The Thematic Working Group on Rural Youth Employment (TWG RYE) has recently been exploring the topic of green jobs for youth. This ongoing conversation led to a webinar “Green Jobs for Rural Youth in Agri-food Systems”, which took place on 25 April 2022, to discuss entry points for understanding green jobs in agri-food systems.

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The event was facilitated by Ji-Yeun Rim, OECD with a welcome and closing remarks by the Co-Chair Frank Bertelmann, GIZ. The webinar focused broadly on sustainable employment in the food sector and rural economies and facilitated an action-oriented exchange on existing experiences from the International Labour Organisation (ILO), the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and other relevant stakeholders.


Here are key points from each of the speakers:

Keynote address by Peter Poschen, a socio-economic sustainability professor at the University of Freiburg, and former coordinator of the ILO’s Green Jobs Programme. Prof. Poschen presented agriculture’s impacts on climate and its position as the world’s largest employment sector. He emphasized the need to position agricultural work and life in rural areas as an attractive option for young people, ensuring resources and qualitative infrastructure (such as schools) are in place and accessible. Concrete examples of green jobs were described, such as organic farming in India, sustainable coffee growing cooperatives in Ethiopia, and agroforestry projects in Brazil. Prof. Poschen stressed the importance of technology and infrastructure, noting that water, sanitation, electricity, and transport are critical factors to ensure that green jobs can be created and maintained in rural spaces, and that youth are motivated to take part up these opportunities.

Mette Grangaard Lund from the Green Jobs Unit at ILO presented policy frameworks and country examples of green jobs from her work. She described the grave implications that climate change is having on agriculture and rural livelihoods, but also the reverse issue of agriculture’s negative impacts on the planet. Mette highlighted the necessity of a just transition to a green rural economy and the jobs that could come with it, like solar panel technicians, organic farmers, and recycling managers. She outlined some of ILO’s key principles for green jobs, including diversifying the rural economy, boosting skills and training for youth, and promoting social protections.

Jeongha Kim, Programme Officer of Green Jobs in the Decent Rural Employment Team at FAO, discussed the recurring challenges and solutions in agricultural green jobs. She disproved some of the misconceptions around the topic, such as that green jobs must be highly technological, or that advanced technology provides best solutions. Rather, Jeongha presented FAO’s approaches to green job creation, which include youth-led green jobs creation using appropriate technology, combining training with job opportunities, demand-based and feasibility-assessed jobs, and wage employment opportunities in the agri-food sector.

“Climate change has grave implications for agriculture and rural livelihoods, but there are also reverse issue of agriculture’s negative impacts on the planet.”

Faustina Obeng Adomaa, a PhD candidate from Wageningen University and a member in the Young African Researchers in Agriculture (YARA) network, represented the voices of youth in the panel discussion. She pointed to the broad diversity of youth and the need to prioritize adaptation of conventional practices to the changing climate realities. In general, youth have high aspirations for green jobs, wanting to acquire skills for climate-smart agriculture practices, increase market access and shift to organic food production as potential business and employment opportunities. In addition, youth want green jobs to be decent, gender-smart and with low implementation requirements. This can be ensured through an enabling environment for the rural economies with a credit and financial system that is sensitive to green investments.

Dr. Janet Edeme from the African Union Commission explained the multiple challenges the continent is facing: to build an inclusive economic transformation during a youth employment crisis, where the transformation to green jobs may destroy or displace unsustainable positions. She thus focused on the importance of a transition that also reduces inequalities and promotes social protections. To build back both from the pandemic and natural disasters, like Cyclone Idai and extensive floods and droughts, the AUC established a recovery action plan, which focuses on resilient agriculture, inclusive economic development and green jobs. Dr. Edeme concluded her remarks with the reminder that both public and private investments are needed to establish green jobs and an inclusive and resilient rural agricultural economy in Africa.

Michael Sudarkasa, the CEO of Africa Business Group called for sharing knowledge, technologies and jobs with young people in rural areas. Local markets can provide great opportunities for business development and entrepreneurship. Youth need support to aggregate their economic activities, and to increase their production to economies of scale. He emphasized the potential of dialogue platforms where investors and youth can come together based on their common interests, for example, regenerative agriculture or productive use of energy. Michael concluded by highlighting the need for intra-African trade and peer-to-peer learning.

Jane Lowicki-Zucca shared experiences from USAID, particularly from working on a white paper about green jobs. She emphasized the importance of just and inclusive pathways to green jobs, ensuring representation of rural youth, women, and other marginalized and/or underrepresented groups. She pointed to the fact that many green jobs in agriculture are simply “greener” versions of their current states, so support for transitioning to more sustainable practices is key. Summarily, Jane focused on the nexus of job quality, youth engagement, agriculture, and climate as a central opportunity for the transition to a sustainable agricultural economy.

The presentations and panel discussion offered substantial food for thought on the topic of green jobs for rural youth. The speakers described a variety of initiatives, examples and practices that can be used as reference points to explore the topic more thoroughly. A short poll underlined the high interest to dig deeper into the topics like training and re-skilling youth for green jobs, gender implications of green jobs for youth, and specific green job project examples. Overall, the experts underlined the need for a just transition to a green economy, exploring opportunities for inclusive employment for rural youth in agriculture and agri-food systems.

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Maurizio Navarra


Maurizio Navarra

Secretariat Coordinator