Agriculture opens doors for youth

Story of Mohamed, Yimam and Zinetemam

71 percent of Ethiopia’s population is under the age of 30. Job opportunities are increasingly hard to find so many young people are migrating elsewhere to look for work. ©FAO/ Tamiru Legesse


Kalu, in the Amhara region of northern Ethiopia, is home to 28-year-old Yimam Ali.

However, many young people from this region of Ethiopia move to the Middle East looking for work and a better life. The amount of job opportunities in the country has not matched its growth. 71 percent of Ethiopia’s population is under the age of 30 and many of them lack opportunities to make a decent living.

“I was dependent on my parents, and didn’t earn enough to take care of my wife and child. I migrated to support my family,” states Yimam.

Yimam decided to go to Saudi Arabia where his sister was living.

His journey, to what was meant to be a better life, was not an easy one:

“I walked in the desert for several days to reach Djibouti. Then took a small boat to Yemen. There were many people on the boat. I saw so much suffering on the way…people dying of exhaustion and thirst in the desert. We walked with difficulty as our feet were sore.

We were badly treated by the human traffickers. If we complained about the conditions, they would beat us. When we reached Yemen, armed traffickers kidnapped us and asked us to pay. When I refused, they beat me. I was bleeding…My sister in Saudi Arabia paid a ransom for my release.”

Yimam Ali (left) and Mohamed Seid (right) are growing cabbage and other crops as part of FAO’s Rural Youth Mobility project, giving people the option of working in their own countries. ©FAO/ Tamiru Legesse

Yimam finally made it to Saudi Arabia and worked as a shepherd. A few months later, he got arrested and deported back to Ethiopia.

Back in his village, he had to rely on his parents to survive.

Yimam wasn’t the only one facing the tough decision of whether to stay or leave. Mohamed Seid and Zinetemam Adem also had to decide whether to depend on their parents for survival or to migrate elsewhere in search of work.

When the FAO-supported Rural Youth Mobility project started in the region, they had another option to consider: working in agriculture in their homeland. As part of this project, Mohamed and Yimam were selected to be involved in horticulture initiatives. Together with other young people, they started growing cabbage, onions and mung beans on plots of land provided by the local administration.

Yimam and his peers received vegetable seeds, agricultural tools, as well as training in gardening and agricultural best practices. They also received support to set up and run a nursery.

“I am happy to work in my own country. I am working to change my life,” says Yimam.

Zinetemam Adem also joined FAO’s Rural Youth Mobility project and received training in cattle rearing to help her and 10 others start a business. ©FAO/ Tamiru Legesse

22-year old Zinetemam Adem, also a part of the Rural Youth Mobility project, was one of a group of 11 that received training in rearing cattle. They were given 18 oxen to start up a business, the Selam Cattle Fattening Enterprise.

Married at 18 and now with a 2-year old son, Zinetemam had been preparing to migrate, like many other girls from her village. 

“I was about to migrate to find a job and have an income. I changed my mind and joined this initiative to work and change my life,” she said. 

This group of 11 plans to expand and diversify their business. Zinetemam is hoping to start her own poultry farm. Mohamed also has plans for their horticulture business. The group will start to sell their vegetables in the local market, but in the long-run, they hope to provide their produce to other markets as well.

“We want to grow our business and be a model for other young people in our area,” added Mohamed.

The Rural Youth Mobility project promotes innovative, rural development strategies to provide employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for the rural youth in order to address the causes of distress migration. This project is possible thanks to the support of the Italian Development Cooperation. Together with its generous partners, FAO is helping to make migration a choice

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8. Decent work and economic growth, 10. Reduced inequalities