Empleo rural decente

Webinar on promoting youth inclusion in FAO programmes to foster agrifood systems transformation in sub-Saharan Africa


On 8 June, the FAO Regional Office for Africa (FAORAF), in collaboration with the FAO Inclusive Rural Transformation and Gender Equality Division (ESP), organized a webinar on the importance of 'Youth' as a crosscutting theme within FAO's programmatic work. The event, titled Youth - From ''who and how'' to country examples, is the third event in a series of regional webinars. Targeting FAO staff, the webinar prsented FAO's internal institutional mechanisms for mainstreaming youth in different aspects of the work of the Organization and provided country-level examples of how young people can meaningfully contribute to agrifood systems transformations.

Ade Freeman, Regional Programme Leader for FAORAF, and Lauren Phillips, ESP Deputy Director, opened the event, emphasizing the importance of targeting and including youth in FAO's efforts to build resilience in, and transform Africa’s agrifood systems. Considering that 42 percent of global youth resides in sub-Saharan Africa, and that about 60 percent of the region’s population is below the age of 25, the need to integrate youth in agriculture and agribusiness cannot be overstated. Ms Phillips also highlighted that a vast majority of youth in the region are not in education, employment or training (NEET), and there is a general gender disparity within the NEET, with a higher rate of NEETs among young women than among young men throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

In its Strategic Framework 2022-2031, FAO renewed its commitment to empower young people by identifying ‘’youth’’ as a transversal theme across the Organization’s Strategic Framework (along with the other two cross cutting themes of gender and inclusion). This is further articulated in the FAO Rural Youth Action Plan (RYAP). Francesca Dalla Valle, Programme Officer in ESP, stressed that the heterogeneity of youth needs to be addressed in a context-specific way. The use of age-inclusive language, age disaggregated data, and the adoption of age-sensitive strategies are essential for responding to the distinct needs of each youth category (women, migrants, Indigenous youth, etc.) throughout project life cycles, especially in the design phase.

Nomathemba Mhlanga, Agribusiness Officer in the FAO Subregional Office for Eastern Africa, gave the audience an overview of youth-related statistics, trends, challenges and opportunities in the Africa region. Ms Mhlanga also highlighted key youth-related outcomes from this year’s Regional Conference for Africa (ARC32). Caesar Vulley, Decent Employment in Agrifood Systems Specialist from FAORAF, presented the Opportunities for Youth in Africa (OYA) Programme, a regional youth employment programme jointly developed by FAO with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and in partnership with the African Union Commission (AUC). OYA is a multi-country intervention focused on creating decent employment and entrepreneurship opportunities for youth in agriculture and agribusiness.

In Kenya, the project Addressing the adverse drivers of migration through local value chain development was presented by Judy Maina, National Youth Specialist from FAO Kenya. The project, implemented between 2019 and 2021, aimed to mitigate youth migration by creating decent and improved employment and entrepreneurship opportunities. Over the implementation period, it provided over 1,000 youth with access to assets, inputs and finance, market linkages, and leadership and business capacity development, while delivering policy support and contributing to value chain development.

Mark Fynn, Agro Food Systems and Investment Specialist from the FAO Subregional Office for Southern Africa (FAOSFS), shared further examples. In particular, Mr Fynn talked about the engagement of youth in the formulation of National Agriculture Investment Plans (NAIPs), with successful examples from Zimbabwe, Eswatini and Namibia. He also presented the synergies between NAIPs and the FAO Hand-in-hand Initiative (HIHI), through the Zimbabwe country example. The HIH Initiative offers programmatic support and an innovative way of strengthening national programmes for agrifood systems transformation to achieve SDG 1, 2 and 10.

The event concluded with closing remarks from Ms Mhlanga, who highlighted the importance of investing in youth’s potential in order to achieve real agrifood systems transformations. To this end, youth-sensitive strategies, focused interventions, innovative approaches, targeted policies, digitalization, and the creation of new partnerships are of key importance.