Investments in young people curb rural migration in the Dominican Republic

Economic support and training contribute to creating opportunities in the agricultural sector

Escarlin Méndez, David Medina and José Decena harvest fish in their fish farm. Thanks to their initiative, there is fresh fish available in their community daily. ©FAO/Rosa Borg


It is often said that young people are the future. However, when we talk about rural youth, the reality is that not many see a future in agriculture or in their places of origin. Lack of access to land, technology, credit or productive resources push many rural youth to consider migration, often to urban areas, as their only option to achieve a better future.

But agriculture has great potential to reduce poverty, especially in developing countries.

In the Dominican Republic, young people between the ages of 20 and 24 have the highest unemployment rates in the country at 25.5 percent. The situation is worse in rural areas, especially on the borders with Haiti.

The stories of these six youth could have been other examples of that exodus. However, they had the opportunity to stay in their communities and become entrepreneurs.

These young people had innovative ideas, but they needed credit and technical support to put them in place. All of them are were part of the Strengthening of Decent Rural Employment for Young Women and Men in the Caribbean project, which FAO and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) launched to help young entrepreneurs develop their business plans in their home towns.

The area’s largest livestock suppliers

Osmaro Sánchez lived his entire life in the municipality of El Llano, in the province of Elías Piña, on the Dominican border with Haiti. His grandparents owned a farm and his parents worked in agriculture and raised goats and sheep in the middle of a rugged landscape where everything is scarce, especially water.

“Young people have to migrate due to lack of opportunities. There are no jobs and the banks do not lend us money because we have no guarantee. Only agriculture remains, but with drought, those who dare planting can lose everything due to lack of water,” he says.

Osmaro raised 30 animals on his farm, but thanks to the grant from FAO and IFAD, he and two other young people bought 22 more animals. Today they have 65. Meat is in high demand in the area since the supply is limited. "We want to become the largest suppliers of livestock in the entire region," they say.

Left: Osmaro and his business partner, Nercy, at their farm where they hope to raise 200 goats and sheep. Right: Eduardito de la Rosa shows a handful of organic earthworm fertilizer. ©FAO/Rosa Borg

Fresh fish all year round

In El Llano, fish is never part of the menu, even on festivities. But three young people set out to change things and set up a fish farm to offer fresh fish to their neighbours.

With a grant of 5 000 USD, Escarlin Méndez, David Medina and José Decena acquired three ponds, a submersible well and 4 000 small fish to start the business in which they have put all their hope.

“Our project has potential; it will be a boom in the town. In addition to offering fresh fish to the community, when the water is drained from the ponds, it can be reused as fertilizer for crops,” explains Esquerlin.

Filling a need in the community

“My husband and I planned to go to Santo Domingo because of the lack of opportunities. Now I don't want to leave here,” explains Jocabed Leger, who runs her village’s only agribusiness, a community relying mostly on agriculture and livestock keeping.

With the grant from FAO and IFAD, Jocabed opened this agro-veterinary business to cover a need in her community.  The demand for their products is so high that in the future they would like to open a branch in a nearby community.

 “This business is my life, and it is proof that you can invest in young people,” she says enthusiastically.

Thanks to the support of FAO and IFAD, Jocabed was able to open the only agro-veterinary products business in her area. © FAO/Rosa Borg

Vermiculture: technology of the future

Eduardito de la Rosa is an agricultural technician from the municipality of Comendador, in Elías Piña. He is 34 years old and has always been involved in agriculture, but until now the lack of credit had not allowed him to carry out his own projects.

Eduardito received 3 000 USD from the FAO and IFAD project and after participating in two courses in organic agriculture and entrepreneurship, he built a compost pile on a land given by a friend and bought the worms needed for vermiculture.

“Our soils are very poor. They have been badly treated with the use of chemicals and this affects the environment. That's why I chose a vermiculture project, to try to change the perspective of farmers. This is the technology of the future,” he says.

Now his goal is to become the largest producer of organic earthworm fertilizer in his country. He is convinced that this is the best way to leave a better planet for generations to come.

Young people are an essential part of solutions to rural poverty. Investing in rural youth can help make agriculture an attractive sector and benefit entire communities.  FAO is supporting the innovative ideas of youth to give them the opportunity to better their communities and achieve a #ZeroHunger future.

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1. No poverty, 8. Decent work and economic growth, 15. Life on land