Young people in rural areas face the double challenge of age-specific vulnerabilities and underdevelopment of rural areas. While agriculture absorbs the majority of rural workers in developing countries, low pay and poor working conditions make it difficult to sustain rural livelihoods. Potential job opportunities for rural youth exist in agriculture and along the agri-food value chain.

This study places rural youth employment in developing countries at the centre of the analysis. It aims to sharpen our understanding of the challenges associated with current food systems in terms of decent job creation and environmental footprint and to explore which food production and distribution models are more likely to ensure not only economic gains but also social and environmental benefits. A key message is that integrating rural youth into productive and environmentally sustainable agri-food activities rooted in inclusive domestic food systems may well be one of the few lasting solutions to the current rural youth employment challenge. For this to happen, actions need to be taken today.

Growing populations, urbanisation and rising incomes of the working class are increasing demand for more diverse and higher value added agricultural and food products in Africa and developing Asia. This demand will create a need for off-farm labour, especially in agribusinesses, which tends to be better paid and located in rural areas and secondary towns. It could boost job creation in the food economy provided that local food systems were mobilised to take up the challenge of higher and changing domestic demand for food.

The findings contribute to the work of the OECD Development Centre on building more cohesive societies and helping countries to identify emerging issues and find innovative solutions to address social challenges. The research was undertaken with financial support from the European Union to provide evidence for the policy dialogue on youth well-being in developing and emerging countries. It is based on the analysis of data from selected developing countries in Africa and Asia, as well as a review of different local food models across the world.


Maurizio Navarra


Maurizio Navarra

Secretariat Coordinator for the Global Donor Platform for Rural Development