Millennials on the Move: Infusing a new vigour to the ageing sector

Millennials on the Move: Infusing a new vigour to the ageing sector

This news is part of the following focus area:

Indonesian farmers are ageing. What can we do?

Agriculture is a key sector to feed the Indonesia’s growing population that is expected to reach 319 million by 2045. The sector itself accounted for 13.5% of Indonesia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 38% of its employment (World Bank, 2016). It shows that agriculture sector in Indonesia is one of the most vibrant and dynamic sectors. Yet, the sector has been facing a significant challenge due to the ageing of farming population. As the industry’s workers are growing old, less and less young people are continuing farming practices.

The Ministry of Agriculture reported in 2013 that most farmers in Indonesia were above 45 years. On a similar note, Statistics Indonesia (2013) revealed a worrisome fact showing negative trends of labour participation in the agriculture sector from 2008 to 2012. The lowest participation rate was shown in the group of young people aged 15-29 (see Figure 1). The report also showed that the number of Indonesian farmers is declining steadily by 1.4% (see Figure 2). Without farmer regeneration, we put the future of food security and the sustainability of agriculture at risk.

Reasons why agriculture is less attractive to young people

  • Young people perceive farming as less prestigious profession with high risk, less assurance, and intense dirty job.
  • As majority of farmers are poor, young people think farming is not a profitable job compared to an industrial sector.
  • Young people do not get support to be a farmer from parents. Most of parents do not want their children to be farmers and they encourage their children to be professional "white-collar" workers.
  • Young people do not have farming capacities/skills, either in cultivation or in agribusiness management. There is a lack of curriculum about the production, processing and business in agriculture at schools.
  • Young people have a limited access and control over productive resources (land, capital) and markets.
  • There are very few organised groups of young farmers for solidarity and exchange information and ideas.
  • Industrialisation affects young people's job preference. Young and educated labours opt to leave their village and migrate to find a better job in a city.

Millennial farmers: the backbone of the future of agriculture

There are 63 million of productive population, so-called millennials, aged 25-35 years in Indonesia (Bappenas, 2015). Millennials formally are defined as those who are born between 1982-2000, reaching young adulthood in the early twenty-first century (Naderi & Steenburg, 2018). Based on IDN Research Institute, millennials are 24% of Indonesia’s population. Millennials should not be treated as homogenous groups. There are two types of millennials which are junior and senior millennials.

Motivations for millennials

Involving millennials in agriculture businesses is part of Rikolto’s approaches. At Rikolto Knowledge Cafe learning event on the 14th of December 2018, we invited our partners and discussed the feasibility to include more young people in agriculture. From the discussion, we learn that there are six motivations for millennials to participate in the agri-business.

  1. Livelihood improvement in their hometown. Millennials are passionate about contributing to their hometown, by improving local livelihood. They learn and are aware of the potential of their hometown, one of which is the agriculture sector. They know that agriculture sustains many lives in their hometown, so they are called to participate in the sector.

  2. The profit of business activities. Many millennials are interested in improving the commodity value chain to be more profitable, particularly through value-added products. They find that agribusiness can be profitable in Indonesia if it is managed in professional way and keeps up with recent trends. If farmers can capture the opportunity and plan the agriculture business well, they will benefit financially from their farm. With financial management skill that they received from schools or universities, millennials have basic ability to make agribusiness plan.

  3. Environmental improvements. Many millennials want to participate in agriculture to apply sustainable agriculture practices which preserve the environment. Some studies suggest that compared to the older generation, millennials have more concerns about climate change threat. This is a good starting point to encourage millennials to support an environment cause through agriculture.

  4. The emerging agriculture technology. The adoption of digital technologies has been rising at a rapid pace which changes the way of farmers in cultivating and selling their crops. Modern farming and agribusiness attract millennials to delve more into agriculture. Growing up digitally, millennials can employ their digital dexterity to tackle agricultural problems.

  5. The return of local product identity to their area. Each region in Indonesia has unique characteristic related to their agriculture practices both in planting, processing, managing, or the type of the plant. However, some of these characteristics are disappearing. Millennials want to revive that uniqueness and see the opportunity to make it happen by involving in agri-business.

  6. The flexibility and creativity in agriculture works. Working as farmers do not have strict routine working hours like a 9 to 5 office work. Millennials perceive agri-entrepreneurship as an opportunity to have flexible working hours and to work outdoor. With this working environment, millennials can channel their creativity into their work.

I joined the organic youth camp hosted by APOB in 2016. The camp opened up my eyes about the potential of rice farming business and I wanted to contribute to the sector. I had my internship at APOB and now I am the ICS Manager. It has been a big learning curve and I am enjoying it.

Pungky Yuniar ICS Manager of APOB and Organic Youth Camp Alumni

I joined the Cocoa Doctor training. I want to share the knowledge I have to my peers. I want them to know that cocoa business is promising for young people.

Asrul Data Coordinator of Cahaya Sehati Cooperative

Rikolto's millennials inclusion approach: Strategies to practices

Rikolto ensures that our millennials inclusion strategies are reflected through all our interventions. The strategies are already translated into some actionable initiatives. Here, we share you our work so far.


  1. We engage millennials both in rural and urban areas through interactive seminars, study exchanges, internships, working groups, competitions, and festival to have better knowledge on sustainable production and healthy consumptions. Empowered by knowledge on the matter, millennials can make a difference to improve the food system at multiple levels.
  2. We facilitate millennial farmers to have adequate skills on good agriculture practices, processing, and management through trainings, farmer field schools, and farmer youth camp. Millennials are expected to be able to produce high-quality products in sustainable and innovative ways. They will be a driving force for a more effective, efficient, and profitable agriculture value chain.
  3. We support the exchange of ideas for developing new business models initiated by millennials. We help them set up commercial enterprises that are connected to farmers' organisation businesses. Millennials-led enterprises provide avenues for millennials to take an active role in agriculture value chain.
  4. We encourage farmers' organisations to stipulate millennials inclusion-related policies. Millennials will have a broader access to participate in farmers' organisation businesses and decision-making processes. They will also have better engagement with farmers' organisations.
  5. We collect and share success stories and achievements of aspiring millennials who make a meaningful contribution in sustainable agriculture value chain, through various media such books, articles, and films. By promoting a millennial role model, we attract more millennials into agriculture-business.
  6. We connect millennials with key stakeholders such as research institutes, farmers organisations, government agencies, service providers, NGOs, and private sectors so they broaden their network and access to participate in improving the food system.

In cocoa sector, we collaborate with millennials organisers to launch Youth Entrepreneurship Lab, a collaborative space in Ende, East Nusa Tenggara, as a learning and business-development platform. Read: YEL: Making space for young people in the agricultural value chain.

It is essential to educate young people with entrepreneurial skills in agriculture to attract them into farming. However, we should teach both young people and their parents. Parents support is key for young people. Without it, they are more likely to move to a sector that they find more modern.

Maria Patrisia Wata Beribe Rikolto Cocoa Field Officer in Ende