Youth for Growth: Transforming Economies through Agriculture

  • 30th March 2018
  • by secretary

21-22 March 2018. Washington, DC. The Chicago Council on Global Affairs brought together leaders from across public and private sectors at the annual Global Food Security Symposium. The theme of the 2018 Symposium centered on “Youth for Growth,” and on creating and expanding opportunities for meaningful employment for youth in food and agriculture, connecting these populations with vital human resources like technical assistance and mentorship, and addressing perceptions of agriculture as an unprofitable and/or unappealing industry.

The Symposium coincided with the release of the Chicago Council’s annual Global Food Security Report. This year’s report provides a framework for the joint objective of global youth engagement and global food security. According to the report, low- and middle-income countries are currently experiencing the highest rates of growth in youth populations. In addition, for the most part, agriculture remains the largest single economic sector and source of employment in these countries. If young people can be trained and empowered to take a central role in agriculture and food production, this could be an effective approach for building a resilient food system and creating economic opportunities for youth in these countries.

The 2018 Global Food Security Report provides four specific policy recommendations for the United States government.

  1. The first is for the executive branch to establish a long-term strategy for global food security through the National Security Council (NSC) in coordination with the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
  2. The second is for Congress to increase funding for agricultural research and development through theU.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as well as through investment in the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)
  3. The third is to invest in human capital development in food insecure regions through nutritional programs, education and vocational training, and programs for youth entrepreneurship. 
  4. The fourth is for the U.S. government to support international regulatory norms for business and trade that create job opportunities for youth in food insecure regions.

The conference also addressed the importance of not only listening to the voices of young people, but supporting them as leaders and partners in food and agriculture initiatives. 

“Give more responsibility to the youth,” said Linda Kwamboka, Cofounder and Director of M-Farm, a technology platform that began in Kenya. 

“They’re the ones who know what the problem is, and they’re the ones who actually know what the solution is,” said Gouri Mirpuri, Cofounder of The Learning Farm, speaking about the youth participating in The Learning Farm’s program in Indonesia. 

This message also extended to farmers: “Listen to farmers; maybe what you are thinking is not right. They know exactly what they want,” said Chetna Sinha, Founder and Chairperson of the Mann Deshi Foundation, speaking about lessons learned in designing credit products to serve the needs of rural women farmers in India.

REPORT: Youth for Growth: Transforming Economies through Agriculture, Chicago Council on Global Affairs, March 22

Youth livelihoods in LMICs largely depend on the successful transformation of agriculture, and agricultural and economic transformation will require strong youth engagement to succeed. Simply put, young people need agriculture, and agriculture needs young people. As these surging youth populations come of age, how we meet their needs and aspirations—and how well governments integrate them economically, politically, and socially—will shape our shared future. With the right policies and investments, along with the engagement of young people in nurturing their own potential, the largest generation of young people in human history can become the problem-solving producers, creators, entrepreneurs, change agents, and leaders of the coming decades.