Climate Change

Resilient livelihoods for youth in small-scale food production are pivotal in building sustainable agrifood systems


On 5 June, World Environment Day will be celebrated around the world. This is an ideal moment to commemorate and reflect upon the extraordinary interconnection between humans and the environment.Through ten case studies, a new FAO publication “Creating resilient livelihoods for youth in small-scale food production” demonstrates how supporting young food producers can play a pivotal role in strengthening productive ecosystems, re-stablishing an ecologically healthy relationship between humans and the environment, and building sustainable agrifood systems.

Small-scale food production constitutes the livelihood of around two billion people worldwide. Currently 95 percent of existing farm units have less than 5 hectares, and 84 percent have below 2 hectares of land.

 (High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition, 2013)

While small-scale food producers account for a substantial proportion of food production and generation and are key allies when paving the way towards zero hunger, they face disproportional vulnerability to climate change, which is often not sufficiently addressed in policies and programmes. 

Compared with their adult counterparts, young food producers face more challenging production constraints due to lack of access to basic services, social protection, markets, natural and productive resources, information, knowledge and policies. This often leads to youth unemployment and underemployment in rural areas, and migration to urban areas in the hope of better livelihoods and job opportunities. 

Young women and girls face additional challenges related to gender inequalities and cultural norms coupled with heavy workloads, which place them in positions of even more vulnerability to climate change and at greater risk of food insecurity.

Ten case studies, ten successful pathways towards creating resilient livelihoods for young food producers

Through a series of case studies drawn from around the world, the publication aims to inspire potential policies and programmes by portraying key needs, challenges and initiatives, as well as lessons learned and opportunities for helping to improve the resilience of livelihoods for youth in small-scale food production. The publication provides examples of three major approaches to including and empowering youth: (1) addressing women and youth’s needs; (2) an intergenerational approach; and (3) positioning youth at centre stage. Introductions are provided to explain the particular advantages of each approach, and different case studies serve as examples for these approaches.  

The case studies illustrate that, despite the severe consequences of climate change and formidable social and economic challenges, family farmers, NGOs, the private sector, governments, universities and international organizations can help youth become instrumental in developing and strengthening the small-scale agrifood systems that are their livelihood. Examples range from multithropic acquaculture in Brazil, Indigenous chakra systems in Ecuador, and forest landscape restoration in Thailand, to school gardens and phone apps in Kenya.

Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture

From each of these initiatives, the publication presents recommendations that build on the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA) – a decision under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which recognizes the potential of agriculture in tackling climate change. Furthermore, it aims to guide policy makers and other stakeholders to support young food producers through the implementation of the United Nations Decade of Family Farming 2019-2028.

Contributing to FAO’s Strategic Framework 2022–2031, these case studies are intended to guide and inspire youth and organizations supporting youth to transform their agrifood systems for better production, better nutrition, a better environment, and a better life.

Happy World Environment Day, remember there is #OnlyOneEarth!

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