Decent Rural Employment

Unleashing the potential of Africa's youth through digital innovations


In Sub-Saharan Africa, more than 60 percent of a 1.2 billion population are under the age of 25. This growing youth population needs fruitful employment and the agricultural sector has the potential to offer this to the youth. However, traditionally requiring tough manual labour and offering low wages, agriculture does not often appeal to new generations, who generally prefer to try their luck finding jobs in cities or moving abroad.

"We need to take action to make agriculture more attractive to young people. They must perceive agriculture as a remunerative and profitable sector and the dissemination of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in rural areas play an important role in this regard," FAO Director-General, Graziano da Silva, said.

His remarks came at the opening of the international conference, Youth employment in agriculture as a solid solution to ending hunger and poverty in Africa, held on 20-21 august 2018 in Kigali, Rwanda. The two-day event, co-organized by the Government of Rwanda, the African Union and FAO, had a special focus on youth employment, ICTs and entrepreneurship. During the event, FAO and its partners engaged young people from different countries in Africa to find innovative solutions that address challenges in food and agriculture. The aim is to develop ideas into tech solutions to produce youth-led and youth-focused employment opportunities while offering mentorship from private and public sector experts.

ICTs can bring youth back to agriculture

Digital technology and computing power will be a great ally for making agriculture and food systems the highway to success. In particular, the Internet offers concrete hopes for innovation and prosperity and when applied to agriculture may free the sector of its stigma - drudgery and poor income prospects - and make it more attractive for young people.

Today, in a world of multinational value chains, the continent is home to a large number of smallholders who are cut off from markets. The key driver for improved youth employment is access to training, credit, market, land and natural resources. The digital revolution has helped unblock trade and resource allocation in many other sectors, loosening the grip of powerful mediators. There is no reason it won't do the same to overcome agricultural value-chain related constraints in Africa, where food markets are poised to represent one trillion dollars' worth of opportunities by 2030 according to the World Bank. Rising to that challenge can contribute greatly to the need to triple the continent's job-creation pace to absorb the more than 10 million people entering its labor markets each year.

What is FAO doing?

FAO has carried out several projects that raise engagement, entrepreneurship and employment for African young people. While the ways to prioritize youth, even with preferential policies, vary from place to place, it is possible to learn from success stories.

In Nigeria, FAO worked with the Government on developing its Youth Employment in Agriculture Programme, which has already offered training to more than 7,000 rural youth as well as starter packs to create their own agribusinesses. The program is also mobilising public investments to ultimately benefit more than 700,000 rural young people over the next five years.

FAO has further contributed to Senegal's Rural Youth Employment Policy - which aims to foster the creation of more than 100,000 jobs per year - by helping set up a series of small rural hubs where youth can learn about farming, food processing and marketing. The Organization has also launched a National Observatory of Rural Employment, a dynamic online hub allowing rural youth, producers and development partners to monitor the national labour market and get information and data regarding agricultural products and trends.

In Guinea-Bissau, FAO found that introducing pilot programmes for aquaculture was a way to give local youth, many of whom had tried to migrate to cities, an important role with multiple benefits, producing additional income, better nutrition and fertilizer for cassava farmers. Now the initiative is expanding by building hatcheries, creating more jobs and a value chain that can be scaled up.

FAO is a strong supporter of the increasingly important Rwanda  Youth in Agribusiness Forum, which plays a critical advocacy role for its members and facilitates the inclusion of youth in that country's economic and social transformation.

Farmers have for some time benefited from information and communication technologies to access price and weather information. Emerging uses range from weather-based crop insurance and traceable certification for specialty markets to high-resolution soil maps and tractor rentals for smallholders.

Nutrition, biodiversity and climate challenges all point to an increased potential of ICT applications with positive impacts on rural employment. Information technology can be a strong multiplier in the effort to achieve the transformation needed to make rural livelihoods both resilient and rewarding.

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