This is a summary of the webinar “Combatting hunger and poverty through rural youth employment” that took place on 13 May 2024. It was jointly organized by Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ).

In 2017, Germany, as the then G20 presidency, launched on behalf of Members of the G20 Development Working Group (DWG) an Initiative for Rural Youth Employment. The Initiative aimed at intensifying efforts to promote employment for rural youth, notably in Africa. Five years forward, the DWG commissioned an assessment of the Initiative’s progress.

A webinar for the launch of the study was jointly organized by OECD and the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and took place on 13 May 2024 (agenda). The event offered a timely opportunity to reflect on the efforts made by G20 countries and international organisations as well as the civil society to spur job creation for rural youth and to discuss opportunities of how to best move forward. After keynote remarks by OECD and BMZ the main findings of the study were presented.

The panel participants discussed how to scale up effective approaches to support rural development policies and better respond to developing countries’ priorities. This webinar’s objectives included:

  1. Sharing lessons learned from the G20 Initiative for Rural Youth Employment to inform the G20 debate and actions
  2. Discussing with experts, policy makers, youth and G20 members on the importance of sustainable and rural youth employment to combat poverty, hunger and inequalities.

Key messages

Opportunities along agri-food value chains must be further explored. This was stressed by Leonard Mizzi, Head of Unit Sustainable Agri-food Systems, European Commission DG International Partnerships. He continued that new regulatory processes on due diligence and ‘green credentials’ can reduce child labour while empowering young people. Local food markets are definitely an avenue to develop but more must be done to ensure regional market opportunities are explored. For this more evidence is needed on scalability of certain value chains from a trade integration point of view. The African Continental Free Trade Agreement could be a game changer. Another avenue being explored, through the EU Global Gateway, is how to combine digital and artificial intelligence in the food and textile industry. The Global Gateway is a new European strategy to boost smart, clean and secure links in digital, energy and transport sectors and to strengthen health, education and research systems across the world.

A participatory approach is important – that means not only hearing the voices of youth but also ensuring that they have a role in decision making. Genna Tesdall, Director of Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD) further pointed out the need to work with youth as individuals but also as professionals. Policy dialogue with youth should focus on 4 areas: 1) education, including vocational training that can meet the needs of young adults; 2) access to resources, including land, financing, human rights; 3) networks, both soft and hard infrastructure; and 4) policies and programmes that create the enabling environment for young people. Social dialogue drives impact only if local changemakers are involved.

Invest in rural areas. Tebogo Lobaka, Sector Expert for Social Cohesion, Protection and Gender, Department of Planning Monitoring and Evaluation (DPME) from South Africa stressed the need to  implement integrated rural development strategies to promote rural economies. This is at the core of the issues for rural youth. Youth want equal opportunities in rural areas. They will stay in their communities if they see that they will have equal access to culture, education and jobs than in urban areas. In South Africa programmes such as NARYSEC (a 24 months programme to improve skills for rural youth, has helped retain youth in their communities. Other programmes such as the Expanded Public Works Programme (an 18 months skills programme), and the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention (self-employment programme) are all designed to support job creation for rural youth by ensuring rural areas stay vibrant.

Improve rural connectivity. Jayant Singh, Rural Development Advisor, NITI Aayog (National Institution for Transforming India) mentioned that in India, where 64% of its 1.4 billion people live in rural areas, the rural development strategy has focused on improving infrastructure, particularly ensuring rural connectivity and access to digital services. Housing projects, which started as a welfare programme, have also helped stimulate rural economies by providing jobs in construction. The Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act provides a minimum rural employment guarantee of 100 days per year.

Create better rural-urban linkages. Employment, poverty and hunger are linked. According to Sheryl Hendriks, Director, Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich, evidence shows that only when rural households start making income from selling their produce that child nutrition improves. This shows the importance of ensuring market linkages for rural producers. A large proportion of rural diets comes from processed food, just like urban communities. Rural communities, contrary to common beliefs, are not self-sufficient. Territorial planning must therefore take into account where food comes from and ensure better rural-urban linkages.

Improve data collection and documentations of lessons learned. Nosipho Nausca-Jean Jezile, Chair of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) recalled that the CFS is the body within the UN with the mandate on food security and nutrition. The work of the CFS on policies is evidence-based, therefore data and evidence are important for targeted intervention on youth inclusion. She called on the  need for more evidence on how youth engage in agriculture and food security as well as the impact of food systems on economic, social and environmental dimensions. Youth are agents of change and policy processes should be informed by youth participation. Young people face serious barriers, such as knowledge of soil management, access to market, financing and insurance schemes, technologies, etc. These aspects need support and more evidence on youth-led initiatives will help inform policies.

The relevance for current G20 priorities

Underlining the importance of the various recommendations, Saulo Ceolin, Coordinator of food and nutritional security, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Brazil, addressed thematic linkages with the current priorities of the Brazilian G20 Presidency and pointed out one milestone that was already achieved recently: the agreement by the G20 Technical Working Group on Agriculture to include family farming as a permanent issue in the G20 agenda. This is reflecting the high priority for the G20 and is also addressing the many rural youth working in agriculture, most of them in family or small-scale farming.

The current priority of the G20 Presidency under Brazil is the fight against hunger and poverty. The new Global Alliance Against Hunger and Poverty aims to support global efforts to achieve SDG 1 and 2, for example by consolidating policies that have been effective to reduce poverty and combat hunger. It will offer a basket of policies, to support countries in their implementation efforts at the national level.

For Brazil, the important aspects in rural development have been adopting a multi-sectoral approach and ensuring that youth are owner of the development process. The government has put rural youth back high on the agenda and consultation processes have started. This is a real multi-governmental effort, involving 16 ministries.

In conclusion, rural economies must be vibrant, not only in terms of employment, but as a community, with culture, connectivity, and good education.



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