Committee on World Food Security

Making a difference in food security and nutrition

New UN report on youth calls for urgent steps to make agriculture and food systems fair and equitable

Recognizing youth as agents of change is key to their meaningful engagement and employment in food systems.

5 July 2021, Rome – A new UN report on youth and agriculture underscores the urgent need to make agriculture and food systems fairer and more equitable to secure a sustainable and food secure future for young people.

Noting that current food systems are the largest employer of young people, particularly in developing countries, the report cautions that food sector jobs often do not provide decent and meaningful work or adequate livelihood opportunities for young people.

Produced by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS)’s High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) on food security and nutrition, the report - Promoting youth engagement and employment in agriculture and food systems - outlines actions needed to make the food sector more equitable for young people, to increase the creation of decent jobs and to promote engagement to improve livelihoods and food systems sustainability.

The report urges recognition of young people’s rights, equity and agency as essential foundations for building sustainable food systems of the future. It further notes that making young people’s employment in agriculture and food systems meaningful and appealing has boundless potential returns in terms of food security, poverty reduction, employment generation, natural resources conservation, peace and political stability.

“We want to enable young people to be the drivers of the change they wish to see in the world,” said FAO’s Director-General, QU Dongyu, at the opening of the virtual launch event. “Young people are also highly concerned about transforming our global agri-food systems to be more sustainable, more resilient, more inclusive, and better for the health of people, animals, plants and the planet. Today’s CFS HLPE report is an essential input into these youth-led discussions.”

Context specific employment and labour market policies not only can contribute to creating jobs for youth but can also directly support transitions to sustainable food systems by restoring the natural resource base, strengthening social and physical infrastructure, and contributing to territorial markets and food security.

Though the number of young people involved in agriculture has been decreasing, youth play a significant role in many other aspects of food systems, from nutrition and food literacy education, to food processing, retailing and distribution.  Youth remain a key motor of innovation in the sector and are concerned about the need to make food systems more sustainable and resilient, stressed QU.

Welcoming the report, Thanawat Tiensin, CFS Chairperson underscored CFS’s call for the development of systems, policies and programmes that engage more youth in agriculture and agricultural professions. “It is not enough to say youth are the future of humankind. We have to intentionally take steps to make their engagement in food systems meaningful. This report gives us a roadmap for this.”

On his part, CFS HLPE Steering Committee Chairperson, Martin Cole said “The report provides the scientific basis for a new CFS workstream that will result in a policy product offering guidance on the kind of policies, programmes and investments required to increase youth employment in agriculture and food systems.”

Report’s key findings and recommendations

  • Unemployment rates for youth are three times higher than for adults in all world regions, and a vast majority of unemployed youth are young women.
  • Food systems, particularly in the Global South, are the largest employer of young people, yet they often do not provide decent and meaningful work or adequate livelihood opportunities, nor maintain a balance between the needs and rights of different generations.
  • Youth engagement and employment in sustainable food systems is simultaneously a goal to be realized and a means for the radical transformation of food systems, the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals and of economic well-being.
  • Policies and initiatives to protect and strengthen youth engagement and employment in food systems also need to be anchored in rights, equity, agency and recognition.
  • The redistribution of resources, knowledge and opportunities for youth innovation and engagement in the development of context-specific employment and labour policies cannot only contribute to creating jobs for youth, but can also directly support transitions to sustainable food systems.

The report puts forward recommendations such as improving youth-focused social protection programmes, labour laws and regulations, and young people’s access to resources (land, forests, fisheries), finance, markets, digital technologies, knowledge and information. Supporting youth-led start-up initiatives is also important, and requires a supporting policy environment.

These recommendations are structured across the following cross-cutting areas:

  • Providing an enabling environment for youth as agents of change.
  • Securing dignified and rewarding livelihoods.
  • Increasing equity and rights to resources.
  • Enhancing knowledge, education and skills.
  • Fostering sustainable innovation.



Contacts: For more information and to request interviews, please contact Waiganjo Njoroge, CFS Head of Communications at [email protected] or Tel.: +254 723 857 270

Report: The report – Promoting youth engagement and employment in agriculture and food systems – is available here in all UN languages:

About CFS: The Committee on World Food Security (CFS) was established in 1974 and reformed in 2009 to become the foremost inclusive international and intergovernmental platform for a broad range of committed stakeholders to work together in a coordinated manner and in support of country-led processes towards the elimination of hunger and ensuring food security and nutrition for all, for the progressive realization of the right to adequate food in the context of national food security. Hosted by FAO and supported by all Rome-based Agencies of the UN, CFS promotes policy convergence and coherence on global food security and nutrition issues. Its processes ensure that the voices of all relevant stakeholders are heard, particularly those most affected by food insecurity and malnutrition.

About HLPE: The High-Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE), science-policy interface of the UN Committee on World Food Security (CFS), was created in October 2009 as an essential element of the CFS reform. The HLPE aims to facilitate policy debates and inform policy making by providing independent, comprehensive and evidence-based analysis and advice at the request of CFS. The HLPE elaborates its studies through a scientific, transparent and inclusive process. HLPE studies are the result of a continuous dialogue between HLPE experts and a wide range of stakeholders (whether public, private or from the civil society) and knowledge holders across the world, combining different forms of knowledge, building bridges across regions and countries, across various scientific disciplines and professional backgrounds.