Family Farming Knowledge Platform

Rural youth and Family Farming

The new generations play a vital role as agents of change for the transformation of rural areas and agri-food systems. Youth can play a pivotal role in revitalizing local economies, driving innovation, strengthening civil society organizations (CSOs), managing natural resources and designing public policies for rural development.

Youth skills need to be developed and job and entrepreneurship opportunities created to ensure generational renewal and to counter rural–urban migration.

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A host of structural factors have contributed to these poverty and inequality dynamics, especially in rural areas. These factors include the social exclusion of the most vulnerable segments of the rural population especially women, youth and indigenous peoples; an unsustainable rural economic development model that disproportionately favours high earners and concentrates wealth; government underinvestment in infrastructure, human capital and other basic welfare benefits.

Now, more than ever, there is an urgent need for a coordinated response to the complex challenges faced by rural youth. That response must involve measures to give young people adequate access not only to information, education and professional development, but also to markets and tangible and intangible productive assets. It is crucial to support legal and financial measures that facilitate the transfer of existing farms and encourage new ones to take hold. Differentiated and targeted training programmes and curricula for young people can contribute significantly to the generational sustainability of family farming.

But what are some of the challenges and opportunities associated with boosting youth participation?

Youth and Agriculture. Key challenges and concrete solutions (FAO, 2014)

Youth’s insufficient access to knowledge, information and education: Education is a basic human right. Sub-standard and inadequate education limits productivity and the acquisition of skills and competencies, while insufficient access to knowledge and information can hinder community development. Agricultural training and education must meet the needs of rural labour markets and informal education must be promoted to ensure the transfer and intergenerational use of traditional and local knowledge.

Youth’s limited access to natural resources and productive assets: Although access to land and other natural resources is essential to participating in food systems, it can often be difficult for young people to attain. In the case of land, for instance, inheritance laws and customs in developing countries often hinder the transfer of land to young women, and therefore need to be amended.

Inadequate access to financial services: Most financial service providers are reluctant to extend their services – including credit, savings and insurance – to rural youth due to their lack of collateral and financial literacy, among other reasons. The promotion of financial products catered to youth, mentoring programmes and start-up funding opportunities can all help solve this issue.

Difficulties accessing jobs and decent work: Rural youth employment typically involves precarious work on low wages in the informal sector, with unsafe working conditions and high gender discrimination. Decent work engenders greater livelihood sustainability. There is an urgent need to generate youth employment and systematic knowledge among young people, giving youth greater visibility in national political agendas, both generally and more specifically in the area of rural employment. It is also urgent to provide guidelines for formulating a public strategy that is in line with the challenges posed by this area of rural policy.

Youth’s limited access to markets: Access to markets for youth has become increasingly difficult due to the growing international influence of conventional markets and the standards that govern their supply chains. Improving access to education, training and market information can all facilitate youth’s access to markets. Furthermore, public policies and legislation are essential to strengthen the labour market and decent work as part of local development efforts.

Youth’s limited involvement in policy dialogue: Often, young people’s voices are not heard during the policy-development process or in their own organizations, which in turn means that their complex and diverse needs are not met. To remedy this, young people must secure the necessary skills and capacities for collective action with a view to ensuring their inclusion, and should seek to take a strategic lead in their organizations and in policymaking processes.


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Access to Land Network

Civil society
The Access to Land Network is a European network of grassroots organisations promoting access to land for agroecological farmers. It facilitates experience-sharing amongst member organisations and like-minded organisations across Europe and promotes the significance of access to land for agroecological transition and generational renewal. Established in 2012, it functions as...