Today, young people worldwide are celebrating the World Youth Skills Day, which was designated as an international day in 2014 by the United Nations General Assembly in order to raise awareness about the importance of investing in youth skills development.
This year’s theme “Skills Development to Improve Youth Employment” is cognisant of the high level of youth unemployment and underemployment worldwide. In 2013, global youth unemployment reached 73.4 million, representing a youth unemployment rate of 12.6%. Young people are three times more likely to be unemployed than adults and continuously exposed to lower quality of jobs, greater labor market inequalities, and longer and more insecure school-to-work transitions. In addition, young women are more likely to be under-employed, under-paid, and to undertake part-time jobs or work under temporary contracts. The majority of these young people live in developing countries, including in the drylands. While most developing countries have rates similar to the global average, countries in the Middle East and North Africa stand out with youth unemployment rates that are at least double for young men and more than 3 to 3.5 times for young women.
The CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems shares the commitment of the United Nations and that of many other organisations and civil society movements to accelerate sustainable development through effective empowerment and inclusion of young people. Supporting and empowering young people is critical - more than ever - in the face of current global events such as severe population displacement, migration, climate change, extreme violence against women and girls, and widespread instability and crises in many world region. Youth unemployment in rural drylands can be adequately targeted through sustainable development opportunities in agriculture,scientific research and innovation, training, education and entrepreneurship.
As we mark this important occasion, we recognise that young people have an important role to play and an invaluable contribution to make in agriculture and other socio-economic, cultural, and political aspects of life in the world’s most vulnerable dryland communities. Our Youth Strategy - the first to be issued within the CGIAR system - 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". This strategy has set an important precedent that is stimulating serious attention to this critical group of stakeholders among other CGIAR Research Programs and is inspiring joint efforts with many local and national partners to engage youth in innovative agricultural development.
To commemorate this special day, we are bringing you:
- What are the realities, challenges, and aspirations of youth in rural drylands?, a new video canvassing the views and perspectives voiced by some of the young people, who took part in our recent study led by our partner, Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD). This important research work – to be published by the end of the year - examines the perspectives of young people and sheds light on the complex web of socio-economic factors that affects their future fundamental choice: to endure and shape a new future at home or migrate in search of better opportunities?
- Dreams of Youth in Drylands, an Exposure photo story to raise awareness of youth issues in rural drylands of the developing world, by Marah Al Malalha and Ejona Bakalli, our very own Dryland Systems interns.
- A day in the life of a young apple farmer in Morocco, told in the words of Abdelali Ouhri, the young farmer himself.
- Would you be a farmer in drylands if you had the choice?, an opinion piece by Malak Tleis, YPARD Country Representative in Lebanon.
- A snapshot of some of the cool and amazing young people, who are part of the new and exciting Drylands Systems internship program, launched this summer.
Agriculture suffers from a bad image amongst young people in many countries as an inadequate option with minimal financial and livelihood returns. Community-based organisations are commonly dominated by elderly men, and many commercial organisations such as cooperatives are often managed and led by mature men. Minimal or lack of involvement of young people – and young women in particular - in important decision-making processes leads to youth disillusionment and results in loss of vital youth input to communities. As young people become disillusioned and lose hope for a better future and a decent living, the world loses a generation of potential innovators, inspiring visionaries, transformational leaders, hard working talent and good-standing community members.
The CGIAR Program on Dryland Systems is working with research and development partners, including YPARD and the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) to provide young people living in rural drylands with better educational, technical, and entrepreneurial skills and opportunities. In addition, our program works to create more equitable, diversified and inclusive social networks for young people to become proactively involved in innovation mechanisms and processes to improve and transform drylands agricultural livelihoods for generations to come.
Today’s celebrations provide us the opportunity to critically reflect on the important role of young people in rural drylands and the need to identify tangible ways and means to maximise their potential for better agricultural livelihoods in drylands of the developing world. Aside from vocational, educational, and entrepreneurial skills, there is also a need to enhance the core skills of the youth, including, innovation, creativity, scientific research, values and attitudes all of which will help foster a generation of young people that contributes to the wellbeing of their homes and families, their communities and countries, as well as land and environmental sustainability.
Our joint efforts to promote sustainable agricultural development, whilst seeking to protect the wellbeing of our planet and its precious resources can not be successful without taking into account the needs, perspectives and aspirations of young people, in drylands and elsewhere.
About the author
Dr. Richard Thomas is the Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems.