Africa: Synthesis of Deliberations at the 'Youth in Agriculture' Session of the 2012 Farmers' Forum

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Photo: Kate Holt/Irin
A woman works on her rice farm in Kaduna State, Nigeria.

Rome — The following is a synthesis of the deliberations conducted at the 'Youth in Agriculture' session of the 2012 Farmers' Forum Global Meeting, IFAD, Rome.

We, young women and men farmers, representing Farmers' Organizations as well as Rural (Youth) Associations of Africa, Asia and the Pacific, and Latin America and the Caribbean, gathered at IFAD Headquarters in Rome (Italy) on Saturday 18 February 2012 to prepare recommendations to be addressed to Farmers' Organizations (FOs) representatives, to IFAD and to Governments during the 2012 Farmers' Forum and IFAD Governing Council.

We are aware of the high prevalence of poverty and food insecurity in rural areas, particularly in developing countries. We are aware of the effects of climate change on rural populations' livelihoods, as well as of the mismanagement and depletion of natural resources. We are also aware of the particular challenges faced by women in agriculture.

We fully believe that there is an urgent need to invest in family farming to create employment, combat poverty and achieve food security today, and to feed the world of tomorrow. We are also aware that, under the current situation, agricultural activities provide limited profitable opportunities. In addition to this, rural areas lack infrastructure and social facilities. These are some of the reasons why a considerable number of young people, and especially young men, have been leaving their rural communities.

We are optimistic in creating a "new rural reality", based on a positive image of farming as a dynamic business. We believe that we can be the entrepreneurs of today, by managing sustainable agricultural initiatives. We believe that we, as young people, can make a difference.

Our mobility, adaptability, openness to acquiring new knowledge, and creativity in taking advantage of new opportunities are critical to developing modern agriculture in the rural areas where we live and to reduce the rural/urban divide. We are also confident that we can be excellent environmental stewards to promote sustainable agriculture.

Unfortunately, we observe that our energies and pro-activeness are generally overlooked and under-utilised. We need to develop youth-friendly environments that adequately support our initiatives. It is risky for governments and development partners to not seriously and adequately take youth into consideration, as we have noticed in Northern Africa and the Middle East and in some European countries. On the basis of our fruitful exchanges and referring to the successful experiences we shared that support young farmers in agriculture, we are expressing the following recommendations to FOs, the governments, IFAD, FAO and other partners.

A stronger representation

We advocate for having our own organizations, so as to best represent the views and interests of rural young men and women. We want to organise and develop advocacy campaigns dedicated to youth issues. We want to be involved in policy making processes from design to implementation, monitoring and evaluation. In this regard, we need human, technical and financial support to build and strengthen our institutional capacities. We are aware that some programmes support farmer organizations and we recommend that a share of such programmes are directly dedicated to rural youth.

We demand more consideration, including more space to express our voice and specificity within FOs. We want to participate as full members in their constituencies and to be represented in their decision-making organs. We urge FOs to create effective youth representation mechanisms.

For example, in Togo, a network of young producers and agricultural professionals has been set up within the Coordination Committee of Farmers Organizations and Agricultural Producers. In Peru, a coordinating committee of young coffee growers has been created within the National Association of Coffee Producers. The All Nepal Peasants Federation has created a youth wing to organize and empower young peasants. These cases prove that better representation of young farmers can be achieved effectively.

Additionally, we ask the Farmers Forum Steering Committee to set up a quota of at least 30% of young farmer representatives for future Farmers' Forums. At least half of these young farmer representatives should be women.

More specific supports

Governments and development partners have been increasingly making efforts to address youth issues. However, even if there are positive outcomes from some youth initiatives, these remain dispersed and should be up-scaled.

More recently, international aid has been increasingly allocated to agriculture and food security programmes (e.g. the GAFSP, the IFAD MTCP and the EU Food Facility). We ask that a higher percentage of these programmes' budgets is allocated to specific youth-related interventions. The Youth for Change project in Pakistan is a good example where the government is working closely with rural youth, to identify their specific needs and to design appropriate policies and programmes to support them.

We recommend to governments to increase their budgetary support to the agricultural sector, earmarking more funds to support youth in agriculture. This can be done through specific funds, such as the Youth Innovation Fund, launched in Peru, which supports selected young farmers' initiatives with finance, technical support and training. We are equally in favour of developing on- and off-farm activities along the agricultural value chain.

Access to natural resources

We are aware that access to land and other natural resources is very context-specific, but it is a challenge for young people everywhere. We call on FOs to initiate mechanisms to enhance young people's access to land, as promoted in Mexico, where a Intra-Vivos Land Transfer Programme has been implemented to facilitate anticipated land inheritance.

Promotion of cooperatives can also be a way to lease a plot of land more easily, by doing so collectively rather than individually. An example of this is found in DFID's Poorest Areas Civil Society Programme in India.

We also recommend that our governments promote equal access to land for young women through gender sensitive legislations and to train community leaders, as done in Rwanda, to correctly implement these laws. Finally, we urge our governments to implement agrarian reforms to ensure that arable land is only used for agricultural purposes, and to consider future generations' needs before selling or making available large tracts of land for long periods to national or foreign investors.

Access to markets

Access to markets is a big challenge for us. However, there are many examples where well designed programmes supporting youth cooperatives have led to excellent outcomes. For example in Jordan, the Specific Union for Female Farmers, with AGRICORD support, increased its managerial, entrepreneurial skills and improved access to markets for its members, through packaging and promotion of the products. Another good example is the guinea-pig project carried out by MIJARC in Peru.

We recommend that our skills to learn new technologies are properly valued, particularly in using ICTs as it is done successfully in Uganda and in Ghana. Our flexibility in mobility should also be considered by governments and our families as an asset in exploring new markets and improving the efficiency of value-chains.

A good example is found in Togo on the green bean value-chain, with the support of the country's Chamber of Agriculture. Finally, our innovative spirit can help in exploring new activities and niche markets of organic products and Fairtrade.

Access to financial services

Access to credit is a challenge for young people, due to inability to meet banks' collateral requirements. We recommend innovative solutions, such as in the case of Ecuador, where the Advanced Integrated Microfinance for Youth Programme has set-up a process for young people to save money and re-invest their savings profitably.

In Cameroon and Senegal, youth groups receive loans in kind (e.g. fertiliser, equipment) without going through financial intermediaries. In Tanzania, specific warehouse systems are allocated to rural youth, with warehouse receipts used as collateral to access credit. Another good example is the Fundaciòn Paraguay which combines financial support with technical training.

Given the fact that our access to credit is limited, we advocate for incentive measures to help start new activities and promote our initiatives.

Access to Knowledge

We recommend that agriculture is included in the school curricula, from primary education onwards. Where agriculture has already been included in the curricula, we advise that these are reviewed and updated in a participatory manner to better respond to evolving needs of rural young women and men. We do not only want education on agricultural production but also along the entire value chain.

Furthermore, inter-generational knowledge sharing should be enhanced and mechanisms should be developed to share the knowledge acquired by the youth who migrated to urban areas with their rural communities. We recommend that governments promote new training models, such as the Don Bosco Agro-Mechanical Technology Centre in the Philippines or the Songhai Centre in Benin, which combine traditional and modern knowledge and help young people to become entrepreneurs.

We also recommend the scaling-up of the Junior Farmer Field and Life School model that aims not only to develop agricultural skills following crop cycles , but also builds the self-confidence of the participants over a one-year period.

As a conclusion,

We are confident that our recommendations will be awarded due consideration and youth-focused policies and programmes will be effectively designed, implemented and evaluated.

We reiterate our full commitment to participate in policy, programme and project design and implementation, in order to create sustainable employment, fight poverty, and to promote food security.

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