Research Nugget

Youth Participation in Agriculture

Youth unemployment is a challenge in the Global South and, in particular, Africa faces significant challenging conditions. This is primarily due to rapid population growth; slow economic growth; and a higher unemployment rate associated with a large volume of unskilled workers. The agricultural sector, which is a primary livelihood source for many rural people in Africa, could play an essential role in addressing poverty, unemployment, and inequality. However, barriers limit youth participation in agriculture and the broader food system.

Research partly funded by the NRF looked at the policies, opportunities and challenges for youth to pursue a career or be engaged in agriculture. The findings showed that:

  • Existing agricultural interventions are production-centric and provide low-income earnings and inadequate social protection;
  • The youth have pessimistic perceptions about agriculture’s capability of improving their living standards. This could be attributed to the minimal youth involvement in agricultural activities and the youth’s shared understanding of the agricultural sector’s contribution to general economic growth; and
  • Current agricultural development programs do not adequately address structural issues underpinning youth participation in the economy. Therefore, to enhance the involvement of youths in agriculture, there is a need for policy implementation in the area of integrated agricultural-based interventions that are context-specific and promote meaningful youth participation in shaping future food systems.

Therefore, without deliberate investments in creating opportunities for youths in the food system, the role of youth will continue being concentrated in the primary sector, leaving other aspects of the value-chain untapped.

In addition, the study recommends that the inclusion of agricultural subjects and activities in schools could spark an interest in young people and also expose them to a variety of aspirational career opportunities in agriculture at a young age.

The full paper has been published in the international peer-reviewed journal Sustainability and can be accessed here.