5 July 2021, Rome – A new UN report on youth and agriculture underscores the urgent need to make agri-food systems more appealing to young people to secure the future of global food security and nutrition.
Launched today Promoting youth engagement and employment in agriculture and food systems is a report by the Committee on World Food Security (CFS)‘s High Level Panel of Experts (HLPE) on food security and nutrition.
The panel provides independent, scientific analyses and advice to the CFS, an inclusive international and intergovernmental platform for all stakeholders to work together on food security and nutrition for all. The CFS is hosted by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
“Employment and engagement of young people in the agri-food systems is crucial for the future of global food security and nutrition, across all its dimensions,” said FAO’s Director-General, QU Dongyu, at the opening of the virtual event.
The Director-General drew attention to the recently-launched World Food Forum (WFF), which is providing a platform for events, dialogue and outreach. The WFF flagship event is set to take place on 1 October 2021 and aims to drive awareness, foster engagement and advocacy, and mobilize resources in support of agri-food systems transformation through youth-led action.
“We want to enable young people to be the drivers of the change they wish to see in the world,” Qu said. “Young people are also highly concerned about transforming our global agri-food systems to be more sustainable, more resilient, more inclusive, and better for the health of people, animals, plants and the planet. Today’s CFS HLPE report is an essential input into these youth-led discussions, and I encourage all of you to participate in the World Food Forum.”
The Director-General spoke alongside Thanawat Tiensin, CFS Chairperson and Permanent Representative of Thailand to FAO, and Martin Cole, CFS HLPE Steering Committee Chairperson.
Report’s key findings and recommendations
Unemployment rates for youth are three times higher than for adults in all regions of the world, and a vast majority of unemployed youth are young women.
Agri-food systems, if made more appealing and equitable to youth, are a large, untapped reservoir of employment opportunities. Particularly in the Global South, agri-food systems are already the largest employer of young people. Yet, they often do not provide decent and meaningful work or adequate livelihood opportunities, nor maintain a balance between the needs and rights of different generations.
In his remarks, the Director-General noted the importance of focusing actions in developing countries, where almost 88 percent of the world’s 1.2 billion youth live, particularly in Africa, where over 70 percent of youth subsist on $2 per day or less.
The report stresses that youth engagement and employment in sustainable agri-food systems is simultaneously a goal to be realized and a means for the radical transformation of agri-food systems, the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals, and of economic well-being.
Welcoming the report, CFS Chairperson Tiensin underscored CFS’s call for the development of systems, policies and programmes that engage more youth in agriculture and agricultural professions. “It is not enough to say youth are the future of humankind. We have to intentionally take steps to make their engagement in food systems meaningful. This report gives us a roadmap for this.”
For his part, CFS HLPE Steering Committee Chairperson Cole said “The report provides the scientific basis for a new CFS workstream that will result in a policy product offering guidance on the kind of policies, programmes and investments required to increase youth employment in agriculture and food systems.”
The report puts forward recommendations such as improving youth-focused social protection programmes, labour laws and regulations, and young people’s access to resources (land, forests, fisheries etc), finance, markets, digital technologies, knowledge and information. Supporting youth-led start-up initiatives is also important, and requires a supportive policy environment.
Policies and initiatives to protect and strengthen youth engagement and employment in agri-food systems also need to be anchored in rights, equity, action and recognition.
The redistribution of resources, knowledge and opportunities for youth innovation and engagement in the development of context-specific employment and labour policies can contribute to creating jobs for the youth, as well as directly supporting transitions to sustainable agri-food systems.
This is the HLPE’s 16th report. Full list here.