Opening up opportunities for young people in the agri-food sector

Young people in rural communities are struggling.

  • Jobs are rare. Those that are around offer low wages, are unfulfilling or involve backbreaking work.
  • Access to land and finance is limited, even more so for young women.
  • Opportunities to acquire new knowledge and skills are virtually non-existent.
  • Existing organisations have little openness to include young people in decision-making spaces.

“I would like to exchange with other young people that struggle with the same questions as me. That’s the way to change our thinking about agriculture.”

Julio Rivera, 20

For all too many young people, leaving their family farms behind to seek work in already overcrowded cities seems like the only option. As the average age of farmers increases and young people don’t feel passionate about agriculture, farming communities are growing weaker. This jeopardises food security and availability, particularly in booming urban areas.

We can’t solve one problem without tackling the other. Young people have the potential to feed growing urban populations and transform the food system of their region for the better, earning a decent income while doing so. So how do we open up opportunities for youth in agri-food systems?

In its programmes, Rikolto harnesses the power of youth to test and harvest new solutions to change the recipe of our food system forever.

We work with farmers’ organisations

  • We empower them to become solid business partners and to implement future-proof practices. This includes increasing youth participation in their membership base and governance systems.

  • We create opportunities for young women and men and empower them to revitalise value chains and food systems through innovation. These opportunities range from production to processing, marketing and quality checking to creating their own start-ups.

  • We connect them with wholesalers, banks and other stakeholders to explore new ways of doing business while increasing youth participation.

We give youth a voice to influence policies

  • We invite youth policy groups to the table in city food councils, to co-create local food policies.

  • We develop methodologies to uncover young people’s perspectives and dreams.

We create an overall enabling environment

  • We set up food incubators in cities across the globe, where rural and urban youth find the tools to kick-start their business ideas to make local food systems more sustainable.

  • We bring together universities, farmers’ organisations, NGOs, companies and governments to join forces to create new opportunities for young people.

  • We capture insights into what works and what doesn’t and share them in (inter)national networks to support policy and programme development.

Involving young people in farmer organisations

Our #YesYouthCan! initiative is directed at making Central America’s cocoa sector more attractive for young people. Most of the 250 young people involved in the project now have a 1ha cocoa plantation; 50 run their own start-up. A newly set-up youth committee with 24 young leaders represents the voice of young farmers in La Campesina cooperative’s decision-making process, and youth membership in the cooperative has increased from 5% to 11% after 4 years. In 2018, the Belgian supermarket chain Colruyt Group started selling single-origin chocolate produced by La Campesina’s young cocoa farmers.

Creating job opportunities for youth

In the coffee chain in Eastern Congo, Rikolto motivated youngsters to start tree nurseries and sell the seedlings to the members of four coffee cooperatives, thus contributing to the rejuvenation of old coffee plantations. Specific training was given to improve their business and marketing skills. Currently, 70 commercial tree nurseries are operating in the area.

Young people as future consumers

Wanted: Food for the Future is a unique project in which the Belgian Province of Flemish Brabant, Rikolto, the Colruyt Group, the University of Leuven and the University-College Leuven-Limburg, together with young people, experts and farmers, look for ways to feed the growing global population in a sustainable way. The involvement of young people, as future consumers, is crucial. During workshops focussing on (social) innovations in local food systems in Tanzania, Peru, Indonesia and Belgium, 120 young people created and tested new business ideas.

Methodologies to capture young people’s voices

Together with the International Labour Organisation, Rikolto has created the Youth in Agriculture Scan, powered by SenseMaker. In Ecuador, Peru and Nicaragua, we researched the triggers for 876 young people’s integration into the coffee and cocoa sectors. The tool allows us to capture their voices and use what is learned as input for public policies matching the youngsters’ needs.We will now finetune the Youth in Agriculture Scan to give us additional contextual information on programmes involving young people, starting with a new scan in Mali.

  • 19,550 young farmers, members of 87 farmer organisations, across 15 countries.
  • Companies and wholesalers aiming for youth-inclusive value chains, such as Colruyt Group, Mars, Pacari and Ritter Sport.
  • Networks and multi-stakeholder platforms, like Thought for Food, One Planet Network, Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD), FAO and EIT FOOD.
  • Research institutes, including the KU Leuven and Flores University.
  • Funders, such as the Belgian Development Cooperation, YOUCA, the Collibri Foundation and Talitha Koum.

Thibault Geerardyn
Thibault Geerardyn
Programma medewerker
+32 478 46 37 48

Jorge Flores
Jorge Flores
Coordinador de proyectos | Nicaragua