Creating opportunities for rural youth: IFAD 2019 Rural Development Report

International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
What is it?

This report is examines who rural youth are, where they live, and the multiple constraints they face in their journey from dependence to independence. It is based on substantive evidence and attempts to provide the kind of analysis that can inform policies, programmes and investments to promote a rural transformation that is inclusive of youth. A distinguishing feature of this report is that it examines rural development in the context of the transformation of rural areas and the wider economy. Opportunities for young women and men begin with a transformation towards a dynamic rural economy. These opportunities depend on the national, rural and household settings in which young people reside. Only by understanding these multiple layers can governments and decision-makers design effective policies and investments to enable young rural women and men to become productive and connected individuals who are in charge of their own future.


Nearly 1 billion of the world’s 1.2 billion youth aged 15-24 reside in developing countries. Their numbers are growing far more rapidly in lower income countries than in higher income countries, particularly in rural areas. In fact, rural youth make up around half of all youth in developing countries. The growing youth population has enormous potential.

Investing in young people can yield boundless results in terms of poverty reduction, employment generation and food and nutrition security. After all, they are the farmers, workers and entrepreneurs of tomorrow. Their energy and dynamism is needed to transform food systems and rural areas. They have the potential to help feed the world and thus solve one of the biggest global challenges. These young women and men are key to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 and indeed, to our planet’s future.

But there are obstacles and challenges in their way. Young people are approximately three times more likely than adults to be unemployed. About 150 million young workers are among the working poor; and every year 14 million young Africans alone are expected to enter the job market – and the majority live in remote communities. Constraints on access to land, natural resources, finance, technology, knowledge, information and education also make it difficult for young people to seize opportunities for bettering their lives and contributing to the rural economy. At the same time, the rapid pace of change today is altering the landscape and challenging traditional paths to development.

The question is, how can rural youth prepare to prosper in this new world of intelligent automation and digital giants, globalized communication of information, aspiration and values, and a changing climate and shifting dietary habits – all of which have major implications for rural life and economies.

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