The world’s population is young, with nearly 2.2 billion people under the age of 18 of which 85 percent are living in developing countries. FAO recognizes that this next generation holds the key to the future. At the same time, children and young people, particularly girls, are among the most vulnerable to hunger and malnutrition, as they affect their physical and mental development and inhibit their ability to learn and participate in social and recreational activities. In developing countries, agriculture represents a – if not the – main employer: in sub-Saharan Africa, for example, half of the young labour force works in agriculture. For these reasons, FAO incorporates and emphasizes youth in its international efforts to increased food security and promote environmental sustainability.
Mobilizing FAO for Youth
Under FAO’s new Strategic Objectives, support targeted at youth is a priority area. FAO has designated a youth Focal Point in each of its regional and country offices, responsible for coordinating regional and national actions for and with youth. Mechanisms to incorporate youth concerns and voices in international processes are also provided: for example, since 2010, youth has been recognized as a constituency in the Civil Society Mechanism (CSM) of the intergovernmental Committee on World Food Security (CFS), hosted by FAO.
Of course, many of FAO’s regular programmes also offer youth-specific activities, a few of which will be explored in greater detail below. FAO provides a vast range of educational materials for children and young people, their teachers and facilitators, including:
- The Feeding Minds, Fighting Hunger portal, which is packed with information and games for interested young people on different issues of global importance.
- Resources on School Gardening, aimed at schools or youth groups eager to grow some crops and learn about farming.
- The Education for Rural People (ERP) website, which aims to bridge the divide between urban-rural knowledge, education and training. The ERP Tool Kit targets rural youth professionals, volunteer leaders and young people with relavant trainings, publications such as handbooks, guides, training modules and curriculum materials.
Youth Employment: Junior Farmer Field and Life Schools (JFFLS)
Of the world’s estimated 211 million unemployed people in 2009, nearly 40% – or about 81 million – were between 15 to 24 years old. Unfortunately, the vast majority of jobs available to youth are low paid, insecure, and with few benefits or prospects for advancement. Especially in the rural regions of developing countries, the situation can be one of extreme hardship. This scarcity of decent work, decent living opportunities and little hope of a better future are the main factors pushing youth to migrate from rural to urban areas or abroad.
In order to help address these specific needs of vulnerable rural youth in developing countries, FAO and ILO have jointly developed the Junior Farmer Field and Life School (JFFLS) programme. The goal of the JFFLS is to empower vulnerable youth, and provide them with the employment and livelihood options needed for long-term food security while reducing their vulnerability to destitution and offering them risk coping strategies. JFFLS also aim to promote the creation of gender-equal attitudes, by enabling youth to exercise the same roles and responsibilities regardless of gender and developing their capacities to critically assess relationships and understand the risks and resources present within their community. The strength of the JFFLS programme is its unique learning methodology and curriculum, which combines agricultural, life and entrepreneurship skills in an experiential and participatory learning approach uniquely suited to rural communities and low literacy levels.
The JFFLS approach has been adapted to address the orphan crisis associated with the HIV epidemic, emergency situations, climate change, rural youth employment and child labour prevention. Since 2004, the JFFLS programme has trained over 25 000 people in 25 countries.
The Youth and United Nations Global Alliance (YUNGA)
Hosted by FAO since its foundation in 2009, YUNGA acts as a gateway to allow children and youth to participate in the activities and initiatives of the United Nations. YUNGA partners collaborate to produce the YUNGA Challenge Badge and Youth Guide series, which aim to raise awareness, educate and, most of all, motivate young people to change their behaviour and become active agents of change in their local communities.
Existing or upcoming Challenge Badges include Agriculture, Biodiversity, Climate Change, Energy, Forests, Governance, Hunger, Nutrition, the Ocean, Soils and Water. Challenge Badges include a wide range of activities and ideas appropriate for use with school classes and youth groups, and are endorsed by the World Association of Girl Guides and Girl Scouts (WAGGGS) and the World Organization of the Scout Movement (WOSM). The Youth Guide series complements the Challenge Badges with further, in-depth background information on topics of environmental and social concern. Existing or upcoming Youth Guides include the topics Biodiversity, Climate Change, Forests and the Ocean.
Youth and Climate Change
The food security of tomorrow’s generation depends on the sustainable practices and behaviour of today’s. FAO therefore places a special emphasis on the theme of youth and climate change. Children and young people are concerned, thoughtful citizens, capable of participating in, and changing the society of which they are a part, and they have an important role to play in addressing the issues of our world. They also have enthusiasm, imagination and abundant energy to undertake local actions, act as effective communicators in their communities and be involved in international arenas. Both independently and as a member of the Joint Framework Initiative on Children, Youth and Climate Change as well as the United Nations Alliance on Education, Training and Public Awareness, FAO works to develop resources, activities and the mechanisms to enhance awareness, access to information and participation of children and young people on climate change.
FAO Focal Point for Youth: Reuben Sessa, firstname.lastname@example.org
Youth and United Nations Global Alliance: email@example.com