Should I go or should I stay ?
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CTA. 2000. Should I go or should I stay ?. Spore 90. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
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Enticing young people to stay on the land is no easy task. There is little to persuade people to stay in the village, except the village itself. The well-intentioned arguments and campaigns of their elders are, youth being youth, often rejected,...
Enticing young people to stay on the land is no easy task. There is little to persuade people to stay in the village, except the village itself. The well-intentioned arguments and campaigns of their elders are, youth being youth, often rejected, sometimes unkindly. For most rural youth, farming is a fate, not a future. Are we hearing them? Rivers to cross, roads to travel, dreams to build. From Fiji s river Rewa, on the Mopti road in Mali, to the June 2000 Youth conference in Maputo, Mozambique, young people will always yearn for more. Photo H. Guillaume/IRD (ex-Orstom) (Kingston, Jamaica, late October 2000.) Two score young people and more passed through the capital city s airport today en route to finding a better future working in American hotels than their native Jamaican fields could offer. Incidentally, a handful of the nation s upper middle-class also slipped out on the same flight, voting with their feet, having the same effect on the economy as Ebola fever has on humans, and setting a Very Bad Example to the nation s youth. And the incoming plane delivers a clutch of sullen young Jamaicans home, accompanied by the legal officers of a northern economy that could neither understand nor accommodate them. A few miles away, Richard Williams tells Spore: 'Mi father spend all im live in a de country seh im a farm, a mus eh fool im did a farm because im no have nothin fe show, mi nah do that.' (My father spent all his life in the country, on a farm, see, and he must have been a fool because he has nothing to show for it; I m not going to do that.) How many times are scenarios like these to be seen in an ACP country? How many young people a day turn their backs for good on the village whence they came, to return only at times of grieving, feasting and retirement? Whatever the answer, or the definition of youth, the numbers are crushing. One-fifth of the world is aged between 15 and 24; in sub-Saharan Africa four in five people are under 30 years old and the majority are, today, rural. Change is on its way. According to recent studies by the FAO, it will only be a matter of time before city youths outnumber the rural: by 2025, there will be more than one billion urban youths, and as today 700 million young rural people, the great majority in developing countries. FAO has for many decades shown concern for rural youth: in the early 1960s it ran a Youth Against Hunger campaign. FAO believes that 'rural youth programmes have a very important role to play in helping youths who do decide to stay in rural areas, to have more satisfying and productive lives.' Photo Penny Tweedie/Panos Pictures Such programmes, however, have often been among the first to be cut, as extension programmes have been run down throughout the developing world as part of structural adjustment programmes. Those same programmes have removed the employment opportunities that used to exist in the public sector. Countries which can still afford the luxury of the subsidised job creation schemes that temporarily mop up youth unemployment, whether urban or rural, are few and far between. Such schemes persist in northern economies, but in ACP economies, both traditional and transitional, they are found only in some small island states in the Pacific and the Caribbean and, on the African continent, mainly in the relatively affluent states of southern and South Africa. The latter s African Youth Development Initiative is paralleled by a planned national youth service, in which young people can learn some skills and work on community service and agricultural production programmes for a year or two. The rigidity of such schemes is almost quaint in face of the market and other forces that are changing agricultural landscapes in ACP countries, and they are unlikely to have a lasting impact. There are other, more enlightened programmes to help young people enter the (rural) economy, even though they too suffer from a certain inflexibility. Kenya s Youth Enterprise programme operates through five training institutions in providing a safe track for rural youth to permanent work in the form of self-employment in agriculture and agrifood processing enterprises. It has learned the hard way in offering micro-credit to rural youth with neither collateral, nor possessions, nor a track record on which to base a go-with-the-flow repayment strategy from income. One softener is to enhance young people s technical skills, but too often the training institutions are familiar only with the ways of the unwelcoming formal sector, and are not familiar with helping young people, and the financial and technical advisory services around them, to deal with the rough-and-tumble of the informal sector. Similar experiences in Jamaica s micro-enterprise development programmes from the early nineties onwards clearly went unheeded, or, more probably, unheard in other countries. Indeed, more information exchange between innovators in rural youth programmes is often called for in professional fora, and the value of direct youth-to-youth exchanges between countries and regions is recognised as a great motivator. The potential of information and communication technologies (ICT) in helping such contacts is well accepted, more by young people themselves than by their elders. Their openness and enthusiasm for new ideas and new technologies makes sure of that, and is the basis for such programmes as those in Senegal, Uganda and Zambia where ICTs are being used to improve networking between agricultural NGOs and producer groups. The point is that agriculture needs to be perceived not only as a financially sound sector to work in (which depends on the market, and how it is organised), but also as something modern and challenging. If only today s scientists could be coaxed and coached to better communicate their work on new foods and new diets (such as differently coloured bananas, or repackaging traditional foods in a modern style to capture new diaspora markets), agriculture would immediately become more attractive. If educators and trainers could loosen up to working with out-of-school youth, if banks would allocate an extra slice of their spread (operating margin) in loans to youth start-up enterprises, if politicians could be less patronising, if only, if only. At the 1999 UN African Development Forum on the new information society, the youth delegation affirmed that 'new technologies can be used to unleash creativity and innovation among young people.' Their future is in their hands indeed. To know more: Rural Youth Programmes/ Youthworks, FAO, SDR Division Vialle delle Terme di Caracalla 00100 Rome, Italy. Fax: +39 06 57 05 31 52 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: www.fao.org/sd under extension & training For access to ACP Youth networks on the Internet: http://www.ynternet.org/
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