Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)

Member profile

Ms. Amy Giliam

Organization: University of Stellenbosch
Country: South Africa
Field(s) of expertise:
I am working on:

my masters thesis which is focusing on evaluating the impact of agroecology training on the social-ecological adaptability of smallholders in Limpopo, South Africa.

This member contributed to:

      1. Why is there a need to promote youth engagement and employment in agriculture and food systems? What are the key issues and opportunities?

      The global population is aging. Within this pattern we have the farmer’s population is aging as well. Globalization has brought many benefits and opportunities, but youth is needed to uptake and implement these changes. However, young people are increasingly aiming at non-agricultural professions and careers, thus creating a gap in the agricultural sector! On top of that, we need youth more than ever, given the growing population and hence demand for feeding them. Information and communication technologies (ICTs) including smart phones, social media and internet are bringing new vibrancy and potential to agricultural practices worldwide. Such tools and approaches can make it easier to address many potential future challenges of our food systems, including limited arable land, weather patterns unpredictability, and on-/off-farm losses. However, leveraging these tools to their fullest potential necessitates a certain set of skills and technical expertise. Young people are more ready and enthusiastic to master and apply such technologies to agricultural and food systems. This promises increased productivity and attainable solutions and simultaneously can help youth see agriculture as a viable and profitable business opportunity, while increasing interest and attraction of agriculture and food system related career paths to them!

      1. How do the evolution and transitions of agriculture, food systems and nutrition affect youth engagement and employment? How can agriculture and food systems employment become more attractive for youth, especially considering the rural-urban continuum? What would be needed to improve standards of living and services in rural areas and mid-sized towns, to retain youth and young families?

      With all these opportunities at hand, it is important to examine the evolution of agriculture, food systems and nutrition and how it can affect youth engagement and employment. Food systems have evolved dramatically over recent decades to feed billions of people. However, the ‘triple burden’ of malnutrition (hunger, insufficient nutrients, and overweight and obesity) is increasingly recognised, in parts of the world, as the ‘new normal’. On the other hand, we cannot ignore the fact the food sector is responsible for anthropogenic greenhouse gas emissions and contributes to decreased biodiversity, water pollution and soil degradation. At the same time, a great amount of food produced is wasted or lost along the food supply. Food systems are, however, an important source of livelihoods and a driver for a large number of businesses, enterprises and markets. Employment in food production, manufacturing and service is some of the lowest paid work – therefore attracting lesser and lesser youth. These, and many other problems are all interconnected, and tend to have no single solution or line of responsibility. Solutions and improvements in the functioning of food systems are often expected to derive from technological — and especially agricultural — innovations driven by youth. Yet, we cannot look to these alone to address all the challenges. New approaches based on ‘food-systems thinking’ are required, involving young people (both males and females) and equipping them with the skills, tools and capabilities to better understand and manage food-system complexity for food security, for the environment and for health. At the moment, young people that want to engage in agriculture and food systems, particularly rural youth, face difficulties accessing proper training, financial services, ‘green jobs’ and markets.

      1. What governance transformations are necessary to enable and encourage youth participation in agriculture and food systems, and what actions are required to equip youth with the necessary skills and confidence in fully engaging in these decision-making processes?

      There are opportunities and it is time to provide solutions by shifting the perception of farming and agriculture within communities and populations, exposing youth more and early on to agriculture, involving the in all aspects of the value chain (rather than just farming and introducing agriculture problems to youth to resolve them – as there will be a time that they have to face these challenges alone!

      1. What are the most promising pathways to transform current agriculture and the food systems in developing countries to make them more attractive to the youth?

      Youth participation has an important role in policy dialogue and decision-making on food systems, and policy-makers should be encouraged to work not only for but also with youth, engaging youth in all phases, since inception of processes and projects as well as conducting participatory assessments of their needs and aspirations, migration patterns and rural/urban labour markets trends. For more youth engagement in agri-food systems, governments and development partners need to create enabling environments that foster decent work, promote large-scale programmes and innovations, enhance youth’s access to financial resources, land, markets, agri-business development services, education & training, knowledge, and ICT.

      1. What are the best strategies for fully engaging youth, in particular young women, in opportunities to acquire adequate skills and learning opportunities to further develop their knowledge and enable them to be leaders in innovative agriculture and the transformation of food systems?

      Engaging youth and particularly young women to take ownership and leadership of change and progress in agri-food systems, would require an organized approach at country-level that will support on youth employment issues, with emphasis on agri-food systems and young women. This will require investment and capacity building.

      1. What are the most appropriate policies to remove obstacles to empower youth initiate and/or upscale activities in agriculture and related services, in the food supply chain, in agroecology, and in the food environment, as well as in nutrition and innovation, in accordance to their skills, aspirations, assets and contexts?

      This is a lot to consider, however, I think it boils down to inclusion of youth (both males and females) from the very beginning into policy processes and implementation. Actions and projects should be linked to the country leadership, infrastructure and capacities and youth must be organized, such as in the case of farmer’s associations, but real power should be given to them, by placing them in the discussion tables where important decisions for the agri-food system are made.

      1. What are the most appropriate policies and initiatives to facilitate the education-to-labour market transition and youth recruitment and retention in agriculture and food systems’ related activities? What nodes and activities in supply chains have the highest potential for generating decent jobs for youth? What new types of training are needed foster more agroecological approaches to farming?

      Addressing systemic problems across the agri-food system needs people skilled in systems thinking and equipped with soft skills to allow them to be capable within an often-challenging and increasingly demanding working environment. Food systems need to be understood and managed from different and multiple perspectives, and there is a growing need for people skilled in food-systems thinking across the sector. New approaches based on ‘food-systems thinking’ are required, drawing on innovative types of learning, analysis and institutional arrangements, coupled with greater collaboration between economists, agriculturalists, policy makers, ecologists, engineers, food and crop scientists, and business, among many others.

      1. What is the extent of wage discrepancies against youth and women in agriculture and food systems, and what are some successful experiences in removing such wage differentials?

      Similar to other sectors, women and girls in agri-food system encounter challenges related to land access, productive resources, managing income from land, education, financial services, and information. Empowerment of women can increase farm productivity, agricultural outputs and ultimately contribute to economic development. Considering that particularly young women face challenges related to agri-food training, land and property access, and a lack of mentorship, resulting in an even greater need to find ways to provide them with support, is crucial to consider social support and protection schemes and policies that make it easier for women to acquire the access, skills and information they need. This way the wage differences can be reduced and even eradicated.

      1. What data is necessary to support policy development to enhance youth engagement and employment, and to create awareness of the specific needs, vulnerabilities and opportunities of disadvantaged youth?

      All data on youth is crucial at this point. Mainly the estimates of current numbers (both males and females) involved in the agri-food systems, training information and needs, etc. Good decisions are based on good data, and in many countries, particularly low and lower middle-income countries, the availability of timely and reliable rural, agricultural and food system statistics is largely lacking. This should be the focus.


    • Dear All,

      My masters thesis is looking at the impact of agroecology on the adaptability of smallholders in Limpopo, South Africa. Seven individuals from communities in Limpopo participated in a three month agroecology training programme in August 2016. Upon returning to their communities, many of the individuals have either adapted their farming practices or have begun sharing their knowledge of agroecology with local smallholder farmers in order to assist them in adapting their practices. Although I have only begun the research, it has become evident over the past few months that providing an evaluation of whether the agroecology training has been successful or not in improving the smallholders' adaptive capacity, and thus the resilience of their communities, is not yet possible. It is difficult to specify a minimum time frame to remain resilient, as it is clear that developing capabilities that improve individuals' or groups' adaptive capacity or resilience is context dependent. For instance, South Africa was experiencing one of its worst droughts in decades but in February and March, the country received significant rainfall. This has major implications for farmers in Limpopo, as the drought in that province was particularly severe. My thoughts are that perhaps the focus should rather lie on continously reinforcing individuals or a system's ability to adapt to change given the contextual nature of shocks and crises that emerge.