L'Emploi rural décent

Latin America and the Caribbean: Promoting youth inclusion in FAO and their engagement in agrifood systems


The second event in the series of regional webinars on FAO and the Youth took place on June 6. The webinar aimed at presenting FAO's internal institutional mechanisms for youth mainstreaming, as well as at sharing country-level examples of how FAO country offices are actively supporting the meaningful contribution of young people to food system development and rural transformation. The event was organized by the FAO Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean (FAO RLC) in collaboration with the Inclusive Rural Transformation and Gender Equality Division (ESP) at FAO HQ, under the theme: Youth - From ''who and how'' to country examples.

In Latin America and the Caribbean, almost 70 percent of employed youth work informally, and many vulnerable jobs are in the agricultural sector. Rural youth are poorer than urban youth, their situation is even worse if they are women, Indigenous or of African descent, which has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 impacts (CEPAL, 2021).

Benjamin Davis, Director of FAO’s ESP division stressed, "investing more in young people can generate substantial results in terms of poverty reduction, employment generation, food and nutrition security and inclusive rural transformation at large. This implies giving youth leadership and recognising them as key agents of change and not (only) as recipients of assistance and support”. Maya Takagi, Regional Programme Leader of FAO RLC, reiterated, “FAO needs to strengthen its support to public policies and programmes aimed at valuing and investing in rural youth. This requires greater inclusion of youth in all stages of our interventions in the field, to seek inclusion in a more equitable manner. This also means providing spaces and mechanisms for participation that recognize the diversity of youth”.

In its Strategic Framework 2022-2031, FAO renewed its commitment to youth, identifying youth as a cross-cutting theme throughout FAO's programmatic work (along with the other two cross-cutting themes of gender and inclusion) that is articulated in its Rural Youth Action Plan (RYAP). Ileana Grandelis, Programme Officer in ESP, stressed that the heterogeneity of youth needs to be addressed in a context-specific way, through age disaggregation of data and age-sensitive strategies.  

The youth workstream at the Committee on Food Security (CFS) and the World Food Forum (WFF) were also presented during the webinar as two different avenues for youth inclusion in the frame of agrifood systems transformation. Since 2021, youth from the Civil Society Mechanism (CSM) and the Private Sector Mechanism (PSM) of the CFS have been actively involved in supporting the drafting of the Policy Recommendations on Promoting Youth Engagement in Agriculture and Food Systems, to be hopefully adopted at CFS 50 in October 2022. The WFF, for its part, whose theme this year is Healthy Diets, Healthy Planet, facilitates through various initiatives the inclusion of young people in a platform of dialogue to shape agrifood systems to help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

As mentioned by Pedro Boareto, Project Coordinator and regional rural youth focal point, from FAO RLC, the Organization works together at the regional level with different entities such as Central American Integration System (SICA), Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) and other UN agencies and governments to strengthen the inclusion of rural youth in various spaces. A great example of such action is the Latin American Rural Youth Festival, which brings together some of the experiences and initiatives being developed by young people and public institutions in the region.

At the national level, Iván Léon, FAO Representative in Nicaragua, exemplified the inclusion of young people in country projects such as "Transformation and Resilience of Rural Communities in the Dry Corridor”. In Nicaragua, FAO has currently over 10 projects that have concrete actions with young people, including knowledge management on climate change and territorial-based actions.

Further, Ricardo Rapallo, FAO Representative in Guatemala, presented FAO's Integrated Country Approach (ICA) for boosting decent jobs for youth in the agrifood system in the country. The ICA in Guatemala operates in 22 municipalities, mainly in the border areas with Mexico, and works in different areas such as technical support for the promotion of sustainable business models for young agro-entrepreneurs and cooperatives, digital services for young rural talents, like Chisparural.gt and financial inclusion.

In Colombia, Ana María Toro Rojas, Technical Secretary of the Sustainable Rural Development Division of the National Planning Department, highlighted the cooperation between the Colombian government, FAO and different actors such as GIZ and the Italian government. One example is the support to the "Mesa Nacional de Empleabilidad y Emprendimiento Juvenil Rural", in which youth entrepreneurship has been strengthened as a space for representation and direct dialogue with rural youth to build an empowerment strategy in the following areas of work: employability, entrepreneurship, education, political advocacy, environment and territory, and peace building.

Luiz Beduschi, Policy Officer in RLC, concluded the webinar by stressing that leaving no one behind implies looking at the heterogeneity and complexities faced by youth holistically, creating opportunities for youth groups to be key agents of change.