, inputs and land;
  • Stimulate innovation, sustainable mechanization and technology transfer. “Cool” tools makes agriculture attractive and efficient;
  • Involve youth directly in policy-making;
  • Collect youth-specific information to enhance informed decision-making;
  • Set up markets where youth can sell their products.

To come to sustainable solutions, partnerships, through multi-stakeholder dialogue, engagement and concrete actions are key.

To support action in this area, FAO, in partnership with FOAG, has developed a capacity assessment tool for multi-stakeholder assessment of existing and needed capacities to enhance responsible agricultural investment by and for youth. It has been applied in several countries and helps identify the priorities to work on at country level.

Summary of key points

  • Agriculture is not seen as attractive by youth.
  • Youth who want to engage in agriculture find many obstacles, yet they present a huge potential to innovate the sector.
  • Enhancing capacities needed so youth can participate in and benefit from responsible investment in agriculture is essential.
  • Policy-making should promote the involvement and ownership of youth.
  • Proposals made to create a “Young farmers prize” and to have youth-specific committee/activities in the UN Decade of Family Farming.

Key take away messages

  • States should put youth development high on the political agenda and include youth and their needs in policy-making (e.g. national plans for youth development, youth representative forums, adequate budget for youth policy implementation, etc.).
  • To make agriculture more attractive, show success stories (“youth champions” from both developed and developing countries) of how individuals have achieved good livelihoods, highlighting opportunities across the value chain.
  • Create opportunities to engage youth in different parts of the value chain, including helping youth to “think big”, and not only about self-employment.
  • The choice of the kind of agriculture to be promoted is also key. Investing in family farming increases the opportunities for youth.
CFS Side Event 021 - Agriculture is not cool ?! Think Again. Closing the generation gap.