Rural transformation, cereals and youth in Africa: What role for international agricultural research?
This article (PDF) in the journal Outlook on Agriculture examines the argument that the combination of agricultural value chains, technology and entrepreneurship will unlock a sweet spot for youth employment in Africa. This is done from a rural transformations perspective. The authors argue that there is a need to step back from the premise that research needs to explain whether, or how, rural young people can be enticed into agriculture. Using cereal agri-food systems as an example, the article identifies two new research areas that address important knowledge gaps: how young rural people in Africa engage with these systems and what pathways they use to become engaged. To address these questions, an analytical framework is proposed built around key contextual factors that constrain or enable young people’s economic activity. This framework analyzes young people’s economic room to manoeuvre in different rural contexts and the differential abilities of young people to exploit associated opportunities. Finally, the authors caution against attempts to introduce ‘youth mainstreaming’ in international agricultural research. Rather than constructing youth as a new and supposedly homogeneous target group whose concerns can be addressed independently of the rest of society, there is an important opportunity to use the interest in young people to resocialize understandings of, and attempts to influence, African rural transformation.