Decent jobs for rural youth key to Africa’s prosperity: UN

(131202) -- ROME, Dec. 2, 2013 (Xinhua) -- Director General of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Jose Graziano da Silva speaks during an interview with Xinhua at headquarters of the FAO in Rome, Italy, Nov. 20, 2013. China is among the 62 countries that have achieved the first Millennium Development Goal, namely halving extreme poverty rates by 2015, chief of the Rome-based UN food agency has told Xinhua in an exclusive interview recently. (Xinhua/Xu Nizhi)(hy)

Khartoum,  Africa must, in coming decades, explore the entire food chain to create adequate jobs for young people, especially in rural areas, the head of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation said on Thursday.

“Countries need to promote a rural and structural transformation that fosters synergies between farm and non-farm activities and that reinforces the linkages between rural areas and cities,” said FAO Director General Jose Graziano da Silva.

This includes processing, packaging, transportation, distribution, marketing and service provision, especially financial and business services, he said at FAO’s Regional Conference for Africa centered on the theme of creating decent and attractive jobs in the continent – the world’s youngest in terms of the average age of its population.

Estimates suggest that up to 12 million new jobs will have to be created every year to absorb new labour market entrants over the next 20 years, FAO said.

Today some 54 percent of Africa’s workforce – especially farming families – rely on agriculture for their livelihoods, income and employment, the UN agency said.

With more people moving to cities, demand on urban food markets will grow, which in turn can generate job opportunities in all agriculture-related activities, but more must be done to create non-agricultural employment in rural areas, including agro-tourism and other services, FAO believes.

“More than ever, strategic partnerships are needed to bring together the African Union, the African Development Bank and the UN system and other development partners,” Graziano da Silva said.

He pointed to FAO’s regional programme, “Youth Employment: enabling decent agriculture and agri-business jobs”, which goes beyond farm jobs and seeks to develop capacity and scale up successful approaches through programme formulation and partnerships.

But FAO urged measures to help smallholders and farming families as more profitable urban markets can concentrate food production in large commercial farms, with large processors and retailers dominating the value chain (products or services sold to consumers).

“Smallholders and family farmers need specific policies and regulations. This includes providing access to inputs, credit and technology and improving land tenure,” Graziano da Silva said.

Social protection programmes, including cash transfers can play a crucial role by linking public food purchases to family farmers’ production, he noted.