Youth and Agriculture

News: A new UN report on youth and agriculture underscores the urgent need to make agri-food systems more appealing to young people to secure the future of global food security and nutrition. The report ‘Promoting youth engagement and employment in agriculture and food systems’ is prepared and shared to the UN by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS).

Background:

  • Youth aged between 15 and 24 years accounted for 16% of the world’s populationin 2019.
  • Young people were concentrated in Asia, Central and Southern Asiawith 361 million youth and Eastern and South-Eastern Asia with 307 million youth, followed by sub-Saharan Africa (211 million youth).
  • The International Labour Organization (ILO)estimated that 440 million youth from the African continent would enter the labour market between 2015 and 2030.
  • The youth (18-29 years) constitute 22% of India’s population, which is more than 261 million people.
  • According to the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation, the median age of Indian population is around 28 years in 2021 and will become 31 years by 2031. India is also going through the stage of demographic dividend. Hardly5% of the youth are engaged in agriculture though over 60% of the rural people derive their livelihood fully or partly from farming and its related activities.
  • Clearly, the modern youth are disenchanted with agriculture and are shunning it as a profession.

Highlights of the report:

  • Particularly in the developing countries, yet they often do not provide decent and meaningful work or adequate livelihood opportunities, nor maintain a balance between the needs and rights of different generations.
  • Food systemsare a complex web of activities involving production, processing, handling, preparation, storage, distribution, marketing, access, purchase, consumption, food loss and waste, as well as the outputs of these activities, including social, economic and environmental outcomes.
  • Covid-19has affected labour markets around the world, hurting employment prospects for the youth more than those belonging to other age groups. Globally, employment among the youth fell 8.7% in 2020 compared with 3.7% for adults.
  • Agri-food systems, if made more appealing and equitable to youth, are a large, untapped reservoir of employment opportunities.
  • As almost 88% of the world’s 1.2 billion youth live, particularly in Africa, where over 70% of youth subsist on USD 2 per day or less.
  • The youth engagement and employment in sustainable agri-food systems is simultaneously a goal to be realized and a means for the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, and of economic well-being.
  • Youth are on the front lines to build the food systems of the future,while also bearing significant risks from climate change, social and economic inequities, and political marginalization.

Way forward:

  • Approaches, initiatives and policiesto strengthen youth engagement and employment in food systems need to be based on the pillars of rights, equity, agency and recognition.
  • Improving youth-focused social protection programmes, labour lawsand regulations, and young people’s access to resources (land, forests, fisheries etc), finance, markets, digital technologies, knowledge and information.
  • Supporting youth-led start-up initiativesis also important, and requires a supportive policy environment.
  • The redistribution of resources, knowledge and opportunities for youthcan contribute to creating jobs for the youth, as well as directly supporting transitions to sustainable agri-food systems.