Scaling-up new innovations for agricultural development

Photo credit: CGIAR

Photo credit : Neil Palmer (IWMI) 

A Youth Strategy for Agriculture Development in the Drylands

by Jack Durrell

The new Dryland Systems Youth Strategy provides a framework for effective youth engagement across the dry areas – helping to position youth as ‘agents of change’ and drivers of new agricultural innovations.

Today’s youth are growing up in a rapidly-changing, globalized world typified by migration, urbanization, technological innovations and rising aspirations – a situation that presents both opportunities and challenges. On the one hand, rising educational levels and the emergence of technological innovations such as social media are creating new opportunities for better-paid, higher-status work; on the other hand exposure to social media can also generate unrealistic aspirations.

Rising aspirations create problems for the agricultural sector: they fuel migration to cities as young people escape rural areas and the grueling work often associated with farming. The result is an ageing agricultural workforce, raising questions about the capacity of rural communities to produce enough food.

A more optimistic take, however, perceives rising aspirations and education levels as an opportunity – with better skills, knowledge and more diversified social networks, aspirational youth can emerge as dynamic agents of change, capable oftransforming the agricultural sector and driving higher rates of productivity. Alongside agricultural researchers, many are now experimenting to find ways of scaling-up new innovations or emerging as new leaders to introduce new ways of working and establish dynamic businesses, enterprises, and cooperatives.

In order to encourage the development of new youth-targeted initiatives and innovations in drylands agriculture, the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems has recently released its Youth Strategy 2015-2017. The strategy is designed to initiate a youth-led agricultural transformation which enhances young people’s access to, and control over, agricultural assets, technologies, services, products, income, and decision making processes.

The first of its kind within the CGIAR, the strategy hopes to establish a precedent that will stimulate serious attention to this critical stakeholder group across  the CGIAR and its varied portfolio of Research Programs. Developed through a comprehensive participatory process involving many stakeholders, it is anticipated that the strategy will set in motion a number of innovative activities aimed at creating opportunities for and attracting young people to agriculture in the drylands.

Dryland Systems’ Youth Strategy aims to:



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Published by

Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.