Decent Rural Employment

ECOSOC Youth Forum: FAO and UNIDO discuss ways to empower youth for quality jobs in agriculture


8 April, New York // Opportunities and challenges in youth empowerment for quality agriculture jobs in Africa took center stage during a side event organized on the margins of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) Youth Forum on 8 April at the United Nations Headquarters. 

The event was jointly hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) to address the question, “How can youth in Africa be empowered to best leverage the opportunities for quality jobs in agriculture? It brought together government representatives as well as youth representatives and entrepreneurs from the African region to share best practices and lessons learned.

Youth in rural areas of Sub-Saharan Africa continue to be affected by burgeoning poverty, are employed in the informal economy and are engaged in jobs that are far from decent.

10-12 million new and especially adequate, secure and safe jobs will have to be created annually until 2035 to absorb the new labour market entrants and to ensure political, social and economic stability.

Delivering the opening remarks, Ms. Carla Mucavi, Director of the FAO Liaison Office to the United Nations, noted that the vast potential of the African youth is waiting to be realized to overcome these challenges.

“Employment opportunities in the rural economy are abundant, and youth’s involvement in agribusinesses should be supported to tap into this reservoir of opportunities,” Mucavi said.

This was echoed by Hiroyuki Ozaki of the UNIDO Liaison office in New York, who stressed the importance of joining forces at country and international levels to build the necessary capacities and realize opportunities for quality jobs in agriculture, particularly in light of the Youth 2030 Agenda.

Participants stressed the importance of effectively integrating youth in agriculture and agribusiness to reap the demographic dividends, and to achieve inclusive and sustainable development and growth.

Jean Baptiste Hategekinama, Managing Director of the Rwanda Youth in Agribusiness Forum (RYAF), highlighted some of the major problems young people face, in particular the lack of land, incentives, capacities and capital. He confirmed the need to have an enabling ecosystem in place to ensure that young women and men have the capacities to realize the opportunities for quality jobs in agriculture, particularly through entrepreneurship and self-employment.

Jhannel Tomlinson, representative of the Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD), discussed ways to attract young people to agriculture by making it “cool and fun,” through means such as agritainment and agribusiness cafes, the latter as spaces where young farmers can meet to share best practices. As well, she stressed the importance of mentorship so that young farmers will be more aware of what to expect and how to overcome hurdles.  

Chido Dzinotyiwei, representative of the Zimbabwe Economic Youth Foundation (ZEYF), noted some of the challenges that youth face, especially in accessing financing and equipment. She noted the importance of connecting youth with other farmers to help develop skills. She also highlighted the role that technologies will play in the future of farming.

Delivering remarks on behalf of the FAO Liaison Office to the United Nations, Francesca Zoppi noted that the creation of meaningful and inclusive opportunities for youth employment in agriculture and in rural areas will not only impact young people’s lives, but substantially improve rural communities, and the national economy and the resilience of many countries.

The two-day annual ECOSOC Youth Forum was organized this year under the theme “Empowered, Included and Equal” with participation from youth delegates and governments to share ideas on how best to unleash the potential of the 1.2 billion young people in the world.

The side event was organized in the context of a joint initiative being developed by FAO and UNIDO, with the support of the Government of Japan, to accelerate youth employment and entrepreneurship development in agriculture and agribusiness in Africa. Expected to be launched at the Tokyo International Conference on African Development (TICAD) in August 2019, the initiative will feature projects that will strengthen industrial ecosystems in Sub-Saharan African countries to empower youth and to enable the creation of quality employment opportunities for youth in agriculture and agro-food value chains.