L'Emploi rural décent

Promoting alternatives to migration for rural youth in Tunisia and Ethiopia


The FAO project Youth mobility, food security and rural poverty reduction (abbreviated as "RYM" – Rural Youth Mobility) was successfully completed in February 2018. With funding from the Italian Development Cooperation, RYM was launched in 2015 to address the main drivers of rural migration of youth in Tunisia and Ethiopia, while at the same time harnessing the development potential of migratory movements. The Project aimed at improving the understanding of rural migration by filling evidence gaps on the determinants and impacts of migration in rural areas and at promoting better policy integration between migration, agriculture and rural development. At grassroots level, RYM provided unemployed rural youth from migration-prone areas of Tunisia and Ethiopia with the necessary training and equipment to launch their small agri-enterprises and economic activities, which are expected to benefit the entire community by generating additional direct and indirect job opportunities.

Addressing the link between youth employment and migration in rural areas

Each year, rural areas lose a significant share of their workforce, as youth leave their homes and migrate to cities or move abroad in search of a better future. Poverty, food insecurity and a lack of employment opportunities push many young men and women around the world to search for jobs elsewhere, often facing several risks during the journey.

In Africa, where youth under-employment and unemployment rates are particularly high, many young people move away from rural areas, also because they do not perceive agriculture as an attractive and remunerative sector. Yet, agriculture has the potential to generate much needed job opportunities for self-employment and seasonal wage labour. At the same time, safe, orderly and regular migration can contribute to the rural development of origin, transit and destination countries. Migrants can fuel progress, spark innovations and transfer knowledge, skills and technology. Furthermore, investing in farm and off-farm activities part of the remittances sent by migrants to their rural areas of origin can support agricultural transformations. This, in turn, can create a virtuous circle of employment creation and inclusive growth.

The RYM was the first experience of FAO in addressing in an integrated manner the dimensions of migration, youth employment and rural development. It allowed to capture lessons learned and good practice as well as to set up an approach which is replicable in other regions and countries. The involvement of local institutions, the diaspora and the rural communities as a whole in the implementation of country activities, as well as the creation of a permanent team of agricultural coaches to guide young agripreneurs, ensure the sustainability of the approach in the long run.

Responding to local needs

Although Tunisia and Ethiopia present structural differences in terms of agricultural employment, poverty rates and food insecurity, in both countries rural outmigration, especially of youth, is a reality challenging rural development and transformation.

As a response, the RYM Project implemented integrated interventions at both global and country level. At the global level, the project aimed at raising awareness and generating knowledge on rural youth migration, filling evidence gaps. The country component of the Project was tailored to local demands and capacity development needs, through diagnostics as well as continuous consultations with national partners. Activities in Tunisia and Ethiopia included research, technical advice at policy level, piloting of innovative mechanisms for the creation of employment opportunities for the rural youth, and capacity development to better address migration issues in the context of rural development and vice versa.

Knowledge generation

Lack of data on migration determinants, patterns, and impact on areas of origin is one of the main challenges to sound and evidence-based policies on migration and rural development. Major data gaps regard in particular migration from rural areas, as well as internal and seasonal migration. In this context, RYM carried out national studies in Tunisia and Ethiopia, such as Rural migration in Tunisia, aimed at shedding light on the characteristics, trends and drivers of internal and international, permanent and seasonal migration in rural areas.

Furthermore, the RYM Project contributed to conceptualise and raise awareness on the nexus between migration and rural development. For instance, it supported the development of the FAO corporate conceptual framework on migration: Addressing rural youth migration at its root causes: A conceptual framework.

Capacity building and policy coherence

Rural development remains an area mostly neglected by public debate and policy interventions on migration. To address this gap and strengthen implementation capacities at policy level, the RYM project developed tailored capacity building activities addressed to government and non-government institutions working on agriculture, rural development, migration and employment.

Based on capacity needs assessments, capacity development workshops were organised in Ethiopia and Tunisia to help national policy makers and stakeholders coherently address migration, rural development and employment issues, by establishing links with relevant national strategies and policies and existing good practices. Target participants included key government representatives and development partners. As a result, a manual for preparing, running and evaluating a capacity development workshop focused on migration and rural development is under development, drawing from the experience of the RYM project at large and on its capacity development activities in Tunisia and Ethiopia.

Promotion of youth employment opportunities in migration-prone areas

Rural youth unemployment
is one of the main drivers of migration. The key challenges that affect the productive potential of youth in rural contexts, fuelling migration, are access to land, finance, equipment, information and skills. To address these constraints, the RYM Project provided unemployed youth in rural areas of Tunisia and Ethiopia with training and equipment, helping them launch their own small agricultural enterprises, also by productively investing the remittances received form the diaspora. While working side by side with youth, FAO boosted financial literacy and raised awareness about the risks of irregular migration. The strong emphasis placed on the involvement of the young beneficiaries in the selection of products and the planning of activities ensured the local ownership of the initiative in both countries.

Despite addressing similar issues, the approach was declined differently in the two countries, responding to specific challenges and potentialities. In Ethiopia, the close participation of the decentralized bureaus of the Ministry of Agriculture and the involvement of the target rural communities allowed to identify unused land that was made available to the Project beneficiaries. As a result, 38 youth groups, including 454 young women and men from migration-prone areas, started different business activities, such as horticulture, dairy, goat, sheep and poultry production, fattening, fishing, and beekeeping. These activities are expected to benefit the community as a whole, generating further direct and indirect employment opportunities.

In Tunisia, the institutionalization of the role of the "agricultural coach" (accompagnateur agricole) and the reinforcement of the agricultural enterprise incubators (as proximity services for rural youth) allowed to meet the needs of youth and guide them during the implementation of their productive activities and micro-enterprises. In particular, the coaches provided technical support to the young agricultural entrepreneurs, sustained their engagement and navigated them through the administrative requirements to set up their productive activities. It has been estimated that the resulting small agricultural enterprises have benefitted more than 500 individuals in migration-prone areas, through the creation of direct and indirect jobs.

Furthermore, in Tunisia ad hoc assistance, including mediation between young producers and diaspora members, was provided to micro-enterprises financed by Tunisians living abroad. The successful involvement of the diaspora, who can play a crucial role in agricultural development thanks to the remittances sent back to the county of origin, was the result of the awareness raising and capacity building activities conducted through all the phases of the Project implementation.

Related resources:

RYM beneficiaries - Stories from the field



  • Addressing Rural Youth Distress Migration > ENG | FR | AR


Photo feature by Magnum Photos