World Food Day: Migration, Agriculture and Youth

With the celebrations for World Food Day on Monday, we thought we’d take a close look at this year’s theme!

World Food Day is celebrated on the 16th of October each year – the birthday of the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organization (UNFAO). This year, the UNFAO turns 72!

The theme for 2017 is “Change the future of migration. Invest in food security and rural development”.

Whilst there are many incredible and impactful ways to invest in food security and rural development, one important investment that cannot be overlooked, is the investment in shaping the agricultural sector as an attractive, highly valued and professional sector for young people.

But before we delve into that – what does migration have to do with Development Agriculture?

Well, migration is both a cause and consequence of agricultural development.

Migration has both challenges and opportunities for countries of origin, transit countries and destination countries. In fact, migrants can be agents of development and are a vital part of the development process.  But migration is also a symbol of underdevelopment and a result of undesirable conditions.

Agricultural development can improve rural underdevelopment – one of the prime causes of migration – by enhancing food security, providing employment and incomes, supporting economic growth, managing natural resources and addressing inequalities.

Simply, agricultural underdevelopment can be a push factor for migration – driving people away from rural areas due to food insecurity, low-incomes and poor livelihoods. Luckily, agricultural development can be a pull factor – driving people towards opportunities in agricultural related employment, improved food accessibility and improved livelihoods.

Development agriculture and migration are thus clearly linked. Here are some facts which may surprise you:

  • More than 75% of the world’s poor and food insecure live in rural areas, mostly depending on subsistence agricultural production.
  • It is estimated by the UNFAO that by 2050, over half the population in the least developed countries will still live in rural areas.
  • Three-quarters of the extreme poor base their livelihoods on agriculture or other rural activities.
  • There was a 40% increase in international migrants between 2000 and 2015, with the total number being approximately 244 million in 2015.
  • According to 2013 estimates, there were 763 million internal migrants.
  • The UNFAO reports that in many African countries, more than 50% of rural households report having at least one internal migrant.

So with a clear link between development agriculture and migration, what can be done?

Efforts geared towards a more productive agricultural sector and improved food systems in general, would promote rural development, enable diversification into manufacturing and services, and promote greater employment opportunities particularly in agribusiness. These efforts include:

  • Promoting the adoption of sustainable agricultural practices
  • Public policies targeting smallholder family farms
  • Diversification to off-farm agricultural employment, including investment along the supply chain, and promotion of value-added goods.
  • Improved rural education and vocational training for the agricultural workforce in developing regions
  • Strategies to make a career in agriculture attractive for the youth of developing regions, and to change perceptions of agriculture work to highly skilled and professional employment.

One large challenge of migration is the ‘brain drain’ from rural areas – particularly of young skilled workers. With perceptions of working in agriculture as being poorly paid and poorly skilled, many highly talented young people are driven from rural areas in search of more prestigious and seemingly well paid careers. This only perpetuates a cycle of rural underdevelopment and food insecurity. Instead, if young people saw careers in agriculture (right along the supply chain) as being highly skilled, highly valued, well-paid and well perceived, then cycles of food insecurity and rural underdevelopment caused by migration may also be broken for the better.

In the spirit of this year’s World Food Prize recipient, Akinwumi Adesina, we must make Agriculture cool again. This means investing in promoting agriculture as a good choice for young people.

According to Adesina , “this requires new agricultural innovations and transforming agriculture into a sector for creating wealth. We must make agriculture a really cool choice for young people. The future millionaires and billionaires of Africa will come initially from agriculture”.

“The key is to make agriculture a business. Agriculture is not a way of life, is not a development activity, it’s a business.”

“The future of African young people lies in a more prosperous and inclusive Africa, and there is no other sector that has greater power to create growth than the agricultural sector.”

Need some inspiration? Take a read of our earlier post to hear Lindiwe Sibanda tell her story of choosing a career in agriculture over dentistry, and the amazing achievements she has had personally, and the incredible impacts she has had for food security and rural development globally.

So this World Food Day, as we focus in on agricultural development and migration, let’s get down to one of the root causes and key opportunities: investing in improving the perceptions of agriculture!

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