Youth in agriculture: what lessons can we draw from evaluations?

FAO
©FAO/ Tamiru Legesse

Youth in agriculture: what lessons can we draw from evaluations?

Dear all,

Most of us working in agriculture have been aware of the rising average age of farmers, both men and women. There have been efforts over the years to engage younger people in agriculture – some projects successful and others less so. Yet, we do not see a substantial change in youth engagement in the agriculture sector. What has happened to the evaluations of youth in agriculture –related projects? Are there lessons learned that we should be incorporating in all initiatives? What are the pitfalls and challenges?  Has anyone done a synthesis of the lessons learned so that we can make a more transformation change for the sector in this regard?

Looking forward to hearing from your experiences,

Dorothy

This discussion is now closed. Please contact info@evalforward.org for any further information.

Dear EvalForward members,

Thank you all for posting many and insightful contributions to this discussion. 

As pointed out, sustainable engagement of young people in agriculture faces several challenges. Many of these are similar across different country contexts, especially those related to enduring negative perceptions of the sector and the non-conducive political and enabling environment for youth employment and entrepreneurship in agriculture. The cases of successful engagement and business ventures highlighted shed light on the possible opportunities to counter the trend of rising average age of farmers and agripreneurs.  

I would like to encourage all to step up consideration of youth engagement in your evaluations and in recommendations, in order to contribute to moving forward on youth-appropriate strategies in support of SDG2 – End Hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.

Please keep sharing lessons and evaluative knowledge you may have through this platform!

Best regards,

Dorothy

Sorry for joining this discussion late, but I have been tied up the last couple weeks. 

I think the major reason youth are losing interest in farming is that most manual operated farming in Africa can not provide food security for the family. This get back to an issue that has been overlooked by the development effort but I keep harping on. That is the shortcoming of agronomy, my discipline, in that agronomy does an excellent job of determining the potential of an area, but says nothing about the operational requirements to extend the small plot results across the rest of the area. It just assume it is not a problem and all that is needed is education on improved technology that is often more labor intensive, in what is usually a severe labor deficit environment, in which most people are operating at a 50% calorie deficit. The solution is to remove as much of the drudgery as possible, starting with facilitating access to contract private sector tillage services. Once this is done, the crop establishment time will be substantially reduced, potential yield will go up, food security more assured, with potential to for crop diversification to more nutrient rich foods, as well as greater surplus to market up the value chain. Once the smallholder agriculture can provide a reasonable quality of living the youth will be more interested in staying in the rural areas. 

You might want to compare the manual operations in Africa to the paddy lands of Asia, such as Thailand, Laos, Viet Nam, Malaysia where some 30 years ago the made the major shift from water buffalo to power tillers. This more than halved the crop establishment time, leading to higher yields, increased crop intensity to 5 crops in 2 years, etc. and lead to a more middle class living standard. Since this enhancement of the operational capacity was independent of the development effort, it has been overlooked, but I would contend that it is major reason for the success of the "green revolution" in Asia, with IRRI's yield increase a secondary reason. The 2 were happened concurrently.

Please review the following webpages and linked pages : 

https://webdoc.agsci.colostate.edu/smallholderagriculture/OperationalFe… 

https://smallholderagriculture.agsci.colostate.edu/calorie-energy-balan…

https://smallholderagriculture.agsci.colostate.edu/promoting-the-green-…

https://smallholderagriculture.agsci.colostate.edu/integration-an-under…

 

Dear Dorothy,

Thank you for having brought up Youth in Agriculture in this forum. The remarkable response indicates how important this topic is for evaluators and others. I have had the opportunity to evaluate several agriculture programs in Senegal and The Gambia. I would like to share my reflections, findings and the recommendations that I have made which I hope answers your initial questions: Are evaluations making a difference or not? If not, how does that happen to greater effect?

There seems to be general agreement that the negative perception of agriculture which describes farmers as illiterate;  farm work as back breaking are deterrents for young people. I think that these are part of a larger number of reasons.  What can be done to de-stigmatize farming? I believe that changing the language and concept concerning small-scale farming is a first step. Should we not

  • Think of the farmer as an agriculture entrepreneur, businessman or businesswomen not the illiterate poor person who does a backbreaking job who is able to provide for his family
  • Treat the farm as a family business and not some entity for survival?

Colleagues have mentioned educated and uneducated Youth. I believe that an uneducated Youth with some numeracy and literacy skills can become a successful entrepreneur. Let’s not stigmatize the “uneducated” Youth in rural areas. It will perpetuate the negative perception of farmers and farming.

In the discussion, it was noted that there are initiatives that are encouraging the Youth to enter the Agribusiness. This person is not necessarily from a rural community. Hence two other divisions:

  1. Outsidesr and
  2. Children of the farmers/Youth in rural areas.

The outsider is as in the AgriHack Talent initiative - already an entrepreneur/start-up/companies/country diaspora etc. i.e. they are investors in the agricultural sectors. (Thank you, Pamela White, for the link https://www.cta.int/en/youth ). They are educated presumably, with technology and resources obtained on their own or as beneficiaries of some programs. The questions I would like to ask are:

  • Are they going to build capacity among the local farmers and Youth or are they expecting cheap labour?
  • Do they have a good understanding of the rural and farming community to be able to collaborate with the rural community? Will they be ready to learn from locals and adopt traditional agricultural practices that bring results?
  • Are they truly going to make a positive difference for the local Youth or are they going to be the masters who dictate?

For the children of the farmers, the challenges are many. Land ownership is an important issue. Farmers in my studies did not have title to their land and we collected incidence of abuse; for example once the farmer is having success  as in  the cashew sector that can be quite lucrative,  there is a “cousin” who lives in the city and presumably now “wealthy” who arrives and makes claim to the ancestral land farmed by the “pauvre paysan, son cousin” . Young people are justifiably upset and discouraged to see their father mistreated and have few recourses for this “injustice”. One of the recommendations made is that there is a push for land ownership in the country and if the law already allows for this, that the farmer  be taught and supported in obtaining title for his/her parcel of land through an association of farmers and/or the aid program.

Someone has mentioned the “claustrophobic” environment of farms. Indeed, lack of roads or difficult access to towns is an issue. This situation limits the sale of the crops and in fact, in many villages, we found that the farmers are at the mercy of buyers. For lack of transportation, the farmer has no choice but to sell to those who come in the village with their own truck, car, motorcycle etc. and of course,  at the price set by the buyers. An unfair practice which will discourage the Youth from farming.

I disagree that young people are leaving for the city just because of the big city lights; the discotheques and the “fun” life. Once outside, the appeal for not returning to the village is great. Can we blame them if they do not return to their village where there is no electricity and no running water? Rural development is fundamental if we wish  Youth to remain on agricultural land.

How do we get the young people to start thinking of the farm as a business?

I was deeply saddened to hear of a compound in Gambia that saw 26 of its youth leave for the north. They were believed to have all died in the Mediterranean Sea. They were young people  who have attended school, but the lack of opportunities led them to take this risk of leaving home with the hope of a better future. I was deeply saddened because growing cashew trees could be a lucrative business in this country and maybe had they known that this sector had much to offer, they would not have left their village but cultivate the land instead. Unfortunately, an academic education is intended for landing in a white-collar job. This is a common problem. Here in Canada, we have a shortage of tradespeople; for a long time, our children were encouraged to get a university degree for example,  in electrical engineering while a college degree to become an electrician was not viewed in the same light. This is in reverse now as an entrepreneurial electrician is often making more income than an engineer.

Older farmers are also selling their land as their children have gone away for higher education and other professions.  However, university graduates in agriculture in this country are hired by large food producing companies and in research; this may not yet be as frequent in developing countries.  

We should not forget the agriculture sectors offer jobs along the value chain and toiling the land is not the sole occupation. These usually require a certain level of education.

It was suggested in our evaluation reports that young literate family members be included in the Farmers Field Schools (FFS) which targeted the farmers only. The evaluations found that the training which includes business practices and accounting was not very successful since the farmers were too often illiterate.

I understand that the recommendations we have made, were taken into account in the planning of the next phase of the programs. I hope to have the opportunity to evaluate these “enhancements”. I strongly suggest that similar to gender, we treat Youth as a cross-cutting theme in evaluations of agriculture programs. Let us not forget the young girls and women who farm. I have found that the agriculture programs would make a head count of female beneficiariesbut few initiatives adopt activities to match the needs and accommodate the timetable of the women. Absenteeism and drop-out rates for female at FFS was higher for females than males.

It will be good that evaluators share their findings and recommendations. Should we, evaluators have a common set, a repertoire of recommendations that promotes practices proven to bring positive results?  Of course, to be applied where relevant and contextual! 

Jackie Yiptong Avila
Program evaluator / Survey methodologist
Canada

Dear all,

over a short period of time I have been doing an open-ended questionnaire, tenders, analysis and evaluation on this serious concern among my fellow, vibrant peers  and am coming up with this findings and recommendations.  

Too much attention has been given to spending on junk goods and services and on getting and spending money even on things we can produce. My fellow youths are in search for activities that can make them young, beautiful, and smart and even less committed,  such as fast foods, luxurious lifestyles, jobs  that would  let their hands get dirty not. In other words, agriculture IS gradually becoming underrated. We are pretending to have forgotten that  agriculture is the definition of all human  life forms …

Youth also complains of unpredictable outcomes of agricultural production due to changing climate and therefore weather patterns, something  that  has really slapped the elder farmers on their  face.  Droughts and sporadic rainfalls have ended up sweeping gardens at the hillsides, plains and along the lake basins; this has made youths less interested and the peasant farmers today tend to educate their children  to specialize  in other things far from agriculture.

I really believe that it is time to educate, 'lobby', persuade our young generation on safe agricultural practices and benefits, buy locally, and environmentally responsible foods that will not only protect  our health but also the environment, find best agricultural practices that would help mitigate and  bear with the changing climate conditions  In my community,  we have already fashioned an information clearing  and educating bench, made of juniors to help save, and embrace sustainable  agriculture. Margaret Mead said, "Never doubt that a small, highly committed group of individuals can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has." we are coming for you!  the future of agriculture will never sink!

Dear Ines,

Many thanks foryour comments, and my apologies for my delayed reply.

Perhaps, I might mention that I am very reluctant to use the term 'theory' on what is obviously an approach used to achieve some concrete result, which in this case is to get youth to engage in agricultural pursuits to a greater extent than now. I prefer to use 'theory' to describe in generic terms fundamentals that govern gnomic phenomena, i.e., interactions among non-thinking entities like planets, atoms, molecules, etc.

Having said that, I think the approach we are interested in makes one crucial distinction, viz., the difference between the 'desired result' and the 'actual result'. In a previous discussion on this forum, a contributor mentioned a very expensive modern highway built in a developing country. The desired result included its regular use by the locals to transport goods, which in turn would improve the 'local economy'. But the actual result was that it was a success as far as the road itself went, but was hardly used by the poor target group who did not has sufficient access to the required wheeled transport, nor yet enough local produce to send away!

This is where the pre-evaluation of any endeavour should come in, i.e., a project, programme, etc. And it should be holistic. Had it been done in the case of that road, first thing that would have come to mind is the annual surplus to be transported, the need for it, availability of appropriate transport vehicles, etc. If those did not obtain in certain minimal amounts, the road project would have been either reduced to a more realistic level or scrapped altogether.

As you will notice, this approach entails that there are so many variables one has to take into account for a meaningful pre-evaluation. Hence, it is logically impossible  to draw universally applicable evaluation guidelines that are pragmatically justifiable. After all, what we want is a pragmatic result that benefits a target group, and not an academic activity. In the present case, the acid test is, has the project or the programme  resulted in a significant increase in the numbers of young people taking up agricultural pursuits in a given area, and will they continue to do so? If the answer to these questions is a no, the endeavour has been a failure. We shall always have to keep this in mind.

I'm not familiar with the situation in India, and you point out that most young people in developing countries lack appropriate skills in agriculture.

I am not at all certain that cultivation of Himalayan foot hills would be such a good idea in the long term, for the geology of the sub-continent makes it totally dependent on monsoon rain as its principal source of water.

Snow and ice on the mountain ranges in the area from Hindookush range via the Himalayas and to the Chinese ranges depend on the monsoon moisture.

Unless sufficient water goes into the soil through seasonal rainfall and snow and ice melts, rivers in the area would dry up and this would lead to a catastophe. I am told that the major rivers in the area from Kablll river eastwards have shrunk considerably during the past century. Thus, deforestation of the Himalayan foot hills would retard soil uptake of monsoon rains even though the 'organic farming' would enable some people to earn large profits for a short time. According to the Imperial Gazeteer of India the soil in that area is not particularly fertile. Incidentally, no geological and climatological project of greater comprehensiveness and complexity other than that undertaken by the British in India has been carried out anywhere else in the world. I know it is not fashionable to say this, but it remains a fact. (Ref. Determination of the geode of the Indian sub-continent in order to ascertain the height of Mt. Everest.)

Best wishes!

Lal.

 We talk about the role of evaluation, but what evaluations do we have?  For example for agriculture and fishery training institutions how many studies can we find of the number of students trained who actually went back onto farms or into fishing?   Generally no such studies are ever made. On visits to several such institutes only isolated examples could be given of students who had gone back to farming/fishing. Training specialists assure me that this is normal. As soon as trainees have a piece of paper such as an end of training certificate they are off. It is not only the bright lights of the city and the excitement of seeking their fortune but also escaping from what is often a claustrophobic, conservative environment, repetitive toil and absolute poverty.

The decline in numbers of younger people in rural areas in one sense is an opportunity. Land still needs to be cultivated and the only way to do it - since farms are small - is by sharing or use of contract services. In Thailand you see plenty of activity in land preparation, harvesting and rice milling all done by small contractors, mainly or most often youngsters. Where there are credit services offering hire-purchase agreements for acquiring machinery this can be a great opportunity for youth and provides an attractive career.

In the longer term there is probably not much hope, or need, to re-mould the current public perception of agricultural pursuits. Food producers have suffered from a very long period of decline in real value of commodities. Similarly urban consumers have seen a steady fall in food costs as a proportion of the total cost of living. More recently and particularly in the commodity price spikes of 2008 and 2011 cereals and other food commodities have tended to move in harmony with crude oil prices – to which they are linked as a result of uses such as production of alcohol and bio-diesel. This could be a sign of hope for fairer prices for farmers in the future and consequently a better balance between prosperity in rural and urban areas.

Bonjour à tous,

La question de la mobilisation des jeunes pour l'agriculture est une question cruciale. Les jeunes représentent la couche sociale sans laquelle on ne peut assurer une amélioration durable de la productivité agricole. Mais, qu'a-t-on constaté des diverses expériences vécues ?

La situation n'est pas reluisante. La jeunesse attend des conditions favorables pour porter un intérêt significatif à l'agriculture. Elle attend notamment que les questions d'amélioration technologique et de financement de l'agriculture soient sérieusement résolues. Pour mobiliser les jeunes, on doit pouvoir effacer l'image "d'activité difficile et compliquée" que présente l'agriculture. C'est alors que la promotion en cours de l'agriculture numérique et de l'agriculture digitale est une solution importante qui laisse présager un avenir meilleur. Le financement en termes de crédit agricole, d'aménagement foncier et d'organisation de filières sont tout aussi importants. Le problème jusque là, surtout en Afrique noire, ce sont ces aspects importants mal pourvus qui répugnent toujours les jeunes. Mais, je trouve que ces aspects pourraient être mieux développés si l'on mettait à profit les diverses opportunités qu'offrent les accords et décisions internationaux relatifs aux changements climatiques, notamment la promotion de l'agriculture basée sur les écosystèmes (EbA) déjà adoptée par la Conférence des Ministres Africains de l'Environnement (AMCEN) à sa 6e session extraordinaire tenue au Caire en Egypte en 2016:

Dear Dorothy, 

Please see my response in the italics on some of your questions. 

Do we actually see a shift in the way young people are included in agriculture? I agree that we cannot classify all youth as the same and there are, in every country, young people who are naturally drawn to working on the land and are passionate and skilled.  These are valuable and inherent in any agriculture community.

In Indonesia, there is a shift of young people involved in agriculture. For example in cash crops sectors, with a range of sustainability initiatives our young generation are more involving in the supporting services, such as delivering extension services and traceability system, creating online market application for agri-inputs and crops, as extension agent for micro-finance, etc. Considering the support services become more technological oriented, involving the young generation in such support easily attracted their interest.  

Yet, rural communities tend to be shrinking as the other young people leave for other opportunities. Many will not find those opportunity and end up unemployed in cities.  If we are serious about the SDGs, particularly 2, 8 and 11, can all these learnings, from all these evaluations not be scaled up to make a re-investment of youth in agriculture.  The above mentioned synthesis of IFAD makes this point.  It says it is now time to scale up efforts based on ten years of learning.

The private sectors-food industry started to invest in young people like provide internship of vocational student in their organisation, expand the focus to improve business and technical skills for the young rural generation. Allowing-facilitating the industry to access the formal academic curriculum create a bridging path for the labour supply and demand in the food industry especially.    

 

Regards, 

Hiswaty

It is no shock that young people are loosing interest in agriculture, as agricultural companies grow they are forced by competition and an already poisoned marketplace in every way into an uninteresting toxic pursuit, and they know it.

Also as farms get bigger they make more money and the kids can go to college and elect whatever high level high paid career they want.

Permaculture farming however is infinitely interesting and has infinite possibilities, makes infinitely better food. The food produced you could sell to Presidents and Aristocrats for high dollar, it is a businesses of the future anyone can start, an honestly on any pierce of land.

These young guys today they need a way to move up in life. They need a product. They want to be independent. They are not stupid. They don't want to take the slave job anymore. They don't have to either.

They don't want to do chemical agriculture in the face of discotecas.

I have now worked with several troubled youths, and have seen clearly that in my tribe of guys, they love nature they don't want to leave. Circumstances came up where as I was no longer able to offer my program so to speak, and some of these kids landed straight in jail. Please see a paper that can give to and use to work with trouble youths in this direction. Starter ND Sciences booklets tailored for troubled youth, released 2018 : English  Espanol

So let's talk about that one minute. There are, all over the world, kids with no guidance. No parents who care, or are too weighed by problems to really parent.

These kids are going to commit crimes against someone and go to jail. These are the options they are given in the current cultural environment.

Food security, city security, biological life security will all improve if we concentrate on this group of troubled youth, and get them out to farms with the right leaders.

Those right leaders are going to be troubled youth who grew and did not go to jail. They are rare 'Old Schoolers' like myself who are therefore called to help these young people. 

I want to mention that sick child abusers seek employment in child oriented situations. So you need someone who was from 'the streets' lets say with an honorable track record, and verified history. I takes a solid Old Schooler to know one so know that as far as who your top human resources person is. 

The other thing is these young rejected are not going to respect anyone else.

There is an epidemic of Parental Alienation from selfish parents who want to make money off their kids. Just like with mono culture agriculture, family policy is insane (mostly in English speaking world), and unnatural and where do these ideas come from and how are they accepted and last so long?

Agricultural policies. Policies regarding children and families. They are the problem!

As Buckminister fuller educated us with a long time ago, we won't be able to amend, reform or improve these things. We need to simply get rid of them.

We need the World Freedom of People and Plants Act.

With the proper management and organization I have described above, these troubled young people can become our saviors rather than our burden.  They are the perfect ones, they will raise to the challenge with the right leadership and do an excellent job.

 

Personal and Climate Changes

We find so many times today that changes are hard to come by unless it immediately effects and improves the life of that we hope to make those changes.

Here in Panama, the crossroads bridge of diversity to the North and South Americas, we have made the perfect scientific discovery for such a self motivated world.

Humans evolved in nature, which means they consumed and worked with millions of different species of plants, critters and animals for nutrition.

Then with agriculture and other factors came the continued narrowing of that diversity into a situation we call modern agriculture, which is one thing grown over and over again for miles, completely out of balance with nature and today chemically dependant. This mono culture farming type, is (1) actually insane (2) justifies the agricultural chemical use, and the genetic modification of species - playing God.

We don't need to play God, we need to respect him. We need to be thankful for this world, and now we have been issued a 12 year crisis warning by the general science and environmental community to save this world!

It would turn out that our individual arrogance that make us feel we know better than nature, will destroy nature and have done a great job at destroying us as individuals.

Human sickness is at an all time high and chemical agriculture has ramped way up in the last 20 years and the last decade so we have not seen the results of that yet. We are seeing it with the pollinators though and this agriculture proves the biggest threat and silent killer the world has ever seen.

You can read 1000 stories about once full rivers now with no fish and waters so polluted they will make a person instantly sick or burn their skin.

 

So what is the answer? 

 

Nutritional Diversity diet.

 

A diet that concentrates on getting food outside of this harmful system - that goes way beyond just the food believe me. A diet that will restore health with simple direct reasonable consumption of non mono culture grown foods from permaculture farms or the wild, delivering the high level non toxic nutrients we evolved with.

A diet with clear results that this is best thing for athletic performance, longevity and quality of life.

As we take from the tree of life in the right way, our relationship with nature is restored and we become protectors of this incredible environment whose potential we have ignored for over a century.

The potential for this planet to cultivate and Avatar-movie like ecology is there. As human gardeners we can go in the opposite direction that we have working with the biology instead of against it. Quality of life will go up, food production will go up. Nutrition in that food will go up.

Just like the dumb monkeys in the trees, humans will also soon no longer need the doctor and the dentist.

For more on this subject please visit NutritionalDiversity.com

 

Thank you for your time.

Dorothy : So my real question is .... are evaluations making a difference or not? If not, how does that happen to greater effect?

Answer: If the evaluations are focus on “why? Factor” and “how actor”? on youth instead of the Agriculture only, the   following needs to emphasis on findings and recommendation;

1. Addressing on what? less negatives more positives

         Gaps and lesson learned – focus on the opportunities within and human development and          technology

         Opportunities- Focus on next generation as well as  transformation from traditional        farming to  entrepreneurs - Horizontal analysis

2.     in the process of Evaluation  can  focus to attract youth to get involve in the process of “evaluation” where participatory and visibly youth can see the evidence that can be produce for a behavior changes on occupations on agriculture among youth.  (Messengers)

3. Recommendations: achievable and magnetisms

    • Clearly clarify the sustainability of the agriculture short term and long term  
    • from traditional industry to  technical transformation in  agriculture
    • Answers to the risk and assumptions in youth prespectives
    • Society in terms of accepting they are farmers. (Social Acceptance) as a profession
    • Linkage with other professions  which can enhance/impact and sustainable  agriculture industry   
    • Recommendation on professionalism in capacity development
    • taboo Traditionalism in land ownership - specially South Asian culture - Gender discrimination issues. 

 

 

Dear Dorothy,

As you point out, IFAD Independent Office of Evaluation (IOE) produced an evaluation synthesis report (ESR) of rural youth in 2014, which reviewed all 24 project performance assessments (PPAs) and thirteen country programme evaluations conducted since 2004 that offered information on the experience with pro-youth development. The synthesis also considered all new designs, supervision and implementation support reports for loan and grant funded activities, as well as country strategic opportunities programmes (COSOP), and triangulated through interviews with country programme managers. According to this ESR, IFAD started enhancing its focus on the rural youth in 2004 with the introduction of its Rural Enterprise Policy and took it to the next level with its Strategic Framework for 2011-2015. This Strategic Framework had rural youth development as key principles of engagement. Following this, IFAD began to mainstream youth across most of its country programmes and issued a youth policy brief and a guidance note on how to design pro-youth investments in 2013. It should also be noted that in its current funding period (2019-2021), IFAD’s Rural Youth Action Plan has set a target of 50% of its loan portfolio to be youth sensitive, requiring youth dimensions be carefully analysed and assessed when designing projects.

The 2019 Rural Development Report of IFAD argues that the dwindling numbers of youth engaging in agriculture should be situated within the context of rural development and wider economy that can create opportunities and minimize risks for the rural youth. Policies and investments are necessary to enable the three foundations for rural youth development: productivity, connectivity (to markets, people, services, ideas and information), and agency of the youth. It noted that in 2014, 122 countries had a national youth policy. Yet, a review of 57 national youth policies showed that of these, 17 did not mention rural youth at all, and only 15 included at least one specific policy objective or programme targeting the youth. This calls for advocating for national youth policy to address rural youth. However, experience also shows that having a policy may not always translate into benefits for rural youth because number of countries with large rural populations suffer from weak implementation and institutional capacity.

The ESR reiterates these findings.  It notes that many countries lack appropriate incentives and investments in youth, commensurate with the need for increasing the production to ensure food security and transforming agriculture into a rewarding business. In addition, it also noted that the need to develop capacities of young rural people, especially those of young women to contribute to sustainable agriculture, food security, and rural transformation often remain unrecognized within national budgets and programmes. 

How did IFAD respond to needs of the rural youth?

The ESR reviewed 32 relevant IFAD policies, strategies and guidelines developed during the period 2003-2013 and noted that fourteen included explicit references to rural youth, of which only the following three present considerable details on pro-youth development: i) the 2004 Rural Enterprise Policy reflected the importance of off-farm sector for youth livelihood; ii) the 2008 Policy on improving access to land an tenure security; and iii) the Strategic Framework 2011-2015 committed IFAD to mainstreaming youth concerns in every area of its engagement.

As part of this new commitment, in 2012 FAO and IFAD jointly worked with a youth-owned INGO, the Mouvement International de la Juenesse Agricole et Rural Catholique (MIJARC) on a project which noted that rural youth do not foresee a future for themselves in the agricultural sector. This is mainly because of the lack of profitability of agricultural activities and lack of infrastructure and social facilities in rural areas. However, it found that youth would be ready to become modern farmers if they were given the opportunities and conditions to address these challenges. To facilitate this, the 2012 Farmer’s Forum adopted a Youth Declaration that included recommendations for IFAD and partner governments to increase investments in youth-specific interventions and enable youth’s access to land, markets, financial services and knowledge.

In response to the Youth Declaration, IFAD appointed youth focal points in each of its five regional divisions with specific mandate to support mainstreaming youth concerns in its country programmes. The regions worked closely with Global Youth Innovation Network (GYIN). For instance, the West and Central Africa region of IFAD had members of GYIN participate in several design and supervision mission and solicited their technical support to design country programmes. Second, the Strategy and Knowledge Department (SKD) and Policy and Technical Division (PTA) of IFAD systematized knowledge and collection of good practices related to pro-youth development and produced a Youth Policy Brief in 2013.

Reviewing the performance of country programmes and projects, the ESR found that projects that deliver the best pro-youth development results are those that adopt genuine community-driven development (CDD) approaches and offer tailored rural enterprise/finance development support. Successful interventions usually target youth and offer them assistance that is different from those offered to the adult population. The findings also indicate that socio-economic profiling to accurately targe, and Socio-economic analysis is critical to identify key bottlenecks to decide on the most suitable assistance. These lessons also underscore the importance of establishing project management set-ups where the youth are given the opportunity to participate, and the need for assessing institutional capacities to work with the youth and shape the project partnership strategy on that basis.  In implementing the interventions, the ESR found that most related IFAD projects lacked operational M&E systems and age disaggregated monitoring indicators. In fact, the review found that only half of the Fund’s pro-youth interventions were monitored at country programme level and that this possibly hampers IFAD’s ability to learn and scale up the models that work. 

In conclusion, the reasons for taking fully into account the youth dimension in rural development and agricultural activities are self-evident.  Developing countries will be able to take advantage of their youth dividend only if adequate investment is made in developing human capital of youth and in providing them with decent work opportunities. Moreover, the estimated requirement of a 70% increase in food supply to meet the demand of a growing population by 2050 necessitates the participation of youth. Agriculture will need to become a financially rewarding business to be able to attract the capacity of the youth to innovate and take risks. Efforts are under way and evolving in IFAD to focus on pro-youth development, codify and learn from emerging evidence and lessons. To do so, IFAD learns from multiple sources, such as evaluations, research (Rural development report 2019), engaging with Youth (GYIN, MIJARC), and tracking and analysing performance, etc.  Evaluations such as the ESR are critical in identifying the gaps in organizational learning from different sources, and verify if the organization is on track to improve its performance related to pro-youth interventions. The ESR showed that research efforts and youth engagement are improving pro-youth IFAD programming. However, more and better monitoring and evaluations are needed understand what works and innovate to engage rural youth and thereby, transform the rural and national economies of developing countries.

Ref:

Evaluation Synthesis: Rural Youth (2014), Independent Evaluation Office, IFAD.

Rural Development Report: Creating Opportunities for the Rural Youth (2019), IFAD.

Dear Lal, 

the question we can ask is if the theory of change is valid under the existing circumstances. And I feel that the theory of change is not valid regarding the assumptions that projects can keep young people in the country side because some empirical studies show that even in slums incomes are higher than in agriculture and people  have access to basic infrastructure like legal services, education, entertainment and social networks. So the mobile young people which have some resources like a good education leave the country side for upward mobility and a better infrastructure. Remaining young people have very few resources. They are only cheap labour ... and sometimes not even cheap labour anymore if they are undernourished and uneducated. Those people lack resources like education, social networks towards markets and politics to change land tenure structure. In China and Europe, relatively wealthy people from cities and international careers come back to the country side to pursue a life as organic farmers because they want a more relaxed life in the country side and have the resources like money to invest in the company, access to clients buying at higher prices and access to education for their kids founding private schools in the country side. Only in areas where one of those external conditions can be met by project and state policies like in the Indian Himalayas for organic certification and 4 times higher prices on markets, the incentives are high enough for traditional farmers to stay in the countryside. Basic problems like land tenure in India are not changed by projects for green youth employment but only mitigated by creating high value products on tiny pieces of land or additional services like solar energy technicians are promoted by  projects of Welthungerhilfe in India. 

So for most of the projects I would challenge the theory of change ref. adding real impact at big scale. Small scale impacts can be created see above. 

Ines
freelance consultant for evaluation and knowledge management in projects for water and rural development 

 

Dear all who have engaged with this discussion,

It is good to see the level of passion for the inclusion of young people in agriculture and I have been following each point with interest. But if I may probe a little deeper, I think Lal is getting closest to the point that I  have been making.

The lessons learned in evaluations regarding young people in agriculture are valid, important and at least in my experience continually reinvented with each evaluation including the very good synthesis carried out by IFAD of over ten years of projects. Yet, where do these lessons go? 

Do we actually see a shift in the way young people are included in agriculture? I agree that we cannot classify all youth as the same and there are, in every country, young people who are naturally drawn to working on the land and are passionate and skilled.  These are valuable and inherent in any agriculture community.

Yet, rural communities tend to be shrinking as the other young people leave for other opportunities. Many will not find those opportunity and end up unemployed in cities.  If we are serious about the SDGs, particularly 2, 8 and 11, can all these learnings, from all these evaluations not be scaled up to make a re-investment of youth in agriculture.  The above mentioned synthesis of IFAD makes this point.  It says it is now time to scale up efforts based on ten years of learning.

So my real question is .... are evaluations making a difference or not? If not, how does that happen to greater effect?

 

Kind regards 

Dorothy Lucks

 

 

 

Greetings!

How appropriate is our current approach to evaluation?

In my previous comments to this forum, I have underlined some aspects of evaluation, which I find difficult to justify. As it is currently understood, evaluation seems to be restricted to the result of a project/programme with reference to a formal list of what it is intended to achieve. Shorn of graphs, tables, etc., and a descriptive text, this is the gist of evaluation today. But can it really inform us of anything more than its methodological incompleteness? We would prefer to think otherwise, but our desires and hard reality are two different things.

I think it will be generally agreed that the purpose of any rational agriculture project to promote youth participation in agricultural pursuits would be the following:

   1. Induce greatest possible number of young people to engage in agricultural activities.

   2. Make a significant contribution to a sustainable local food production not opposed to the food culture of the area. Sustainability of this depends on its being environment friendly and supporting bio-diversity in agriculture.

The above two points are logically  inseparable.

The contributors to the present discussion have emphasised two points, viz., education and financing, while making a tangential reference to 'making agricultural pursuits appealing' to 'modern educated youth'. I do not quote verbatism here, but the contributor's meaning is clear. It is concerned with 'educated' youth.

As far as I know, most young people who flee into the cities throughout in the world come from predominantly agricultural rural areas, where the educational and health facilities are of low standard. Thus, most of the youth who reject agricultural pursuits are not well-educated either to procure employment that would pay them enough to live out of poverty. This accords with the reality; one only needs to take a cursory glance at the million-dweller slums around the big cities in the developing world and the surrounding villages that are generally populated by the elderly and small children.

I think this is the backdrop against which a fruitful discussion of this issue may be undertaken. Do please note that it is in such countries that food shortages, hunger and malnutrition predominates in the world even though their leaders boast of some of their citiesas paragons of 'economic growth'.

Other things being equal, it is reasonable to ask will diployment of materail and technical resources would induce the young people to take up agricultural pursuits even if decent incomes are assured? Would they be then willing to stay in situ and take up the plough or leave slums to do so? I am perfectly aware that no one seems to dare ask this question, let alone answer it even though everybody knows this is true and it is an incontrovertible fact.

Senn in this dismal light, evaluation with respect to the present purpose offers us an indirect insight, viz., it is vital to carry out a sound pre-implementation evaluation of any undertaking to ascertain its probable success. This must be carefully distinguished from its feasibility which is merely mechanical.

Let me hint at a possible recommendation a pre-implementation evaluator might make. Let us ask the question, what apart from poverty drives the youth from food production? This is not political rhetoric, for every big city in industrialised countries has its own slum where slum-dwellers have lived for generations in poverty, and crime is a common feature there.

Even though this cannot be turned into colourful  graphics, impressive figures or into a learned dissertation, I maintain the rural youth are drawn into cities and away from agricultural pursuits fro three reasons, viz., 'the bright lights' of the city as portrayed in fiction, films, tv., videos, etc., belief that one could quickly get rich there, and most of all, denigration by the rest of the society of agricultural persuits as inferior work. One only needs to look at how various European languages  call their farmers in informal speech to see how ingrained such beliefs are.

Whilefully agreeing on the importance of appropriate infra-structure, financing, health care,education and above all on-the-job training,, I believe that it is essentail to bring about a radical change in our social attitude to food production and those who are involved in it. At the same time, it is necessary to portray the life of an average city-dweller as it is, but not as the make-belief city-dweller known to many a rural youth.

Perhaps it might be salutory for the general public to understand that provided that they had air and water, nothing else could have any value for them unless they have enough food, for then they all would be dead. Hence, it is those who are involved in food production who makes everything we value as civilised possible to create and sustain. Hence, engagement in agricultural pursuits should be highly esteemed. All this is obvious, but as one of the wisest men of our times once said, "it is the obvious that is most difficult to understand."

So, any chance of launching a carefully re-evalued undertaking to re-mould the current public perception of agricultural pursuits? Any possibility of inducing those responsible to portray city-life as it is for most city-dwellers? Unless these happen, the prospects of success seem dismal, and yet there are a few bright spots where dedicated people have succeeded in inducing youth not just to engage in food production, but to do so in line with the local food culture because they care. Perhaps they may serve as beacons to the future as the monasteries did during the dark ages.

Best wishes!

Lal Manavado.

Hi Dorothy,

I do not have an opportunity to have a systematic study on the issue your raised but based on my work experience, I have the following points to make.

Subsistence farming with low productivity (both labour and land) is common in agriculture in most of the developing countries. Hence, most of the young population are leaving agriculture farming and are joining international labour force in Nepal. It is considered that agriculture farming is the profession of uneducated people who cannot make livelihoods from other sources. Agriculture universities are preparing ‘good graduates’ for international universities abroad and most of them remain do not come back. The policy-practice gap is huge and support provided by the government in the name of agriculture are also captured by elites and political influencers. This has created a perverse incentive to the young who want to start their own agri enterprises. But there are also some silver lines as well. Some young people who went abroad for employment come back with skills to use new technologies and management ability to run agri enterprises, especially in the urban and peri-urban areas. It may require a big shift in thinking and support from the government side and involve young entrepreneurs who can bring new innovation that helps to transform from subsistence farming to a profitable enterprise that can ensure their livelihoods. 

Best regards,

---------------------------------------

Ram Chandra Khanal, PhD

Ex-President - Community of Evaluators - Nepal, BoDs - Nepal Krishi (agri) and board member SEF

Kathmandu, Nepal

 

Dear Naser,

Where you get investment to ensure Agriculture is a safe investment?  This is a very much climate uncertain field. Does your economy have accurate weather forecasting? Agriculture is very risky- it even can't ensure security in production time like a steel industry can.

Thanks for your suggestions

Moshfaqur

Members IAM happy to share this topic especially from Africa, with an average of about 65%of the population being youth and apparently almost 50%of those being unemployed. Africa is predominantly Agricultural but the unemployed youth do not own land for the same. Moreso the mindset of these youth is negative to agriculture. There is need to categorise the youth into educated youth,who apparently think agriculture is for the uneducated , and the rural youth who apparently lack the inputs to engage in agriculture but are willing to take it up, the urban uneducated youth etc. 

We also need to involve the political power centres who use the youth for political gains instead of engaging them in meaningful agricultural activities

Youth in Agriculture is an important issue to discuss. We witness this in Palestine. Farmers are even suffering from the lack of work power  in farming. Agriculture schools are also suffering from low number of students despite offering scholarships. This forced universities to go down with average scores for admission to the University, which is unfortunately reflected on the quality of fresh graduated agronomists. 

This ignorance of agriculture and deviation will for sure affect the agricultural production if governments do not work on solving such problem. The ultimate solution is to increase profitability of agribusiness and agriculture as a whole. Other means to achieve this could be:

1- Direction of School students at early stages to like agriculture and think of it as a high class activity not a low level career. Curricula could be the entrance, Drama could be also a good tool.

2- Give incentives for agriculture entrepreneurs  to make agriculture  more  rewarding. Incentives such as long term free of interest loans.

3-  UN should do something on the national level like announcing a year as the "international Year of Agriculture" Thou there was family farming year, Quinoa  year, but agriculture explicitly have another impact. This should be also followed by actions on the ground like supporting initiatives.

4- Technology should be more simplified for use at the small scale family farming level. 

5- Agriculture as another source of income  for low level income could help also keep the agricultural activities. 

6- Research on the root causes of this phenomena on country level will help in identifying strategies to bring youth back to agreiculture.

And the story is long, but should be dealt with the soonest and to the highest level possible.

Best

Naser Qadous

Palestine 

Dear Dorothy,

I had an opportunity to evaluate a project for youth empowerment through agriculture in Rwanda, which aimed to offer a comprehensive package of services to enable 1487 young disadvantaged smallholders to become modern agricultural entrepreneurs, enabling them to be self-reliant and make a difference in their communities.

The project focused on horticulture farming and in particular on high value crops namely tomatoes and water melon which yield much in a short time.

The evaluation was done in 2017 and found some good practices and challenges that may apply to other initiatives. Here is a summary of key findings, and more information is in the extract of the Evaluation report attached:

  • Grouping of youth: encouraging the grouping of youth, both boys and girls improved cohesion, production and profitability as well as sustainability of the youth famers enterprises. Groups were able to lease bigger lands (which is key in the Rwandan context where land is scarce) , share ideas and innovations, enhance their confidence.
  • Technical support and institutional backing: providing support by agronomists all along the development of the farming activities and engaging the district and sector authorities was found to be a good practice to keep trust and motivation high.
  • Progressive graduation: participants were given 100% support in the 1st season, 50% in the 2nd season and follow up sessions and capacity building with no material support in the 3rd season. This approach created a progressive graduation to participants and avoided keeping them dependent to the project. However, it is necessary to explain this clearly before engaging them in the project input policy. Some youth farmers got discouraged when the project stopped providing the farm input incentives.
  • Family/ Community support: it is important to bring the parents of the youth on board during mobilization because some parents refused their children to join the farming groups and yet others encouraged their children to drop out. The stake of the parents in the lives of their children should not be underestimated.
  • Selection of youth to engage in agriculture projects: the evaluation recommended to select beneficiaries of over 35 years because they have experienced life challenges and would value the importance of being supported and therefore have strong dedication to work. They could even advise their fellow young farmers to see support as a big opportunity from the project. Agriculture farming is a risky business and most youth could be discouraged and drop out whenever they get new ideas or did not earn any income from one season.

Judith

Dear Dorothy,

I have had the chance to complete a mapping for the cooperatives in Lebanon and gather information with regards to the youth involvement in cooperative related to agriculture sector. Out of 112 cooperatives included in the study almost none have young people as members or producers.

This is an indicator of the inability to attract young people to the sector.

In terms of evaluation, FAO and other UN organizations have mentioned the need to engage young people in agriculture activity and entrepreneurship but still it is at the level of recommendations rather than anything else.

Patricia

From my experience, from 2015 after my tertiary education I decided to go into agric sector, as coconut farmer and a lot of friends and family were asking me questions that what happened that am puting aside my education to go into agriculture. Meaning they don't accept the fact that I want to go into coconut farming all because they have this perception that agriculture is for illiterate. But because of the passion I had for coconut farming I didn't even listen to them and now if you come to my village because of the decision I took at that time majority of the youth there are now interested to go into agriculture. Now I have my company ( LASTIN COCONUT MARKET AND LOGISTICS LIMITED) we buy coconut from small farm holder's in addition to what we have on our own farm and sell in high quantity to our customers, we also provide logistics service to transport our customers coconut to their residents. And this has reduce the rate of rural- urban migration and the perception that agriculture is for old age people and illiterate and has encourage the youth in my village to go into farming.

In spite of that I think capital to start, and availability of market after harvest and requirements the banks expect from farmers before they give them start-ups loans and even the high interest rate is some of the problems that is discouraging majority of youth who wish to go into agriculture.

However I will suggest that the few youth in the agric business should be given support in order to encourage more youth 

There is no concept called Youth agriculture evaluation. I believe evaluation does not have barriers, the profession comes with complete packages including technical experts.  

Overall youth in evaluation are very limited around the world. Most youth have not been exposed to the profession due to many veterans still engaged and dominated in this profession.Most  either who had been ex -members of the UN organizations or associates who are either by retiree of international organizations. Also organizations too looking comfort zone to hire same professionals.

i.e. Youth programme evaluation conducted by seniors, aging retiree professionals who are unable to understand the minds of youth. 

Dorothy,

See below links with useful insights

https://www.iiste.org/Journals/index.php/JCSD/article/viewFile/22759/22…

https://graduatefarmer.co.ke/2016/03/17/why-youth-in-kenya-are-not-embr…

However, the narrative that youth are not interested in agriculture is often negated by evidence on the ground. When the enterprise/node is profitable, youth do participate albeit amid peculiar challenges. Youth will not engage in agriculture for subsistence or food security reasons. Solving the challenges without addressing the agriculture landscape especially the markets may not un-lock participation.

To inform the debate better:

  • The 'youth' need to be unpacked. Fresh 'graduates' may have different outlook from those with few years post graduation.
  • Evaluation/assessment for evidence on the 'agriculture' that youth engage in: what are the critical incentives for 'youth' to engage in agriculture
  • Test the narrative that youth are not 'interested' in agriculture

Regards,

James.

CTA has done some youth focused work - https://www.cta.int/en/youth Might be worth a read.

Pamela White

Dear Dorothy

On engaging younger people in agriculture, I would like to share this article “Why are our youth not interested in agriculture?” by David Felix https://searchlight.vc/searchlight/our-readers-opinions/2006/08/25/why-are-our-youth-not-interested-in-agriculture/

Regards

isha