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Director-General  José Graziano da Silva
A statement by FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva
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2 July 2017

African Union – European Union Conference

Making Sustainable Agriculture
a future for youth in Africa

Excellency Mr. Tarmo Tamm, Minister for Rural Affairs of Estonia;

Excellency Ms. Josefa Leonal Sacko, African Union Commissioner;

Excellency Mr. Phil Hogan, European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development;

Ambassador Hans Hoogeveen, Permanent Representative of the Netherlands to FAO;

Mr. Gilbert F. Houngbo, President of IFAD;

Honourable Ministers;


Distinguished guest;

Ladies and gentlemen;

It is an honor for FAO that this Ministerial Conference African Union–European Union is being organized here in our headquarters.

And it is also emblematic that it is being organized in Italy. The crossroad of a wave of young people migrating from one region to another, escaping poverty, conflicts, and also climate change impacts.

Excellencies, your presence here today is a clear reflection of the importance of food and agriculture for sustainable development.

And I am referring not only to the 2030 Agenda; but also to the Malabo Declaration to end hunger by 2025 and the African Union’s Agenda 2063.

We need to put in place agricultural sectors that produce more using less natural resources;

that can provide adaptation and mitigation to the impacts of climate change;

and that can contribute to inclusive growth where no one is left behind.

Youth employment is a crucial issue in all continents, but especially in the African continent, due to the demographic transition in course.

In 2014 alone, about 11 million young people entered the labor market, according to the World Bank.

Fostering sustainable agriculture and rural development is essential to absorb these millions of youth looking for a job.

But nowadays, young people see few opportunities in remaining in the traditional agriculture sectors that predominate in Africa.

They face numerous constraints.

This includes lack of skills, limited access to resources such as land and financial services, as well as low involvement in decision-making processes.

They also earn low wages, and find only casual or seasonal work arrangements.

This situation turns young people away from agriculture.

And makes them more prone to migrate from rural areas, and sometimes join movements of distress migration to other countries and continents, or even get involved in conflicts.

Youth employment should be at the center of any strategy to face economic and demographic challenges in Africa.


I would like to mention 5 aspects that are important in order to engage youth in farm and also in non-farm activities that are linked to agriculture and rural development.

The first is to enhanceyouth participation and leadership in producer organizations and other rural institutions.

This would empower them to engage in policy dialogue, and integrate their concerns into agricultural development.

The second aspect that I want to highlight is the stimulation of private sector investments.

This is critical to create a modern and dynamic agricultural sector and value chains.

Infrastructure investments, especially in roads and storage capacity, would help to connect producers, agro-industrial processors, and other segments of the value chains.

The third aspect is the need to provide rural areas with better services such as electricity, education, and health, just to name a few.

And bear in mind that these services are themselves another important source for employment.

The growth of services linked to rural areas can generate jobs especially for women and young people.

The fourth point is the implementation of a territorial approach focused on strengthening the physical, economic, social and political links between small urban centers and their surrounding rural areas.

Infrastructure investments, especially in roads and storage capacity, would help to connect producers, agro-industrial processors, and other segments of the value chains.

These small and medium-sized cities are also the places where farmers buy seeds, send their children to school, and turn to medical care and other services.

The fifth aspect is to invest more in Information and Communication Technologies (ICT).

ICT has a great youth appeal, and also excellent potential to improve efficiency in different fields of farm work.

ICT also helps to improve the impact of rural advisory services and social protection programmes.

It also facilitates access to markets, information and business opportunities in remote rural areas.

Ladies and gentlemen,

FAO is supporting the implementation of many programmes that target youth in rural areas.

We have recently launched a special initiative called: “Youth employment: enabling decent agriculture and agri-business jobs”.

This aims to document and share best practices, strengthen capacities, promote south-south cooperation, and upscale successful approaches.

In Nigeria, for instance, we supported the design of a plan called National Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme, also known as YEAP.

Other African countries, such as Uganda, have adopted FAO’s Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools methodology.

This is a simple but very efficient methodology for teaching vulnerable children and young people about farming, management skills, and also how to take care of themselves.

FAO and NEPAD have also joined forces to increase jobs and business opportunities for young people in rural areas of Benin, Cameroon, Malawi and Niger.

In April this year, FAO and partners successfully promoted a Global Expert meeting in Zimbabwe. One of the main concrete outcomes of this meeting was the elaboration of the Accelerated Agriculture and Agro-industry Development Initiative PLUS (3ADI+). It aims to promote agro-industries and modern value chains in Africa.

I want to notice with satisfaction that FAO and UNIDO have already started to implement this initiative, identifying pilot countries and financing mechanisms.


I would like to conclude by highlighting that FAO is ready to further its activities in Africa, and support countries to unlock the potential of agriculture to create decent jobs.

A sustainable world can only be achieved with the full engagement of young people.

They must feel integrated, and believe that a more peaceful and prosperous world is possible.

Building the Zero Hunger generation requires building a new generation of farmers and businessmen and women in Africa.

Thank you for your attention