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Rural youth and the Berlin charter

A high level meeting, informing the G20 on rural youth and innovation? How could YPARD not take part? 

By 2017 we really have seen a shift in attention towards youth, with a significant focus on how agriculture fits into the picture. At the ONE World no hunger meeting, high level panelists gave presentations on the importance of attracting youth to the agricultural sector. The primary output of the meeting was to develop a Charter, dubbed the Berlin Charter, to present to the G20 meeting in Hamburg,in July to the G20 leaders to take forward. 

Mohammed Yunus called on the crowd for a new way to address the issue. He said that if you have a new destination you have to build new roads. We thus, need new ways of doing things. GIZ indicated that they want youth to be 20% of their target population going forward, which is a big step in the right direction.

Some points of note came out of the entrepreneurship, jobs and skills session. 

  1. Entrepreneurs are still less than 5% of the labour force, globally. They are often not in rural areas because they need to be close to the market. 
  2. It was emphasized that structures of employment change very slowly and that they do not change alone. Rural structural change is linked to structural change in urban areas. Thus, we cannot expect massive job growth to spring out of a very low level of entrepreneurship. 
  3. The reliability of market exchanges are needed to ensure that new entrepreneurs and buyers see that this is a feasible and workable market.
  4. Household earnings are still very diversified. Complicated livelihood portfolios are expected to reduce over time as people begin to specialize.
  5. A stronger evidence base is needed for understanding contextualised employment in rural areas.

The Charter, while generic, places a strong emphasis on the role of youth as innovators in the rural areas. While this is important, I am personally more skeptical about entrepreneurship  as a silver bullet solution, and would ensure that traditional job creation and rural development more broadly are also key areas of focus.  

130 youth from Africa and Europe had taken part in several days in advance of the event, visiting farms in Germany and contributing to the draft charter at the event.  The youth that I spoke to were thankful for the opportunity to expand their horizons but did feel that model farms in Germany were not the most relevant to their situations and that exchanges within Africa could have provided a more useful model for their own purposes.

We’ll keep watching this space and see how things unfold. We hope that YPARD can be a strong partner in moving this forward, engaging with youth in their countries and listening to what they feel are the priorities and the way we can work together.

Watch the video on the Berlin Charter – G20 Conference - The Future of the Rural World. Additionally, view the conversations online via the hashtag #oneworldnohunger.

Photo Credit: Suparna