IFAD has recently released its latest Rural Development Report. The report titled “Creating opportunities for rural youth” provides an analysis that can inform policies, programmes and investments to promote a rural transformation inclusive of youth. Issues discussed range from exploring opportunities for rural youth to constraints they are facing.
The youth are growing in numbers and more rapidly in lower-income countries, particularly in rural areas, nearly 1 billion of the world’s 1.2 billion youth aged 15-24 reside in developing countries. The growing youth population has enormous potential and are vital to achieving the Sustainable development goals.
1. Rural youth are affected explicitly by different constraints in the transition from dependence to independence.
Skill Constraints: The skill sets required for rural youth to be successful in their enterprises are changing; In addition to basic technical skills, youth need to know how to search for information and think critically to solve problems. Education institutions face a big challenge to meet the emerging needs.
Constraints to land: While 1 in 3 adults own land, only 1 in 10 young people do. In addition, plots are becoming smaller and more fragmented. The digital revolution could facilitate land registries and land rentals. Rethinking inheritance can offer solutions as well.
Constraints to finance: Youth have few assets and are more likely to be unbanked and yet to win their place in transforming rural economies, youth need access to finance. Digital financial solutions can meet part of this gap.
The triple burden: Being rural, young and female presents a completely new dimension of challenges. Young rural women are only half as likely as young men to be sole landowners. Also, rural women in less transformed economies have the lowest level of education
2. The current unprecedented rate and nature of change also create new contexts, challenges and opportunities.
Demographic changes: Cities, including rural towns, currently house half of the population of low and middle-income countries. Rural populations have more than doubled since the 1950s. The resulting growth of rural towns has reduced the literal and economic distance between rural and urban centres
Digital change helps: Digital technologies are undermining labour-intensive manufacturing avenues in industries that were used by youth as easy escape routes. On the other hand, digital innovations are creating avenues for youth to be better connected to different avenues and opportunities
Climate change: Rural youth are likely to be disproportionately affected by climate change because countries with high youth populations are typically poor with few opportunities beyond agriculture and have little capacity to adapt. Investments in climate adaptation should go hand in hand with skills for youth.
3. Opportunities for rural youth are framed by overlapping settings at national, local and familial levels.
At National Level: The level of achievement of rural structural transformation in the broad economy can determine the welfare that rural youth might attain through two important shifts – labour starts to move off the farm into nonfarm activities and from self-employment into wage employment.
At the local level: The commercial potential relating to access to markets and for agricultural products and agro-ecological potential (the availability of natural resources ) can affect the framing of opportunities for young people.
The nature of their families. Whether they are from farming oriented households or non-farm oriented households can affect the nature and potential of opportunities the youth have.
According to the report, rural youth development is powered by improvements in three mutually reinforcing factors:
- Increasing the ability of young people to become productive individuals
- Improving their connectivity to people, markets services, ideas and information
- Increase their capacity and ability to shape their own destiny
Effective rural youth policies
It is important to include effective policies and investments that help rural youth become economically successful adults into national and local strategies, policies and sectoral programmes. Investments focused on youth alone are unlikely to provide sustainable benefits. The needs of youth should be considered in a broader context, and there is a need to foster rural transformation all the way.
A sound youth policy environment will maximize youth’s assets, improve their ability to shape their destiny and access to opportunities and services. The report recommends that policies and investments should be directed towards providing a wide range of rural opportunities while promoting youth inclusion. Only then can rural youth both improve their future prospects and help build the prosperity of their societies.