Rural youth need viable livelihood opportunities to escape out of poverty and realize their aspirations. How could they be helped to fully unleash their potential? This is an aloud call that needs novel strategies among governments, policy makers, and international development partners and donors.
Dr. Essa Chanie Mussa is Assistant Professor at the University of Gondar. He holds a PhD in agricultural and development economics from the Center for Development Research at the University of Bonn. In addition, he works as a research analyst for the UNICEF Office for Research - Innocenti, Social and Economic Policy in a project to build an integrated safety net for the most vulnerable women and children in rural and urban Ethiopia.
In 2006, the African Union adopted the African Youth Charter, a policy and legal framework, outlining strategic directions on youth development and empowerment and consequently to ensure their active engagement in shaping African future path. The continent’s youth population, those aged 15-35 years as defined by the charter, constitutes about 40 percent of the population, and Africa is said to have been experiencing a youth bulge in recent years . Therefore, all those happened and not happened to the youth are more likely to determine how Africa meets the future. However, some alarming and depressing figures characterize current African youth— a major concern and challenge to governments, policymakers, and development partners. The 2015 International Labour Office report shows that while globally about two-thirds of youth remain in working poverty, affecting as much as 169 million youth; in sub-Saharan Africa, nine in ten youth (about 92 percent) remain poor or near poor. The report also shows that employed youth are more likely to be poor compared to their adult counterparts.
Since investments in education, health, nutrition and pro-innovative behavioral developments take time to manifest over individuals’ life course, a novel approach to address many of the underlying youth problems in rural and urban Africa alike, as in other parts of the world, is without doubt to turn into investment in children, mainly in rural areas where the majority of African youth live. This is an untapped opportunity for Africa that with highly promising solutions for many of its unfolding problems. This article presents major theoretical arguments for and empirical evidence on how childhood conditions unfold later in life and provide life-time opportunities to shape most of the youth labor market and life outcomes in Africa, mainly in rural areas.
Investments in early human capital formation and outcomes later
Youth education and health are keys to harnessing the African demographic dividend—the surest pathway to reducing poverty and achieving rural development, accelerating structural transformation, and meeting and sustaining the sustainable development goals over the next several years. Investments in childhood education and health, in this regard, have proved beyond doubt to have profound long-term effects on youth and adulthood labor market outcomes and wellbeing. For instance, an earlier study from the UK shows that children from the highest quartile of test scores at the age of 7 earned 20 percent higher wage at the age of 33 compared to their peers from the lowest test quartile. In the US, it is also found that about 12 and 11 percent of the variations in high school and college completions, respectively, are explained by test scores and background variables measured between the ages of 6 and 8 years. What is more, a different study also indicates that a 10 percent increase in parental investments at ages 6 to7 years increases earnings by 24.9 percent, and increases the likelihood of graduating high school by 64.4 percent. We have, however, scare similar evidence from developing countries due mainly to lack of long-term data to understand how childhood conditions manifest in the future. Exploring the limited evidence in this regard from a developing country perspective, researchers from Center for Development Research (ZEF) of University of Bonn, find that in rural Ethiopia while long-term school progression to full primary education is generally lower, children (aged 4-14 years) who exclusively attended schooling and combined work and study, relative to their working-only peers, attained three more years of schooling after sixteen years. They also find that schooling during the ages of 4 and 14 resulted in significant earnings differential: School-children earned about twice as much higher income in self-employment non-farm jobs in the adult labor markets as to those who were mainly working. These evidences boldly suggest that African governments are compelled to prioritize child education and propel future growth and development using educated, aspired and innovative youth. The problem is more serious in rural areas —areas disadvantaged in infrastructure, budgeted inadequately and child labor is pervasive, suggesting that education systems have to give special attention to rural areas.
What we know so far, it is very difficult to take remedial measures to rectifying childhood health shocks in developing countries and catching-up with their unaffected peers is very thin. For instance, the 1919 Brazilian cohort who was affected by the pandemic in utero attained 0.2 years fewer schooling, earned 20 percent lower wages, and the affected-individuals were five times more likely to be unemployed. This clearly shows that in order to positively influence rural young people’s wellbeing, governments need to start acting to improve early health human capital formation. We also learn useful lessons on what would have happened if actions were taken to one of the most prevalent health shocks in rural Africa: Malaria. It is estimated that a complete eradication of malaria infections resulted in a rise in adulthood income by 47 percent in the US, 45 percent in Brazil, 45 percent in Colombia, and 41 percent in Mexico. Although the evidence remains to be almost absent in rural Africa, it can be safely argued that investment in childhood health, combined with quality education, enhanced access to preventive and curative child health, and implementing effective diseases control and vaccination, through affecting children’s behaviors, could have contributed to preventive health practices of youth which is vital to control crime, malaria, and the spread of communicable diseases such as HIV/ AIDS among youth.
Child nutrition is a master key to unlock many of long-term life gates
As much as one sees opportunities in investing in child education and health to help young people fully realize their potentials and effectively employing them in national economies, these efforts depend so much on the states of child nutrition. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports that 165 million under -5 children are stunted (too short for their age) in developing countries while 146 million are underweight and undernourished due to acute or chronic hunger in these countries. Other estimates also show that more than 200 million under-5 children unable to reach their full potentials in cognitive development due mainly to poverty, poor health, and mal(under)nutrition. Moreover, hidden hunger or deficiencies of important micronutrients are expected to have affected about two billion people globally; rural African children could be most affected with life-time consequences. This is a serious problem that hampers the efforts to build a healthy, productive, and skilled labor force in the continent and at the same time calling for short and long-term measures.
The literature gives us strong evidence that in Sub-Saharan Africa, a region with the highest proportion of disadvantaged children, their position resulted in an above 20 percent reduction in adulthood income and more likely to transfer to the next generation. This is still a useful input to policymakers in Africa and development donors to prioritize investing in disadvantaged children, mainly of those in rural areas, and from poor families, to break the poverty cycle in the continent.
The effects of child labor: a double-edged sword
Globally, about 152 million children aged 5–17 years are child laborers, of which about 72 million reside in Africa (59 million in sub-Saharan Africa). About 85 percent of child labor in Africa (71 percent globally) is found in agriculture, affecting the lives of about 50 million children due to long working hours and associated occupational hazards. Unlike other regions, sub-Saharan Africa, a region with the highest prevalence of child labor in the world, witnessed a rise in child labor from 21.4 to 22.4 percent between 2012 and 2016. There are disputes among researchers whether child labor actually impedes long-term outcomes or positively contributes to outcomes later in life. In Brazil, it was found that entry into the labor market before the age of 12 reduces adulthood earnings, while another study shows that early entry into the labor market tends to reduce lifetime earnings and increase the likelihood of being poor when adults.
On the contrary, a long-term study unravels that, in rural Ethiopia, while full-time childhood work reduces grade attainment by half compared to full-time school children after 16 years, those who combined work and study attained more years of schooling even compared to full-time schoolchildren and earned higher income in non-farm self-employment jobs. Such contending evidences suggest that child labor is like a double-edged sword which can be used to children’s long-term development but if it is excessive or exclusive it surely impedes their long-term development, productivity and wages. This implies that African countries should devise mechanisms to differentiate and eliminate the forms of child labor which is damaging and against their schooling from those by which children use to lean important life skills. While poverty is often cited as the culprit of child labor, culture and opportunistic behaviors may also contribute to the wider prevalence of child labor and for its inter-generational transmission which tends to maintain poverty and inequality between generations.
The way forward
African rural areas should be changed from a place where youth aspire to out-migrate to a place of hope and filled with opportunities to young people to stay and prosper. Given the crucial roles of childhood periods to outcomes later in life, there is no disagreement that investing in children is the key to build aspired, productive, innovative and skilled rural youth labor force in the long-term, but gravely ignored. Accordingly, rural development programs including social protections should be child development sensitive and that African governments need to work to remove all impediments (in the short-and long-term perspectives) against youth to participate in the labor markets. Early childhood quality education and health care facilitate later human capital investments among youth, smoothing the school-to-work transitions. In that way, African countries can reduce youth underemployment, precarious employment, vulnerable and informal sector employment, unemployment and youth working poverty.
In Eastern El Salvador, campesinos are cultivating a self-image to encourage rural youth to remain in rural areas. With help from Caritas, they have adjusted the cultivation methods to their soils and traditions - Marvin Antonio Garcia Otero,the deputy director of Caritas of the Diocese of San Miguel believes this is the best way to prevent rural exodus and criminality.
Does Africa's youth want to live in the city or in the country? Which career path seems particularly attractive? And how optimistic are the young people about the future? Young adults from rural areas answered these questions by SMS.
Africa is home to the world’s youngest and fastest growing population. For many young people, agriculture could offer a job perspective. But to improve the living conditions and job prospects of young people in rural areas, political reforms and investments are desperately needed, as these people will be at the centre of agriculture and agricultural development in the future.
Interview with Gnininkaboka Dabiré and Innocent Somé
Later on you want to become a farmer yourself, or would you prefer to take up another profession? Two young people from Burkina-Faso talked to representatives of the Dreyer Foundation about their parents' farms, the profession of farmer and their own plans for the future.
What happens when young people leave the rural areas? How can the region achieve what is referred to as the demographic bonus – and how can it reap the benefits of the demographic dividend? A look at demography shows the following: What is most important is promoting women’s rights and education.
The world’s population keeps on growing; with this rise comes an increased need for food as well as productive employment opportunities. Offering young people in rural areas better employment prospects is one of the objectives of the sector project. The young population is the key to a modern and efficient agricultural economy.
The United Nations plan a Food Systems Summit - and now the Corona-Virus is dictating the agenda. The Chief Economist of the UN World Food Programme takes stock of the current situation: a conversation with Jan Rübel about pandemics, about the chromosomes of development - and about the conflicts that inhibit them.
How can agriculture modernise Africa? And does the road to the cities really lead out of poverty? Dr. Reiner Klingholz from the Berlin Institute for Population and Development in conversation with Jan Rübel .
A report by T. S. Jayne, A. Adelaja and R. Mkandawire
Thirty years ago, Africa was synonymous with war, famine and poverty. That narrative is clearly outdated. African living standards are rising remarkably fast. Our authors are convinced that improving education and entrepreneurship will ensure irreversible progress in the region even as it confronts COVID-19.
A contribution by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation
Africa’s population is young and ready to take its destiny into its own hands. Agriculture offers amazing opportunities in this regard. The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation wants to support the next generation in this way.
Lack of seasonal workers and virus explosion in slaughterhouses, rising vegetable prices, climate crisis – all this demonstrates: Our food system is highly productive and (at least for the rich inhabitants of planet earth) guarantees an unprecedented rich and steady food supply - but it is not resilient.
The soybean is a natural crop that can be used to make a lot of food. So, Tata Bi started a small processing business first on her own, then with a few other women, which provides the women with an additional source of income year-round besides selling the soybeans.
Supporting groups of smallholding women substantially contributes to strengthen rural operations economically. The organisation and associated group activities can help to reduce extreme poverty and improve the food situation.
Besides the well known impacts of Covid19 lockdowns for the adult population, the associated school closures led to 90 percent of the world’s children with no access to schools. However, school meals are in often the only daily meal for children. Without access to this safety net, issues like hunger, poverty and malnutrition are exacerbated for hundreds of millions of children.
The majority of producers in developing countries are women. Although they contribute significantly to the food security of their families, they remain chronically disadvantaged in male-dominated agriculture in terms of access to land, credit, technology and education.
A contribution by Nadine Babatounde and Anne Floquet (MISEREOR)
To prevent malnutrition among young children and strengthen the role of women in their communities, Misereor, together with the local non-governmental organisation CEBEDES, is implementing a programme on integrated home gardens in Benin - a series of pictures.
What do electrical engineering, telecommunications and agriculture have in common? They arouse the passion of Strive Masiyiwa: Thirty years ago, he started an electrical installation company with $75, later riding the telecommunications wave as a pioneer. Today he is committed to transforming African agriculture.
In western Africa a new middle class is emerging. Their consumer behaviour is determining the demand for products – home-produced and imported goods, on the internet or at the village market. The people of Ivory Coast in particular are looking to the future with optimism.
This is a benchmark for everybody: More rights for women are a very influencing solution in the struggle against extreme poverty and hunger worldwide, says Stephan Exo-Kreischer, Director of ONE Germany. The organisation specialises in political campaigning as a lever for sustainable change.
Happy youngsters in rural areas, green development and the connection to the digital age – professor Joachim von Braun believes in this future sceneraio for Africa. For three decades the agricultural scienties has been researching how politics can create prosperty on the continent.
It is 2080. We are on a farm somewhere in Africa. Everything is digital. The blockchain is an omnipotent point of reference, and the farm is flourishing. But then, everything goes wrong. A dystopian short story, written exclusively for SEWOH.
At the moment, the agricultural industries of African countries exist in relative isolation. Imagine peasant farmers digitally connected to the value chains of the global food industry. How could this happen? A guidebook.
At the beginning of December 2018, AGRA's board of directors met in Berlin. The "Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa" panel discussed the next steps in their policy of modernizing agriculture. How to go on in the next ten years? One question - many answers from experts.
As President of the IABM cooperative in Muhanga, Alphonsine Mukankusi is not simply focused on the figures. She has learned how to deal with people and how to take on responsibility. At the same time, her work helps her to come to terms with the past
A report by Alexander Müller and Jes Weigelt (TMG)
As the climate changes, the population of Africa is growing and fertile land and jobs are becoming scarcer. New ways are currently leading to urbanisation of agriculture and a new mid-sized sector in the countryside
Agnes Kalibata, AGRA president since 2014 and former minister of agriculture and wildlife in Rwanda, is convinced that Africa's economy will only grow sustainably if small-scale agriculture is also seen as an opportunity.
Interview with Paul Newnham, Director of the SDG 2 Advocacy Hub.
The UN Food Systems pre-Summit in Rome dealt with transforming the ways of our nutrition. How do you bring that to a broad public? Questions to Paul Newnham, the Director of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 Advocacy Hub.
Interview with Martina Fleckenstein (WWF), Michael Kühn (WHH) and Christel Weller-Molongua (GIZ)
After the summit means pre-summit: It was the first time that the United Nations held a summit on food systems. Martina Fleckenstein, Michael Kühn and Christel Weller-Molongua reviewed the situation in this joint interview.
Genetically modified bacteria become edible proteins, cows graze on pasture, and no waste is produced in an industrial circular economy. Journalist Jan Grossarth sees a silver lining for the future of world nutrition
Countries across Africa coordinate their efforts in the fight against corona by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) of the African Union in Addis Abeba. Until now, the curve of new infections has been successfully flattened – why? Dr. Ahmed Ouma, Deputy Director, explains the work of CDC in an interview with Tilman Wörtz.
African countries still face huge gender gaps in terms of access to work and capital. What are the consequences of Corona for women in Africa? Jan Rübel interviewed Léa Rouanet on lockdowns and gender-based violence. The economist works at the Africa Gender Innovation Lab of the World Bank.
In August, Germany’s development ministry set up a division concentrating on One Health topics. Parliamentary State Secretary Maria Flachsbarth on knowledge gaps at the human-animal-environmental interface, the link between One Health and food security, and lessons learnt from previous pandemics.
After four years of Donald Trump in the White House, it is time to take stock: What policies did the Republican government pursue in African regions? And what will change in favor of Joe Biden after the election decision? Here is an evaluation.
While Africa is the least affected region by Covid-19 so far, the number of confirmed cases and deaths on the continent is quickly rising. Despite the challenges many African countries continue to face, the African response to the coronavirus pandemic displays innovation and ingenuity.
Even though COVID-19 poses a threat to the health of humanity, the reaction to the pandemic must not cause more suffering than the disease itself. This is particularly relevant for poor developing countries, where the impact of the corona crisis on food security is even more severe!
Corona makes it even more difficult to achieve a world without hunger by 2030. So that this perspective does not get out of sight, Germany must play a stronger role internationally - a summary of the Strategic Advisory Group of SEWOH.
In most African countries, the infection COVID-19 is likely to trigger a combined health and food crisis. This means: In order to cope with this unprecedented crisis, consistently aligning our policies to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) is more important than ever, our author maintains.
A contribution by Dr. Kathleen Mar and Dr. Nicole de Paula
Against the backdrop of the COVID-19 pandemic, health is receiving unprecedented public and political attention. Yet the fact that climate change is also affecting the environmental and social determinants of health in a profound and far-reaching way deserves further recognition.
A report by Bettina Rudloff and Annette Weber (SWP)
The Corona-Virus exacerbates existing crises through conflict, climate, hunger and locusts in East Africa and the Horn of Africa. What needs to be done in these regions? To face these challenges for many countries, all of these crises need to be captured in their regional context.
Every year in October, the "Welthungerhilfe" aid organisation, with the Irish "Concern Worldwide" NGO, publishes the Global Hunger Index, a tool with which the hunger situation is recorded. What are the trends - and what needs to be done?
Shortly before ending his position as Director General of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPR) Dr. Shenggen Fan talks about the reforms and new modes of operation needed to achieve global food security in the coming decade.
How much will it cost to sustainably end world hunger by 2030? This question was posed by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) that commissioned two research teams with finding an answer. The results of the studies will be presented on October 13 in the run-up to World Food Day.
Chancellor Angela Merkel in the Podcast of the Federal Government
At the start of World Food Week around World Food Day on 16 October, Chancellor Angela Merkel stressed that the fight against global hunger will only be successful with international responsibility and solidarity (german only).
Over a period of two years, the Ceres2030 team spent researching answers to the questions of how much it will how much it will cost to realize SDG 2 and where that money should be spent most effectively. IISD Senior Advisor and Ceres2030 Co-director Carin Smaller about small farmers, machine learning and women empowerment.
The CGIAR agricultural research organization is systematically repositioning itself. We spoke with Juergen Voegele, Vice President for Sustainable Development at the World Bank, about progress to date - and discuss what needs to be done collectively to stop global hunger in ten years.
The first Climate Adaptation Summit put climate adaptation at the center of politics for the first time. The virtual meeting united global players with one goal: building resilience is just as important as climate protection itself. Around 15,000 participants discussed direct proposals.
110 speakers from 120 countries met virtually at the Global Forum for Food and Agriculture (GFFA) to discuss the challenges to global food supply. They asked the question: How can food systems support the health of people and the planet?
The Corona pandemic is hitting economies around the world very hard - but developments in African countries are quite diverse. There are different speeds, resiliences and vulnerabilities. What are the reasons for this? Apl. Prof. Jann Lay of the GIGA Institute provides answers.
International agricultural research is responding to new challenges: Their advisory group is undergoing a fundamental reform process and unites knowledge, partnerships and physical assets into OneCGIAR.
From the lab to the masses: Maria Andrade bred varieties of biofortified sweet potatoes which are now widely used all over the continent. She sets her hope on the transformation of African agriculture.
The lockdown due to COVID-19 hit the economy hard - including agriculture in particular with its supply chains and sales markets. What creative coping strategies have those affected found? The Seminar for Rural Development has begun a research study on th
African inland fisheries are increasingly reliant on the capture of small fish species that are sundried and traded over long distances. They make an important contribution in alleviating “hidden hunger”: consumed whole, small fish are an important source of micronutrients. Only that, unfortunately, politicians haven’t yet realised this.
A contribution by Jes Weigelt and Alexander Müller
What is required to make food systems provide sufficient, healthy food while not harming the planet? How should food security be maintained given the threat posed by climate change? Our authors look at some aspects of tomorrow’s food systems against the backdrop of the corona crisis.
Freshwater deficits are affecting more and more people throughout the world. In order to counter this, our global food system will have to change, our author maintains. A case for more research on alternative crops and smart water solutions.
A contribution by Kerstin Weber and Brit Reichelt-Zolho (WWF)
Biodiversity and sustainable agriculture ensure the nutrition of whole societies. But there is more: These two factors also provide better protection against the outbreak of dangerous pandemics. Hence, the question of preserving ecosystems is becoming a global survival issue.
There is a clear global task: We need to feed nine billion people by 2050. We, the people of Earth, must produce more food and waste less. That is the top priority of the UN World Food Programme (WFP), too - the description of a challenge.
Double interview with Tony Rinaudo and Volker Schlöndorff
Tony Rinaudo uses conventional reforestation methods to plant millions and millions of trees – and Volker Schlöndorff is filming a cinema documentary about the Australian. The outcome so far: An educational film on behalf of the BMZ (Federal Ministry for Economic Co-operation and Development).
Joe DeVries is a breeder – and Vice President of AGRA (Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa). What are the chances and risks of a ’green revolution‘ in Africa? A discourse between Jan Rübel and him about productivity, needs, and paternalism.
If there is a lack of fertile soil and rain, hunger breaks out quickly. Maria Smentek from the World Food Programme (WFP) explains how farmers and pastoralists can counter climate change with hydroponic-systems.
Urban gardening is becoming increasingly popular in northern metropoles. People who consider themselves part of a green movement are establishing productive gardens in the city, for example on rooftops or in vacant lots. In severely impoverished regions of the global South, urban agriculture is a component of the food strategy.
Chancellor Merkel has begun an ambitious European political programme: Striving for compromise in budget negotiations, an orderly Brexit as well as an appropriate response to the corona crisis. Unfortunately, one of her positions that she previously held is nowhere to be found: Africa's prosperity is in the interest of Europe.
The Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) was launched by the G20 countries in 2010 in response to the 2008-09 food price crisis to increase both public and private investment in agriculture. An overview of the programme's approach, results and impact.
COVID-19 has unprecedented effects on the world. As always, the most vulnerable are the hardest hit, both at home and - especially - abroad. A joint appeal by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Development and Cooperation (BMZ) and the Department for International Development (DFID).
The region of Sub-Saharan Africa is on the decisive verge of a great development boost in farming: it could skip entire generations of technological development. But how? About possible roles and potentials of digital services.
Nutrition experts from all over the world are coming together in Rome. They are not only distilling 2000 ideas to improve food systems - they are also preparing for the big UN summit in New York in September. An interview.
Journalist Jan Rübel spoke with Joao Campari ahead of the UNFSS Pre-Summit. The Chair of Action Track 3 highlights key challenges in transforming existing food systems towards sustainable production and shares his expectations for the Summit.
A contribution by Dr. Karin Gaesing and Prof. Dr. Frank Bliss (INEF)
Especially in densely populated areas, land pressure leads to overexploitation of available land and a lack of conservation measures. The West African country of Benin, with heavily depleted soils in many places, is no exception.
An Interview with Francisco Marí (Brot für die Welt)
Brot für die Welt (Bread for the World) did not attend the UNFSS pre-summit. Instead, the organisation took part in a counter-summit that took place at the same time. A conversation with Francisco Marí about the reasons, the process - and an outlook for the future
Vitamin-poor nutrition must become more expensive, in-vitro meat is not a panacea, and agricultural systems should be more decentralised. Bioland President Jan Plagge in an interview about the challenge of (future) world nutrition.
A Contribution by Emile Frison and Nick Jacobs (IPES-Food)
While having failed to solve the hunger problem, industrial agriculture appears to be causing additional ones both in environmental and health terms. Emile Frison and Nick Jacobs call for a transformation.
A Contribution of the 'Initiative for Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chains' (INA)
Fair Trade organisations and the Initiative for Sustainable Agricultural Supply Chains (INA) have launched the #ichwillfair campaign during COP26 to highlight the link between global supply chains and climate change.
Fish is important for combating malnutrition and undernourishment. But it is not only notable for its nutritional value, but also secures the livelihoods and employment for 600 million people worldwide.
Three quarters of the world's population do not have secure land rights, which hinders investment and innovation. The project "Improvement of Livelihood and Food Security" supports smallholder farmers in acquiring land.
Since early February 2022, two of the biggest grain and oilseed exporters have been at war. An overview, which countries are affected most severely by the destabilized grain markets, and what comes next.
Development cooperation needs to place good governance and a sustainable agri-food systems transformation at its center: After the first 100 days in office have passed, Dirk Meyer from the German Development Ministry (BMZ) spells out the goals, guidelines and priorities of the Ministry’s new lead.