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Youth Day 2021: Empowering youth in rural agricultural communities

Posted in Blogs on August 12, 2021

Rural youth are the future of food security – yet, whilst the majority of the world’s food is produced by aging smallholder famers in developing countries, few young people from rural communities see a future in agriculture sector.  

International Youth Day is observed every year on August 12 “to bring youth issues to the attention of the international community, and to celebrate the potential of youth as active partners in the global society.” With this year’s theme focusing on transforming food systems, including providing the capacity for resilient food systems and addressing potential harmful side-effects of the agriculture processes, we are highlighting the work that Aflatoun has been doing in order to encourage young people to enter and effectively take part in the labour market and agricultural economy. Among them, the MASO Programme and our ‘Transforming Agribusiness’ supplement (AflaYouth). Our work in this area is aimed at enabling youth in rural communities to become agricultural entrepreneurs, access new income streams, and uplift their communities, as well as contributing to promote the innovation that the global food system desperately needs 

Our partner Plan International Brazil
Challenges for youth in agriculture

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), youth in rural agricultural communities face key challenges in both accessing and establishing sustainable careers in the sector. These include certain institutional barriers, such as limited market access and limited involvement in policy dialogue and agricultural governance, but also issues that the Aflatoun partner network actively work to address.  

Youth lack access to knowledge, information and education around both agricultural best practices as well as entrepreneurial skills, limiting productivity and hindering the development of their ventures- especially prevalent amongst young rural girls. The FAO report recognises a distinct need to incorporate agricultural skills into rural education as a whole, and ensure curricula is adapted to ensure that graduates’ skills meet the needs of rural labour markets.  

Further, youth have limited access to land, largely due to a lack of knowledge around inheritance laws and customs, loans and leasing arrangements. This is exacerbated by inadequate access to financial services, including credit, savings and insurance, due to a lack of financial literacy and reluctance from finance services to provide to rural youth due to their lack of collateral. To mitigate this, the FAO recommended promoting financial products catered to youth, establishing mentoring programmes, access to start-up funding, and encouraging informal savings clubs.  

Aflatoun supplement: Transforming Agribusiness

To address the limited opportunities facing youth in rural areas, Aflatoun International has been working to empower these young people through thematic curriculum supplements such as ‘Transforming Agribusiness’. This supplements the AflaYouth curriculum, tailored to improve income-generation abilities for vulnerable youths (aged 16-24+). ‘Transforming Agribusiness’ works to provide rural youths with crop-specific content for young farmers in Asia, Latin America and Africa, as well as the following: the ability to manage and understand money (financial capability); transferable life skills and rights awareness (knowing the laws, and their rights); and entrepreneurial and management skills (in order to participate in income-generating activities within the agricultural sector).  

The impact of these Aflatoun programmes has already been observed. Research and impact evaluations have demonstrated that young people’s self-efficacy, future planning and rights awareness, communication skills, savings and entrepreneurial behaviour, as well as overall attitude towards education has improved.  

Let’s take a closer look at the Next Generation Youth in Cocoa Programme (MASO) in Ghana, that worked to create employment opportunities for youth in the country’s cocoa-growing regions.  

Ghana’s MASO Programme

2020 was the last year of the Next Generation Youth in Cocoa Programme (MASO): a programme focused on creating employment opportunities for youth (17-25 years old) in Ghana’s cocoa-growing regions. MASO was part of the Youth Forward initiative, a partnership led by The MasterCard Foundation, Overseas Development Institute, Global Communities, Solidaridad, NCBACLUSA and GOAL.  

 

In Ghana, the agriculture sector makes up nearly 20% of the country’s GDP, and is the largest source of employment, providing jobs to nearly 800,000 households. However, much of Ghana’s agricultural workforce is aging, as young people do not see it as a sustainable source of income. With the aging demographic putting the viability of Ghana’s agriculture sector at risk, programmes like MASO were implemented to both empower youths with social and financial skills, as well as ensure the survival of Ghana’s agricultural economy by making a career in sector more attractive. Through the MASO programme, young people in Ghana began seeing farming and agriculture-related activities as business opportunities, and acquired the social, financial, and life skills and training to venture into this career path. 

 

For example, Evans Essell is an entrepreneur selling government certified agrochemicals and provides quality labour services by hiring other youth in Ghana’s Subriso community. Through the MASO programme, he was able to develop the skills needed to create a sustainable business model that uplifted both his family and his community.  

“During Aflatoun training I enjoyed learning about sales records and entrepreneurship. This training has helped me find […] business opportunit[ies] and engage in selling agrochemicals. It is my dream to expand my business, sell quality agrochemicals and provide top-notch labour services and create more jobs for young people.” — Evans

The MASO programme also worked to address gendered inequalities within the industry, working to provide women with more opportunities within the cocoa sector, as well as build knowledge around Legal Rights, and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR). In the 5 years that the programme was implemented, over 10,000 young people were directly targeted, and employment opportunities were created for 30,000 young people – with over 40% of them being women. Aimpact evaluation study also found that the MASO programme had unintended side benefits on social norms, intra-household and community relationships, and knowledge transmission and sustainability. 

“Before the Aflatoun training, my family saw farming only to be meant for men, but after the training, whenever I was coming back from it, I shared the knowledge with them. Now, my family supports me in farming. Applying the knowledge I got from Aflatoun, I've been able to help my friends in the community to sustain their homes.” — Sarah

Find out more about Aflatoun’s work to empower youth in rural communities in our brochure on Agribusiness: Youth Economic Empowerment here. 

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