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Young People & Agrifood

Finding the 'opportunity space' for young people and rural jobs

Ghana-villageOver the last decade, both agriculture and young people have become increasingly prominent on African development agendas. Many have concluded that engagement in production agriculture is an obvious (if not the obvious) opportunity through which to address the problem of limited economic opportunity for young people in rural areas.

According to a new article by James Sumberg and Christine Okali, entrepreneurship-based policy and programmes to address the jobs challenge facing young people in rural Africa need to be much more firmly grounded in evidence and analysis. These are the conclusions of the article, Young People, Agriculture, and Transformation in Rural Africa: An “Opportunity Space” Approach (pdf), published in Innovations Journal.

The authors argue that, in terms of expectations, design and implementation, such programmes must take explicit account of the highly diverse and changing rural and social realities within which young people both find themselves and help to fashion. Sumberg and Okali develop this argument through an exploration of the notion of “opportunity space”, and demonstrate the benefit of putting an appreciation of social difference and social relations at centre stage.

The article appears in a special issue of Innovations journal, launched at the 2013 Global Youth Economic Opportunities Conference this week in Washington D.C. James Sumberg is among the speakers in a session entitled What do Young People and Rural Development Have to Offer Each Other?

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Young people, agriculture & work in Africa: new thinking

Young person working on production lineMuch hope is placed in agriculture as a source of jobs for young people in Africa. In a blog post, Jim Sumberg (Young People and Agri-food theme convenor) explores four types of work opportunities. To allow 'transformative' jobs for rural youth, the agriculture sector needs to be fundamentally restructured.

Africa's aging farmers?

Family farmersClaims are made that Africa's farmers are getting older. The blame is put on young people's decreasing interest in farm work, lack of skills and access to resources - but are these assumptions, and the policies to address them, based on reliable evidence?

A stronger evidence base on farmer demographics and barriers to entering the agricultural sector is needed.

Busting myths about youth and agriculture

Harar girl with younger brother by charlesfred on FlickrThe debate on youth and agriculture has often assumed that simply encouraging young people to farm will solve the triple problem of unemployment, undernutrition and an ageing workforce.

But the attitudes of young people themselves have largely been ignored, as FAC member Jennifer Leavy argues in a new blog for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

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IDS Bulletin: Young People and Agriculture in Africa

Bulletin front cover

A new IDS Bulletin asks what young people really mean for the future of African agricultural policy.

The articles in the new IDS Bulletin on Young People and Agriculture in Africa are drawn from the international conference on 'Young People, Farming and Food' in Ghana, March 2012. This conference examined how young people engage with the agri-food sector in Africa and how research findings were being integrated into policy processes.

Read Jim Sumberg's opinion piece:
Growing their own jobs? Agriculture, unemployment and the threat of a ‘lost generation’ of rural Africans

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Further Reading