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Part I: Current situation and needs of rural youth

Regional trends
Main issues affecting rural youth

For most developing countries the last decade has been one of increasing difficulty -declining living standards, unemployment, deteriorating services, social unrest and political instability.

In Latin America, the standard of living dropped by 10%; in sub-saharan Africa, by 25%. In Asia, the successes of several Pacific rim countries disguise the huge numbers -about 300 million in India alone - who still live in absolute poverty with a diet too poor to allow enough energy for work.

What happened in the 80's? There is no one single reason but a major contributing factor is population growth.

The world's population reached five thousand million in 1987 - twice what it had been only 37 years earlier. This has been partly as a result of major Improvements in the areas of primary health care, sanitation, and increases in crop production levels and Improvements in nutrition.

But despite longer life expectancy and reduced infant mortality, attitudes which have developed over centuries do not change so quickly. Social reliance on large families is still strong in most parts of the world as it was in the West until this present generation.

Population growth is often singled out as one of the main negative factors in any approach to developing sustainable agricultural and rural development programmes. Increasing pressure on finite natural resources is an inevitable result of rapid population growth.

The world's population increases by 220,000 every day and will be over 6 billion by the end of the century.

It is estimated that by the year 2000 there will be over one billion youth from the ages of 15 to 24. Nearly eighty-five percent of them will be from low-income countries where there are already food shortages, massive rural-to-urban migrations; Inadequate housing, health care and education; and high rates of unemployment. The youth populations of Africa, Asia and Latin America will almost double between 1985 and the end of this century.

In 1990, the Youth population (15-24 years) of the world was approximately 1.01 billion or 19.1% and the number of children (0-14 years) was reckoned to be about 1.7 billion or 32.2% of the world's population. The projected figures for the year 2000 are 1.19 billion for youth and 2.01 billion for children.

All the increase in the worlds children and most of the increase in youth has been in the less developed regions of the world over the last two decades. For the remainder of this century, youth in the developed regions will decline slightly in absolute numbers, while the numbers in developing regions will continue to rise, such that by the end of the century close to nine out of- ten youth will. live, in developing countries. Youth and children will constitute the largest proportion of the population in developing countries compared to around one third of the population in developed countries.

Rural youth account for around 55 percent of the world youth population. They are among the most disadvantaged of groups. Often they have limited access to educational programmes that are geared to their situation and needs - not surprisingly, many rural people drop out of school at an early age. Class-work Is often geared more toward academic accomplishments and to the urban areas than to learning skills useful to rural life, and preparing for adulthood. In many cases too, there is a genuine need for the young person's labour on the farm or In the home adding yet another reason why parents see little reason to keep their children in school. Rural young women have even greater difficulties than young men as they are often not given the same opportunities in education, training and Involvement in rural development activities.

Children and youth combined therefore make up slightly more than half of the total population of the world. Their characteristics represent the legacy of the recent past and the successes or failures of policies and programmes. Their aspirations and opportunities are also indicators of the characteristics of adults in the near future because the world of the future depends on the youth of today.

As future adults, rural youth need to be prepared in

a) Improving their capabilities to produce food and to conserve productive resources in the rural environment,

b) Improving their skills and abilities in carrying out income generating activities in rural areas

c) Relieving population pressure and improving nutrition and the well being of farming families and

d) Developing leadership and the ability to work well with others in group and community situations.

Their knowledge, skills, attitudes, and behaviour are of vital importance in the implementation of sustainable agricultural and rural development programmes.

One of the consequences of the rising population and lack of opportunities rural areas is urban drift - young people consciously decide to move to the towns in the hope of greater opportunities for employment and better education for their children. The education they do receive in rural areas is so often urban oriented that it adds to their belief that their prospects will be better in the towns. The push of poverty in rural areas is at least as great as the pull of the bright lights. As a consequence the towns become increasingly overcrowded putting pressure on limited services.

For some, opportunities are Indeed found In the urban areas, and this increases the lure of the towns for the many others who then find themselves worse off than they would have been in the rural areas. The challenge is to develop the rural areas to make them attractive to young people in terms of employment prospects, education and training opportunities, health services and social life.

Three major worldwide trends of concern for youth are:

1. A dramatic decline in most countries in the formal sector job opportunities

2. Increasing urbanisation and Increasing concentration of resources on urban youth at the expense of rural youth.

3. The Increasing population pressure on land and other resources

Social meanings of age vary from culture to culture. An age that is considered part of childhood in one society may be considered as youth in another and youth in one country may be considered as adults In another. Country definitions of youth start with a lower age from as young as 7 years and some give an upper age limit as high as 39. For the purpose of this workshop however, the UN definition (arbitrary as it may be) will be used so that we have a common ground for discussion. Youth therefore for the purposes of this workshop will be defined as age 15 to 24 and Children will refer to birth to 14 years of age.

Regional trends

Latin America and the Caribbean
Near east
Asia and the Pacific

In spite of regional diversity, some problems are universal to all regions. The problems that rural young people face are reflections of the larger problems of society. The major problems that affect young people across the world are those concerning peace, development, education and training, work, health, housing, family life, culture and the environment.


For 1985 the population of sub-saharan Africa was estimated at roughly 453 million. In comparison to other regions of the world, the share of children (aged 0-14) was extraordinarily high - on average 45% -, whereas the share of youth (aged 15-24) was lower, at roughly 19%, but is expected to increase to more than 21% by the year 2000. Consequently, there will be about 300 million young people on the continent to educate and prepare for employment during the time between 1990 and the year 2000. The overwhelming majority of them (an average of 71%) live in rural areas, where the quality of life is particularly low - one of the major reasons for the high rural-urban migration which in some countries is considered as a more significant problem than the overall rate of population increase.

Africa has the highest population growth rates in the world - an average of 3.1% p.a (which translates as a doubling time of only 23 years). The growth rates are highest for some of the most populous African countries (Kenya 4.2%, Tanzania 3.65%, Zimbabwe 3.6%) and tend to be higher in countries where the share of the rural population exceeds 75%, particularly in East Africa. Throughout the continent this is now increasingly being regarded as a major constraint to attainment of socio-economic development.

The progress in providing basic health care and education and upgrading levels of literacy among rural populations over the past ten years continues to be hampered by rapid population growth. In urban areas this is reflected by levels of unemployment invariably higher among youth than among other parts of the labour force. Levels of unemployment are generally three times those for other age groups, i.e. around 2/3 of the unemployed are youth.

In rural areas, the traditional role of youth consists of farm work usually as unpaid family workers, rather than as farmers in their own account. This is often not due to scarcity of arable land, but rather due to customary rules of land use, which limit access to land for rural youth. On the other hand, many governments of the region accord a changing, more active role to youth within their national development strategies. Since youth constitute on average 1/3 of the economically active population of sub-saharan Africa, raising labour productivity will depend to a large degree upon an efficient Integration of rural youth Into agriculture and other rural-based industries (economic activities).

During the Second African Population Conference, held 1984 in Arusha, the participating nations emphasized the interrelationship of population issues with social and economic development and recommended the achievement of "growth rates compatible with the goals of economic and social development", as an ultimate goal of population policies to be adopted by African nations. Support for strategies to Improve living standards in rural areas were considered to be essential alongside strategies to decrease the current rate of rural-urban migration particularly among youth.

Rural young women are at a particular disadvantage. Fewer young women than young men attend school at any level In the majority of countries of the region. In addition, the drop out rate is higher which creates particular difficulties, since in most rural African societies, there is no place for young unmarried girls who are not in school. Inevitably this then adds to the pressure for early marriage and child raising.

Latin America and the Caribbean

The Latin America figures from 1990 to the year 2000 show that the proportion of rural youth will Increase by only one-half of one percent or by 100,000. However, in the urban centres there will be an estimated Increase of 31 percent, from 84 million to 110 million. Young men and women of childbearing age are continuing to migrate to the urban centres in proportions higher than any other region, a fact that compounds the population pressure in the cities. Estimates from the Economic Commission for Latin America show that over 70 percent of Latin America's population will be located in the urban areas by the year 2000.

These figures lead to the conclusion that farm producers are going to have to be more efficient than at present and that farm prices are going to be increasingly at the mercy of a politically powerful urban voice. Adequate solutions to the problems of Latin America's rural youth and young farmers require unprecedented recognition and action in the areas of land reform, Incentives for agricultural production, employment opportunities, training for productive work in the rural areas, leadership training, community services, health programmes and social services.

Near east

In the Near East, demographic trends tend to parallel those in South Asia with high growth rates strong rural to urban migration and a very youthful population with almost 60% under 24 years of age. Approximately 20 per cent of the population falls between the ages of 15 and 24. Farm incomes continue to be low for small-scale producers and family members often look for off-farm employment opportunities. Rural education is, in many cases, falling to address the needs of rural youth who need to learn about becoming self-reliant In their small communities. Increasing numbers of young people are feeling the effects of rural poverty and they are migrating to urban centres or to work In neighbouring countries in the region in the hope that their lives and those of their children will be Improved. Of particular concern is the lack of appropriate educational and employment opportunities for rural young women. The situation and needs of rural youth in the countries in the Near East Region vary widely and this strongly supports the FAO approach of defining the needs In each country before attempting to assist with strengthening programmes for rural youth and young farmers.

Asia and the Pacific

In 1988, the population of Asia passed 3,000 million. Although the population is growing at a slower rate than in Africa or Latin America, absolute numbers are far higher and increasing by around 55 million every year.

The youth population of Asia and the Pacific is around 20% of the total i.e about 600 million youth aged 15-24 with the rate of population growth generally being higher in the poorer countries.

Overall, the rural percentage of the population is around 65% in East Asia and 70 % in South Asia which is expected to change to 54% and 59% by the end of the century due to urban migration both in the past and the present.

In some countries emigration in terms of skilled manpower losses is a concern such as Malaysia, the Pacific Islands and Korea. In contrast in a number of countries of the region, population losses due to emigration of unskilled or semiskilled workers, principally employed in the Middle East. are appreciated.

In East and South East Asia, population policies have had a major impact on the rate of population growth, now down to around 1.4 percent per year overall. In all countries, there is an increasing trend to postpone marriage until the early twenties.

The impact in South Asia has been far more limited so far, where literacy rates are lower especially among women and where basic health and family planning services are less available.

Currently there is a focus on a multisectoral approach to population issues. Formerly population issues would be tackled within the health and social welfare sectors, whereas presently there are efforts to Integrate them more directly into general development policies.

Movement away from the land has been pronounced over the past thirty years but is now beginning to slow in all countries as the job market becomes saturated. Although at present more rural youth are Involved in agriculture, forestry and fisheries than any other sector, future increases in production offer limited employment opportunities and non-farm rural employment will become of increasing significance.

The major problems of the region as Identified by the Jakarta Plan of Action and confirmed by a workshop held in Bangkok in October 1991 are:

Relevant education and training
Rural to urban migration
Environmental degradation through population pressure
Lack of facilities - social and recreational as well as health and education

Main issues affecting rural youth

Education and training
Rural to urban migration

Education and training

Education and training is an issue of critical importance for rural youth. Lack of skills and the opportunity for training are a major reason for increasing unemployment. Education levels are lower and opportunities are less In the rural areas of all countries of the region.

As mentioned above, what education and training is available, is often so oriented to urban life, that it only acts as a further incentive to migrate to the towns. Young women are especially likely to suffer from discriminatory practices and habits. Rural young women In all countries of the region receive less education than young men and less opportunities for vocational training.

Formal education in rural areas does not yet reach the entire school-age population and is mostly restricted to the primary level (67% enrollment rate In 1980 as against 13% for the secondary level). While progress has been achieved in raising enrolment rates at all levels, priorities have shifted from the emphasis on secondary and higher education in the 1960s and 1970s, to concentration on primary and informal education In the 1980s and 1990s. Particular emphasis has been placed on reaching out-of-school rural youth through activities In the area of informal education to achieve a rapid transfer of skills and applicable knowledge.

However, in spite of the fact that African governments allocate roughly 20% of their public expenditures to education (in the broadest sense), rapid population growth and increases in absolute numbers of the school-age population, particularly in rural areas, increasingly counteract these efforts.

The shift in priority to primary and Informal education has been influenced by growing unemployment among educated youth, a problem which emerged in the 1970s and became more serious in the 1980s in the wake of cut backs In public sector employment.

Increasing drop-out rates at all levels and the preference among more educated rural youth for urban-based employment in manufacturing or services sectors have been partly associated with the limited relevance of contents and methods of education to social and economic needs in Africa. Present reforms of the education system are therefore aimed at adapting formal education more to social and economic needs with emphasis on the need for basic education to prepare children & youth to play a productive role within their communities.

While considerable progress has been achieved, educational reform has not kept pace with the needs of rural young people. A related global tendency has been the generally distorting effects of a scarcity of jobs in the labour market. As more and more young people acquire the requisite qualifications for jobs, the number of these jobs does not increase proportionately. A solution for many employers has been to progressively raise the educational requirements for the job in question.

The negative result of this has been that young people who have recently acquired some degree of education are pushed out of the job market by others who have a higher education and must shift to occupations of a lower rank. There has been a general downward movement in which the lowest ranks, those with rudimentary education, are driven out of the formal job market. This has a particularly negative effect on the products of many rural schools. As mentioned above, the reduction in formal sector job opportunities in many countries during recent years has particularly affected the more highly educated youth.

In comparison to general education, vocational education and technical training initially received less attention. It was estimated, that by the mid-1980s, the ratio of enrolment in general education to vocational education was about 9:1 for sub-saharan Africa.

Recently however, vocational training for employment has become of increasing concern in the region and many innovative schemes have been operating with some success. Efforts to spread vocational training and education to rural areas have led to the establishment of "Vocational Training Centres" in many African countries. Much of the content of the training conducted at these centres however, has so far been of a specialized nature not well suited to preparing rural youth to succeed In agriculture or other rural-based economic activities in rural Africa.

Training for self-employment has also received Increasing attention, though with more limited success. In many cases, the goal of working for someone else has superseded the need to be self-reliant. Small, rural non-farm businesses as well as industrial development are needed In the local communities to support the agricultural producer.

A number of projects in the region in recent years have been developed to train rural youth in leadership, entrepreneurship and self employment. Training for self employment is however difficult and very time consuming and cannot be regarded as the main strategy for reduction of youth unemployment. Not all young people have the capacity to run a successful small farm or workshop and while school leavers are mainly concerned with modem wage employment, they are unlikely to settle quickly Into self employment.

In this situation, informal education activities in the areas of agriculture, health, nutrition, literacy, population, environment etc., became more important since they allow a larger audience to be reached in a shorter time than with formal education. Informal education also gives more scope for adaptation to local conditions and target audiences.

A major problem with skills training schools and rural development has been that anything other than formal secondary education has been considered low status and does not get the support of parents or even the young people themselves. Some community based skills training programmes are now gaining popularity though and are beginning to be thought of as a type of continuing education.


At its current rate of population Increase, annually about four million young people join the labour force in Africa. By the year 2000 their number will have Increased to seven million each year.

In view of stagnant industrial development and public sector employment, during the past decades, the traditional peasant farm sector has absorbed most of this growing labour force mainly through the intensification of farming. However, the relatively decreasing contributions of agricultural production towards GDP, suggest that this has been achieved with reducing per capita Income and increasing underemployment.

In terms of hectares(arable)/head, as a region, sub-saharan Africa represents the most favourable balance. Limitations are more concerned with lack of resources for the development of new land for cultivation and increasingly, lack of expertise and training for the development of permanent, sustainable farming systems.

Taking into consideration present high rates of population growth and consequently growing future labour supply in rural areas, participants at the Regional Seminar on "Promotion of Youth Employment in Africa", held at Buea (Cameroun) 1986, expressed a need to concentrate efforts on human resources development particularly among youth in order to arrive at sustainable solutions to improve labour productivity. Towards this end. existing programmes to provide peasant agriculture with. - complementary production factors (inputs, credit, training and information, marketing facilities) need to give added emphasis and support to activities conducted by and for, youth.

Since the 1960s many specific schemes to reduce unemployment among youth have been launched by governments within the region. They consist mostly of combined training and employment opportunities. The principal elements of the programmes are: 7

- training (technical, vocational skills)
- direct employment generation
- resettlement (reintegration of urban youth in agriculture)
- public works/community development
- moulding of character/attitude (civic education, work ethics)
- leisure

The emphasis given to individual elements varies according to differing perceptions on the causes/nature of youth unemployment in individual countries. Where reluctance to engage in agricultural activities was believed to be due to negative attitudes towards manual work and life In rural communities, priority was given to resettlement projects. Where It was believed to be due to a lack of appropriate skills, technical and vocational skills, training was promoted and where the education system was believed to develop negative attitudes regarding rural life, emphasis was placed on education components.

The main advantage of specific youth employment schemes Is due to their comprehensive nature, providing training, resources and the required legal frame to conduct productive work. The considerable amounts of public Investment In these programmes reflect the concern about youth unemployment among governments of the region. Participation in youth schemes shows some evidence of slowly changing attitudes even among well educated rural youth, as they are increasingly willing to do manual work.

The success of specific youth schemes has so far however been very limited In scale. Up to the present only about 1% of the target audience (primary school leavers) have been involved despite the considerable amounts of public expenditure on these schemes. Ways of promoting the opportunities and successes of the schemes among a much larger proportion of the audience need to be found if they are to have a significant Impact on the problems.

One possibility is through NGO involvement which is becoming increasingly important in the region In the areas of training at local levels, leadership development, organizational support and various kinds of networking.

Rural to urban migration

From comparatively low previous levels of urbanization, rates of urbanization in Africa have now risen to become the highest in the world. The estimated urban growth rate of 4.9% p.a. Is expected to continue until the end of the century. Another characteristic feature Is the high concentration of the urban population in a small number of cities.

In view of the high rates of urban population growth and the (at present) low levels of urbanization, net rural to urban migration appears to have been the major component of urban population growth in many African countries.

While it is widely believed that the majority of rural/urban migrants in Africa are males below 25, the pattern seems to vary considerably among countries. During the 1960s and 1970s youth from 15-24 were the dominant group particularly In South Africa and Kenya, where they made up more than 70% of the male migrants and about 45% of the female migrants. In contrast in Tanzania and Senegal rural-urban migration also Involved high percentages of children (between the ages 5-14). Though the average rate of rural outmigration from the majority of countries is only about 1% annually, the selective nature of-migration, dominated by young persons may have affected rural development negatively. increasing fertility levels to replace those leaving with farm labour. A consequence of this trend Is a reduction in the spread of innovations, since rural areas are deprived of some of the most receptive and productive labour force.

Unfavourable population distribution In Africa also results to a considerable degree from political conflicts and degradation of natural resources (desertification). During the past three decades rural-rural migration has involved large numbers of refugees moving between different rural areas within countries or crossing national borders.

Migration to urban areas seems attractive to rural youth who are taught urban values through the education systems and see the limited employment opportunities in the rural areas. The massive migration from villages to towns, from towns to cities, and overseas to look for employment, has resulted in problems of urban congestion in cities such as Nairobi, Harare and Addis Ababa, though as yet, not on the scale of the huge urban centres of Asia and Latin America such as Calcutta, Manila, Bangkok, Santiago and Mexico City. Pressure on services in the cities of Africa however, is also increasing and plans and policies for youth in general and rural youth in particular are urgently needed since they are the main contributors to urban migration.

For the many rural youth who wish to remain on the land, the obstacles include the lack of new arable land for cultivation, inadequate training and extension services, low prices for primary produce, poor markets and infrastructure, low levels of technology and limited credit. Land pressure often results in marginal and unsuitable land being used for cultivation leading to soil degradation and erosion, deforestation and other environmental problems of the region.

For many, agriculture is thought of as a low status job and a last resort, which adds to the pull of urban life. Average earnings in most countries of the region are higher in urban than in rural areas. However, income distribution is less equitable in the urban areas meaning that while there is more opportunity for higher wages in the cities, there is also more a higher likelihood of unemployment. For agriculture and rural industries to offer a satisfying life to increasingly better educated rural youth, added emphasis is needed on improving access to Inputs including land, rural credit, subsidies and price policies - and rural Infrastructure and services including education, health, social and recreational facilities.

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