Who calls the shots? Youth participation in agricultural decisions and national policy

New info note presents research findings from a study on youth decision making in agriculture

Young people are the backbone of a nation and can change the future of the society. However, in East Africa, precarious employment opportunities and challenges to traditional agricultural practices due to climate change have prompted the need to explore the role of the youth in adaptive farming practices. By learning the extent of their decision-making power in agricultural adaptations to climate change, researchers and development practitioners can better tailor programs and messages to young people.

As part of a research project on youth decision making in agricultural climate change adaptation strategies, data was collected in three CCAFS Climate-Smart Villages: Wote, Kenya; Hoima, Uganda; and Lushoto, Tanzania. At each site, focus group discussions and case study interviews were conducted with youth between the ages of 18-35 years old. All sessions were divided by gender and included youth who were involved in agriculture as some facet of their household’s livelihood. Half of all interviews were conducted with males, and half with females.

Policymakers and stakeholders were also interviewed individually in Nairobi, Kenya; Dar es Salaam, Tanzania; and Kampala, Uganda to understand their views on youth involvement in policymaking on issues related to climate change and agricultural adaptation, including representatives from national ministries, research institutions, finance institutions and NGOs in each country.

The interviewed youth involved in agriculture have an understanding of the impacts of climate change and how to appropriately adapt their agricultural practices in part because extension services have been successful in providing appropriate training for them. Decision making power of youth in agriculture is contingent upon their education and experience and also varies depending on age, gender, and marital status.

For example, a young unmarried woman still living with her parents has less influence on agricultural decisions for her household than a young man who is married and leads his own household. They may have similar levels of education, training, and experience, but their influence on agricultural decisions is mediated by their social standing in the household and community.

The primary agricultural concerns of youth in the three sites are lack of financial capital, lack of land ownership and lack of agricultural inputs. These deficits hinder the ability of youth to implement the adaptation strategies they have learned through various training sessions, thereby limiting their decision-making power at the household and community levels. Despite programs at the national level that offer loans, youth were quick to note that accessing this funding is not feasible, due to lack of transparency and complex bureaucratic requirements.

At the national level, the policymakers and other stakeholders who were interviewed reported the importance of youth and adaptation to climate change. However, although policymakers and stakeholders value the opinion of youth, involvement of youth in policymaking is indirect and limited.

What’s next?

The youth interviewed in Kenya, Tanzania and Uganda demonstrated an understanding of climate change and its impacts on agricultural productivity, however they need to be empowered in decision making at household and community levels. Government fund disbursement procedures to the youth need to be more transparent and less bureaucratic to allow easier access to the funds. Policymakers and stakeholders need to actively include the youth in national level decision making to better align their decisions with young people’s priorities and needs.

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