Hernán Chiriboga and Rodolfo Daldegan

The Future of Youth in Agriculture: The Role of Leadership.

Today, out of the 7 billion people in the world, half are 24 years old or younger and 1.2 billion are between the ages of 10 and 191. Connecting with this age group requires understanding how to engage, and what motivates them. In the countryside, where about 3.3 billion inhabitants live, or 46% of the world population, the young tend to be blinded by the illusory “lights” of the city; they leave the countryside in search of better opportunities and end up in unemployment statistics; especially young women, which  have a greater difficulty of finding employment.

In Brazil, it is estimated that about 50% of the people leaving the countryside are among the young2, this picture is repeated in other countries as well.

Among the main factors that influence staying in the countryside or migrating to the cities, we can highlight the gender difference, access to financial resources, access to land, job offer, inheritance, and especially access to education and vocational training. Therefore, it is incumbent on those of us who can influence change to make the rural environment more attractive, in order to provide the youth for a reason to remain where their roots are - in the agriculture areas.

To achieve this objective, it is necessary to create a competitive environment, where profitable activities can flourish, a diverse cultural environment is presented, and access to digital technologies is facilitated.

It is also necessary to invest in the sector and promote public policies specifically targeted to the development of rural areas, otherwise the vicious cycle of lack of investments that fuels hopelessness and absence of opportunities is perpetuated.

This cycle occurs due to the discrepancy in investments. For example, if we have an X value in US$, about 70% of that amount is invested in the city. Only the remainder 30% is invested in rural areas. This result in more urban infrastructure and consequently more improvements for the urban population, meanwhile, with less rural infrastructure, we see fewer advances among the rural population. The natural outcome is the migration to the urban environment in search for a better life - i.e., less population in the field and more population in the city.

This cycle repeats itself, since voting power is concentrated in cities, where political campaigns are sometimes more effective. Therefore, the countryside lags behind the city.

Investing in the agricultural sector is not only advantageous to break this "vicious cycle" but also to eradicate poverty, particularly considering that GDP growth from agriculture is 2.7 times more effective in reducing inequalities than any other investment in another area of the economy3.

Hernán Chiriboga, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, Representative in Brazil
Hernán Chiriboga, Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, Representative in Brazil
Hernán Chiriboga,
Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, Representative in Brazil

Rodolfo Daldegan, Inter-America Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, International Technical Cooperation Officer
Rodolfo Daldegan, Inter-America Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, International Technical Cooperation Officer
Rodolfo Daldegan,
Inter-America Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, International Technical Cooperation Officer

The new rurality trend, the rural world is now understood as a continuum of the city, has youth playing a fundamental role in its dynamics. There is a clear need to develop leadership with a global vision, capable of embracing modernity and contributing to the sustainable development of agriculture, food security and rural prosperity.

The Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA) Medium Term Plan 2018-2022, places the matter of rural youth as one of the transverse axes along the main themes of interest, with a focus on gender equality and the empowerment of rural women.

In Brazil, IICA is implementing actions especially in the rural areas in the Northeast. Several technical exchange events focusing in young leaders and the development of its communities4, enabling them to build capacities and to develop and lead others towards a better future within the rural world, have been promoted by the IICA together with one of our main strategic partners, the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Among other projects which tackle the matter of rural youth, Programa Semear Internacional5 (Semear International Program) to spread knowledge in semi-arid areas of northeastern Brazil is worth mentioning. Its main objective is to facilitate access to knowledge, innovations and good practices that can be adopted and replicated by the population to improve their living conditions and promote sustainable and equitable development in the region.

Through other projects, such as PROCASE6, in the state of Paraíba, and VIVA o SEMIÁRIDO, in the state of Piauí, IICA promotes actions to further the development of rural communities and the strengthening of young rural leaders. Private companies such as Bayer are also contributing to help bring opportunities to these young men and women who – rightly so – are trying to have access to a better future.

To achieve this goal which behooves us all, all involved in agriculture need to help develop young rural leaders in a creative and consistent manner, facilitating the creation of spaces for discussion and exchange between leaders at the territorial, national, and regional levels, as well as through the development of virtual networks and groups enabling continuous collaboration and dialogue between the different social actors. Therefore, IICA proposed ten principles7 for the youth which can help them to become responsible leaders who play an important role in the future of agriculture:

  1. Take care of yourself, your family and the members of your community. Seek the well-being of everyone, including nature and biodiversity.
  2. Define a vision and share it with the community, prioritizing activities that lead them to achieve their goals.
  3. Start from self-leadership to shared leadership. Make sure the results are the work of everyone.
  4. Practice values-centered leadership. Practice what you preach.
  5. Have courage and do not be afraid to take risks. Look for innovative alternatives to solve problems in the rural environment.
  6. Create networks of partners who share common goals. Encourage teamwork based on active listening and building trust.
  7. Maintain and promote good relationships and contacts with rural sector decision makers.
  8. Encourage the development of talents and empower the members of your team. Pay attention to the talent of others, encouraging innovation.
  9. Look for continued personal improvement as well as the members of your team.
  10. Be able to influence positively, always seeking to achieve common goals

1 Dinâmica populacional, urbanização e meio ambiente (Population Dinamic, Urbanization and Environment) [electronic version]: (subsidies for Rio+20) / [research/text John Sydenstricker-Neto, Harley Silva and Roberto Luís Monte-Mór]. -- Brasília: UNFPA- United Nation Population Fund, 2015. -- (Series on population and sustainable development).
Estatísticas do meio rural 2010-2011. 4.ed. (Rural areas statistics) / Departamento Intersindical de Estatística e Estudos Socioeconômicos (Department of statistics and socio-economic studies); Núcleo de Estudos Agrários e Desenvolvimento Rural (Center of agricultural studies and development); Ministério
do Desenvolvimento Agrário (Ministry of agriculture development). -- São Paulo: DIEESE; NEAD; MDA, 2011.
World Development Report 2008: Agriculture and Economic Development. / World Bank. 2007.
6 http://portalsemear.org.br/videos/unidades-de-aprendizagem-projeto-procase/
7 Formando agrolíderes: metodología para el fortalecimiento del liderazgo en el sector agropecuario (Developing leaders in agricutlrue: methodology to strengthen leadership in the agricultura sector) /  Hernán Chiriboga, Juan Caliva – San José,C.R. : IICA, 2010. 208 p.; 21.59 x 27.94 cm. http://repiica.iica.int/docs/B2104e/B2104e.pdf

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Maniragaba Jean d'amour
November 10, 2018 - 11:22 AM

I'm so excited to get that's interesting views from different experts on enhancing youth passion in agriculture sector

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Juan Carlos Sáenz
August 31, 2018 - 06:00 AM

Very well written and insightful!
I believe migration to the cities will become much less attractive once we are able to provide simular quality and number of opportunities for rural populations, as we find in the cities. “City lights” certainly allure youngsters. We urgently need to set dimmers to those lights. Facilitating competitive environment, cultural diversity, and unlimited access to technology, alongside mandatory top quality education would certainly conform the winning strategy in the long run. In the short term, however, it is essential to attract private and public investment for jobs and services availability.

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