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Consultas electrónicas abiertas del HLPE

Re: Promoting youth engagement and employment in agriculture and food systems - HLPE consultation on the V0 draft of the report

Pierre Ferrand
Pierre FerrandFAOThailand

Overall comment (although this is already well captured in the report)

Sustainable food systems should be based on supporting a transition towards Agroecology which holds a lot of potential to create meaningful and fulfilling jobs but requires strong effort and investment in education. Hereafter is an extract from a technical paper on Agroecology & COVID19 highlighting the potential of Agroecology for youth which could contribute to the report (pending publication, FAO, 2021):  

Agroecological systems are highly diverse and complex because they are based on the careful management of the various elements of the socio-ecological system. Therefore, the management of agroecological systems is usually more knowledge and labour intensive than that of systems based on industrial modes of agriculture. This offers ample possibilities to create decent jobs in the agricultural sector, involving diverse areas of competence spanning from ecology to marketing to rural development. However, knowledge management is an integral part of agroecology. Therefore, dedicated efforts are needed to build the workforce equipped with the required competencies to fill these jobs across the value chain and food system. Calls to invest in and adapt information systems for famers, such as extension and advisory services, as well as scaling up capacity development as a reaction to the current crisis and a precondition for rural development and increased attractiveness of the agricultural sector have been made (FAO 2020b; Gregorio and Ancog 2020). However, besides that call, major investments need to be directed towards education (both academic and vocational) focusing on integrated sustainable agriculture including agroecological approaches. Besides the teaching and disseminating of knowledge on agroecological production practices, such as diverse cropping systems (agroforestry, inter-, cover- and relay cropping, crop rotations, integrated livestock and crop production systems etc.), soil fertility management (integrated nutrient management, building of soil organic matter, reduced tillage etc.) and integrated pest management (Wezel 2017; Altieri and Nicholls 2020), these curricula should also include business, infrastructure, and marketing skills for the development of strong and resilient local, regional and global marketing opportunities for agroecological products. These investments in education are needed to equip the young generation with the skills required to perform the high quality, knowledge-intensive jobs needed to develop and sustain agroecological systems. However, this needs to be connected with investments targeted at increasing the value of high-quality agricultural products (certification, protected origin etc.) and payment for ecosystem services and other externalities. Moreover, consumers’ understanding and awareness of the importance and value of sustainable practices in agricultural production, processing, and distribution needs to be raised in order to increase the readiness of buyers to pay appropriate prices for agroecological products. Jobs will only be attractive if salaries are competitive (which they are often not in the agricultural sector); in other words, the value created by agroecological systems (and the people working therein) must be paid for.

An example of an interesting youth network promoting organic farming is the Y-Farm in the Mekong region: Mekong Youth Farm Network (Y-Farm) is developed by enthusiastic youth of the countries in Mekong region. Y-Farm focuses on issues related to youth and farming activity in the region. Y-Farm develops an eco-system for engaging youth (young volunteers) with farming sector and related activities: which include Teaching farm, School farm/garden, Organic farming, Youth farmers and community farm. We, Y-Farm are under manages by Warm Hold Association which is Charity, Non-Profit and Local Organisation in Vietnam.

Other policy frameworks which could be referred to

  • United Nations (UN). 2018. United Nations Youth Strategy - Youth 2030: Working with and for Young People
  • IFAD’s Youth Action Plan supporting green economy and employment 
  • FAO Rural Youth Action Plan (2021-2025)

Specific comments / suggestions

Page 25: Many parts of the world, but particularly Asia and Africa, are experiencing a “feminization of agriculture” or agrarian transitions that are deeply gendered (De Schutter, 2013). In South Asia, studies have shown how this has led to the reconfiguration of gender roles and an increase in women’s power and autonomy, but only in a few contexts (Pattnaik et al., 2018; Sugden et al., 2014).

  • Not only this but also women are leading the transformation that is needed for sustainable food system. The case of the ZBNF in Andhra Pradesh is very interesting in that sense since its promoters acknowledge that the success of the uptake and dissemination of ZBNF practice relies mostly on strong involvement of women self-help groups

Page 30: Digital tools - especially those that increase access to information have “significant potential to improve efficiency, equity, and environmental sustainability in the food system” by reducing transaction costs to link sellers and buyers, increasing access to markets and broader sources of knowledge, providing evidence-bases for farmer decision making such as climate and market forecasts (World Bank, 2019). These technologies may help lower the costs of linking sellers and buyers; reduce inequalities in access to information, knowledge, technologies, and markets; help farmers make more precise decisions on resource management by providing, processing, and analyzing an increasing amount of data faster; and potentially reduce scale economies in agriculture, thereby making small-scale producers more competitive (World Bank, 2019).

  • In South East Asia, it can also be mentioned that new technologies are somehow supporting a new generation of farmers (mostly organic / agroecological ones) who move back to rural areas after being graduated and spending time in cities and develop farms with innovative marketing approaches (Facebook groups, direct sales, basket sales…) & diversification of on and off farm activities (agro-tourism for instance)
  • Cases studies and examples in the publication Agroecology Futures / part 4 on Agroecology & people, building the capacities of a new generation of Agroecology promoters:

Page 35: 3.1.3. Reimagining access to land for young people: Examples of good practices 

  • Example of the Land Use Certificate scheme in Bhutan where the government is allocating land and providing training / upskilling mechanism to re-engage the youth in agriculture

Page 43 / Markets: 

  • Example of the Community Supported Agriculture Network (CSA) in China where youth represents a very important part of the new (organic) farmers which is also encourages by the government policy
  • Example of Open Food Network (OFN), an innovative initiative which has proven to be very relevant in the context of the pandemic. OFN is present in 9 countries. It is a global network of people and organizations working together to build a new food system through the development of open and shared resources, knowledge and software. It envisions a decentralized food system, made up with thousands of independent and diverse distribution hubs reconnecting producers to customers. Amongst the activities of OFN, it promotes open source and community-controlled platforms which both enables farmers to connect to eaters and to collaborate with other farmers. They help creating food collectives, managing food hubs, taking farmers’ market online with pre-purchases… These platforms offer an excellent example about how digitalization can work better for smallholders and consumers, while promoting sustainable approaches (given that they are mostly developed in support to organic and agroecological farming). It is very much youth centered 

Page 54 ICT & extension: 

  • Example of Digital Green in India relying on video is a very successful example (it is a partner of FAO for both the work in Andhra Pradesh on ZBNF and for ComDevAsia for the communication plan of the UNDFF in Asia Pacific)