Decent Rural Employment

Module 3: Youth employment

The Youth Employment Module aims to assist policy makers, planners and practitioners to advocate for and directly promote more and better job opportunities for young women and men in the agricultural sector. It provides links to global, regional and country specific publications on the topic, including case studies. It also offers capacity development tools for developing the agricultural and entrepreneurial skills of young women and men in rural areas.

Promote decent employment for youth in agriculture

Young women and men are the present and future of global food and nutrition security. Yet around the world, few young people see opportunities for growth in rural areas and the agriculture sector. While youth employment is high on the global policy agenda, many countries struggle to identify practical solutions to encourage and facilitate youth participation in the rural economy and to define specific national budget allocations.

To begin with, this module provides an overview of the main key challenges faced by young people in agriculture and FAO's approach to improve decent employment prospects for rural youth. It then brings together materials to guide policy makers and development practitioners in identifying adequate solutions with potential for up-scale. In particular, the module focuses on tailor-made educational and vocational training programmes, such as the Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools (JFFLS) methodology, which can provide young women and men with the skills and insights needed to engage in agriculture and innovative sustainable practices.

Main challenges faced by young people in agriculture

Main challenges faced by young people in agriculture

While the world’s youth population is expected to grow, employment and entrepreneurial opportunities for youth – particularly those living in economically stagnant rural areas of developing countries – remain limited, poorly remunerated and of poor quality. Via surveys and global fora, six main challenges have been identified which negatively affect the employment prospects of the rural youth in the agricultural sector:

1) Youth’s insufficient access to knowledge, information and education which limits their productivity and the acquisition of skills.

2) Youth’s limited access to land, due to the lack of resources to acquire or lease it, or inheritance laws and customs which make the transfer of land to young women problematic.

3) Inadequate access to financial services, as most financial service providers are reluctant to offer their services to youth due to their frequent lack of collateral and financial literacy.

4) Difficult access for young people to green jobs, due to their lack of skills to obtain new jobs in the green economy (e.g. energy production from renewable sources) or to participate in the "greening" of existing jobs (e.g. environmentally friendly food production such as organic farming, composting, agroforestry).

5) Young people’s limited access to markets, which is becoming even more difficult due to the growing international influence of supermarkets and the rigorous standards of their supply chains. This limited access to markets is also due to the limited youth inclusion in the private sector and their limited ability in becoming structurally organized into their own producers’ organizations or being included in mixed ones. Additionally, young women in developing countries face further constraints in accessing markets, due in part to the fact that their freedom of movement is sometimes limited by cultural norms.

6) Youth’s limited inclusion in social and policy dialogue. Too often young people’s representatives are not invited in countries’ policy processes, and so their complex and multifaceted needs are not met.

Addressing these six principal challenges is pivotal to increasing youth’s inclusion and involvement in the agricultural sector, and ultimately addressing the significant untapped potential of this sizeable and growing demographic dividend. In developing countries in particular, facilitating the youth cohort’s participation in agriculture has the potential to drive widespread rural poverty reduction among youth and adults alike while rejuvenating an aging sector.

FAO’s approach for improving the employment prospects of youth in the agricultural sector

FAO’s approach for improving the employment prospects of youth in the agricultural sector

FAO adopts an integrated approach to enhancing youth’s access to decent employment and entrepreneurial opportunities. The approach is structured along four main components: 

  • CHANGING THE DISCOURSE. Raising awareness on the employment needs and potential of rural youth and supporting more informed policy decisions. Raising awareness includes generating knowledge and conduct awareness raising activities on the prioritization of youth and their employment prospects in agricultural and rural development. At the same time, FAO provides governments with guidance and examples of approaches that work, in order to translate commitment into policy change.
  • STRENGTHENING THE CAPACITIES OF NATIONAL PARTNERS. While governments may recognize the transformative potential of decent work, many lack the technical capacities to effectively promote decent employment for young people in agriculture. FAO strengthens the capacities of partners in the Ministry of agriculture (including livestock, fisheries and forestry), youth, labour and other relevant ministries to design, implement and monitor youth enhancing agricultural policies, strategies, programmes and investment plans. In addition to governments, FAO also directly supports producers’ and workers’ organizations, other private partners, civil society and national research institutions to increase their capacities to contribute to bringing youth priorities in the strategic planning of agricultural development.
  • EMPOWERING YOUNG WOMEN AND MEN. All FAO approaches, tools and methodologies aim at empowering young women and men to be active drivers of change and actively participate in social and policy dialogue. Usually, FAO pilots youth-enhancing initiatives in the field, and supports governments to scale up successful approaches. For instance, FAO's gender- and age-friendly Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools (JFFLS) methodology established in over 20 countries to date, promotes not only youth participation and skills/entrepreneurship development, but also social capital through producers’ (youth) organizations and collective action. The JFFLS methodology enhances participants’ agricultural, life and entrepreneurial skills through various topics. The subjects of the training are chosen together with the youth themselves and in collaboration with the partners, on the basis of local needs. They are addressed through group discussions, observation, role play and experimentation. The young trainees then tend to return to their communities, where they cost-effectively retrain their young peers and raise awareness of the topics learnt.
  • DEVELOPING PARTNERSHIPS. FAO's approach builds on the establishment of strong partnerships at global, regional and country level.
    At the global level, FAO partners with other UN organizations under the United Nations Inter-Agency Network on Youth Development (IANYD), which provides a corporate framework for more coherent and effective support through joint initiatives. At the regional level, FAO partners with institutions and programmes like CEPAL (Comisión Económica para América Latina y el Caribe) and Carribbean Community (CARICOM) in Latin America and the Caribbean, New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD)/ NEPAD Planning and Coordinating Agency (NPCA) and the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) in Africa, to influence regional agricultural and rural development processes and facilitate the sharing of knowledge and good practices. FAO is also involved at global level in the Global Initiative on Decent Jobs for Youth and leads the thematic window on youth in the rural economy. 
    At country level, FAO partners with the private sector, producers' organizations and the government, to guarantee better employment prospects for young people. In particular, FAO has developed an innovative and field-tested Public Private Partnership (PPP) Model for youth employment in agriculture. The model is multi-dimensional and seeks to address the numerous constraints that rural youth face in accessing productive and decent employment. In particular, the model is built on overarching 3 pillars: (i) developing beneficiaries' agricultural and entrepreneurial skills, using the FAO's Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools (JFFLS) methodology; (ii) facilitating beneficiaries' access to land, credit and markets, including through their participation to young producers' organizations; and (iii) strengthening beneficiaries' capacities to participate in policy debates that are relevant to their well-being.


Knowledge materials

Knowledge materials

This module provides links to several publications on decent youth employment in rural areas, both at the global level and regional level. The module includes global reports, information notes on FAO’s work in this field, articles, as well as a collection of practical solutions for youth engagement in agriculture.

Guidance tools

Guidance tools

This module provides access to guidance materials on how to run a Junior Farmer Field and Life School, including more than 15 specific modules for JFFLS trainers and an M&E Toolkit for JFFLS. It also provides a detailed example of a private and public sector partnership model for decent youth employment in agriculture.

COVID-19 and youth employment