Research and Extension Systems

Making extension and advisory services work for youth

The global youth population has reached the unprecedented figure of 1.2 billion. This exceptional number has enormous potential: with farming populations ageing across the world, the agricultural sector needs to attract youth to ensure generational turnover and foster competitiveness. With their energy, ability to learn and innovative attitudes, youth can accelerate the transition to more sustainable agrifood systems that can feed the world’s growing population. For this to happen, important push factors are needed, including education and skills, access to productive resources and services (especially land, finance, and business development services), connectivity, and youth agency. But more is needed. Rural youth often operate in contexts where decent employment and entrepreneurial opportunities remain limited. Pull factors are thus also essential: private sector development, more demand for youth labour and products in value chains, improved working conditions and business enabling environments in rural areas. Integrated, multi-stakeholder approaches are needed to empower youth within agrifood systems. In this regard, extension and advisory services (EAS) are key, not only to enhance skills and access to information and support, but also to facilitate innovation, and act as brokers of employment opportunities in rural areas. Sadly, most EAS providers are not prepared for these tasks. Their design and delivery results in them reaching mostly wealthier and already established farmers. While public EAS providers are often short of resources, private providers may be less interested in serving youth, who are often perceived as a more ‘risky’ clientele. The advice EAS offer is neither tailored nor provided in youth-friendly formats. Which is why youth must be involved in EAS not only as clients, but also as providers.

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