Taking over different roles for effective youth engagement in agriculture

Taking over different roles for effective youth engagement in agriculture

in News
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Zeliha Ergin
Zeliha Ergin
Communications intern

At Rikolto, the question ‘What will we eat tomorrow?’ is at the core of our work. One specific aspect of this question is ‘Are we still going to have farmers, not only in terms of the workforce but also people who have sufficient knowledge of both agriculture and technology and who are skilled in transferring this knowledge to future generations?

Can they keep up with developing technologies, develop farming in innovative ways and develop systems that will yield more harvest with less labour?

The answer to these questions will determine our future. Why should we ask these questions and how can we transform the answers to ‘yes’?


The youth population in the world and the average age of those involved in farming are increasing. According to United Nations estimates, there are about 1.2 billion young people aged between 15 and 24. This is equivalent to 16% of the global population. It is also estimated that young people in the poorest countries will increase by 62% by 2050 and these young people are competing with each other to settle in urban areas that they consider to have more livable conditions, because the agricultural image that sticks in their minds is to start working before sunrise, returning to their home hours after sunset, and not earn enough money for all this labour so that they cannot even afford to live until the end of the month.

Our farmers, the future of our food, are often reluctant to pass on their professions to future generations because of these difficulties.


To prevent ageing in agriculture and to draw more young people into the food sector, one of our focuses might be to transfer information to young people not only on farming but also on climate change and sustainable development that are directly related to this. In the last few years, sustainable development goals have come up in many ways. As mentioned frequently in various media channels, private companies and the public sector have started to share their contributions on their websites with annual sustainability reports. This is an opportunity to voice our concerns on the agri-food sector by drawing the attention of young people to climate change and sustainable development goals. This doesn’t mean creating a hopeless image but rather creating awareness of the future of farming by relating it to these topics.

There are many ways to engage with the young generation. These solutions should not be considered separately but using a holistic approach.

Innovation, Social media and ICT

Using digital platforms effectively is crucial to reach out to young people. It is a well-known fact that the use of social media is rapidly increasing among almost all young people, regardless of continent. Monitoring previous projects through digital platforms plays an effective role in sharing experiences and stories to attract young people's attention.

Stories about rural life and agriculture are always inspiring. It takes real stability and ambition to work for hours every day and do this for the rest of one’s life. Rikolto supports young farmers and young entrepreneurs around the world to rewrite these challenging stories. With our support, we bring meaning to what they do and promote innovations. Reducing the workforce and creating sustainable supply chains through innovations ensures that farming as a profession has a future and provides an adequate livelihood. Not only do we provide a fair income for farmers, but we also give them time back. Imagine these ambitious people finishing their daily work in 8 hours instead of 16 hours - in the time saved one can go to school, learn a new language, and expand one’s network overseas.

A success story in the use of digital platforms by a Ugandan youth-led innovative start-up: Bringo Fresh

Bringo Fresh is a food delivery company that purchases its products directly from Ugandan farmers and has an e-commerce platform that allows its customers to order fresh products. As a consequence of Bringo Fresh’s work, the consumers can buy quality products at affordable prices without stepping outside during the pandemic, while the farmers get sustainable income by producing better quality.
The story of Bringo actually begins with the goal of reducing food waste in Uganda, which was over 30%. This platform, which creates a win-win situation for both the consumer and the farmer, offers many job opportunities in the agri-food sector. For effective inventory management, the marketing and advertising side of an e-commerce company using technology is inevitable. Not only on the technological side, but also, motorcycle riders are at the core of the food delivery company, and the rapid increase in orders requires the company to hire new riders. There are a group of people seeking jobs. Youth! Is there any better way than creating the conditions for young entrepreneurs in the agri-food sector to kick-start their own job-creating companies? Read more

When it comes to innovation, it would be wrong to talk about the changes that can only be achieved by using high-cost technologies. A group of young innovators developing a new business model for ecological transformation is another story to be told regarding innovation.

In Peru, 15 young workers and children of coffee growers in La Prosperidad de Chirinos, an organisation that produces organic coffee mainly for export, have another use for it by selecting and drying the coffee shells, which are often discarded and used as fertiliser, to transform them into a high-value premium product aimed at the infusion market. The use of coffee husks is a rising trend in the sector, and young people along the chain (baristas, entrepreneurs, professionals in cooperatives) are promoting it as part of a new circular coffee economy, as well as to renew the business. Since 2018, Rikolto has been supporting a group of young people from the cooperative. Through workshops, internships, and exposure to the entrepreneurial ecosystem, the young people strengthened their skills to create a business model that could then be supported by the cooperative.

The venture has provided not only an incentive for research and eco-business development, but also an opportunity for the young people of the cooperative (137) to be recognised for their contribution to the business vision and to a new line of work

Lith Montés Rikolto's coordinator for the coffee project in Peru

Improving the image of agriculture

The image of the agricultural sector and the awareness of its challenges trigger the young generation's decision not to move forward in this field. We can encourage young people who want to advance in agriculture by destroying this bad image by making the projects carried out jointly by private companies and non-governmental organisations more visible with a brand new approach. What should this approach be? Do not focus on failures - instead focus on the positive impacts of the projects and opportunities with concrete examples.

What we have learned so far is that even the smallest steps we take appear as success stories or lessons learned in the future. Our approach in communication is to be the source of inspiration in collaboration with young people for other organisations. As Rikolto continues to pioneer more projects and promote more initiatives, the number of stories to be told will increase, as well as the young people involved.

Rikolto started the Yes Youth Can project to make the cocoa sector more attractive for young people in Nicaragua, and took advantage to create a better image by partnering with the Nicaraguan cocoa cooperative La Campesina and Colruyt Group, a Belgian supermarket chain. These young people were also trained to gain experience and transfer their knowledge to their peers. In 2018, Colruyt Group started selling the single-origin chocolate produced by 206 young cocoa farmers involved in the project. The story doesn’t end here - Colruyt and its corporate foundation still invest revenue from chocolate bars to fund training in innovative cocoa production techniques. While the customers savour these tasty chocolate bars produced using sustainable cocoa production techniques, young Nicaraguan farmers continue to gain knowledge and skills. Read more

’Lately, I have become more interested in the production of cocoa and in how to grow this crop. For me, cocoa production is very important in the sense that it is a stable plant from which you can generate income. For me, the most important issue is the land and learning how to graft, because that way you can improve your production and also get training on pruning and about renewing plantations. It’s a dream because we have been taken into account both at the cooperative level and also as individuals.

Aminta Benites, 23 ASOPRO

Enabling access to finance and training opportunities

Investment and public spending on agriculture are low and finance is difficult to come by for young people, let alone for young women. In common perceptions, agriculture is still closely linked with poverty. In these circumstances, guiding and supporting young people is crucial. This way, they can create innovative start-ups in the agri-food sector, not only generating a good income for them but also contributing to the sustainability of the food system.

If we provide this support to the current farmers or food-related businesses, people will want to pass this future on to the next generations and a youth chain in agriculture will be established - a youth chain that makes our future more sustainable and fairer with each link we add.

In Arusha, Rikolto supports young entrepreneurs who are trying to run their businesses and young people with business ideas to access training opportunities & finance. 158 young entrepreneurs who had been informed through social media platforms and radio stations in Arusha participated in a 2-day Hackathon, and 65 selected young entrepreneurs were trained by Rikolto in a 2-week Generation Food Camp. Intensive work has been done to contribute to their marketing, financial and entrepreneurial skills. The 25 finalists were awarded low-interest loans which were more sustainable than cash prizes. Lack of knowledge and skills make it difficult for young talents to turn their innovative and fresh ideas into action. By supporting these entrepreneurs, Rikolto hopes to positively impact the food system and agri-food sector in Arusha.

Read more

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