Farmers’ organisations and AgriCord’s role in rural transformation and in feeding cities and towns
- Farmers’ organisations (FOs) are stable, rural institutions, representing a good part of the rural population in negotiations on rural transition models and necessary investments, adapted to the rural population’s own context.
- By their services to their members and by their extension systems, farmers’ organisations can professionalise and boost farm employment and productivity. Farmers’ organisations are also a good medium to scale up measures for increased resilience to the effects of the climate change. This can be done through their own extension systems but also through their representation, lobby and advocacy work.
- Farmers’ organisations create off-farm employment through their farmer-led enterprises, also for rural youth.
- Farmers’ organisations contribute to feeding cities, directly by producing and trading food and by processing and handling food by their farmer-led enterprises. FOs are also stable and suitable mediums to improve the quality of products through internal quality control systems. They are the best placed rural institutions to scale up contracts and negotiate with traders.
Feeding towns and cities, rural transformation and integration of youth
Feeding Cities and Towns: The increased demand for food in the world and, in particular, the increased demand for quality food in cities and towns pose both challenges and opportunities. The relationship between rural and urban areas is changing and the rural-urban divide is fading. Growing urban demand for food – which now constitutes about 60–70 percent of food consumption in Asia and more than half in Africa – is met largely by trade. This trade and intensified rural-urban linkages bring about opportunities: generating new income opportunities in food value chains, boosting agricultural productivity, attracting youth to farming and creating jobs in the rural non-farm economy. This evolution can be meaningful for a successful rural economic transformation.
Rural transformation: Despite rapid urbanisation, by 2035, still more than 50 percent of the African poor will be living live in rural areas and depend significantly on agriculture. The same is true for other continents. (Cirad, Worldbank, IIED). In many African countries, agriculture will continue to be the main sector providing jobs and income opportunities in rural areas. It will also indirectly hold the highest potential for non-farm economic activity in the food-related service and processing industry. Moreover, the Worldbank points out that the agricultural labour productivity gap is smaller than commonly assumed and mainly due to underemployment. There is no evidence of intrinsic lower productivity in agriculture. Therefore, feeding cities and towns will need a more productive agriculture and a rural transformation process. At the same time, this transition to more productive farming will create new challenges such as labour market absorption of farmers dropping out of the agriculture, loss of social safety nets from traditional farming and farming communities and necessary adaptive measures to increase the resilience to the effects of climate change.
Integration of young rural population in rural transformation: The population in developing countries is young and rural. The majority of rural youth are employed in the informal economy as contributing family workers, subsistence farmers, home-based micro-entrepreneurs or unskilled workers. They typically earn low wages, are employed under casual or seasonal work arrangements, and face unsafe, often exploitative working conditions that compel many to migrate to urban areas (Worldbank, IFPRI, African Development Bank). Re-engaging youth in agriculture requires addressing the numerous constraints that they face when trying to earn a livelihood. Among others, they include low profitability of their current activities, insufficient access to skills development and education; limited access to resources such as land; and low levels of involvement in decision-making processes. Rural youth are also typically lacking access to financial resources – which further hinders their ability to participate in the sector. Integration of rural youth in Farmers’ organisations is not self-evident either. In a research amongst their partner Farmers’ organisations in 2016, Agriterra found that currently, only 10 percent of the board members is under 30.
 According to the FAO, agricultural production will have to increase by around 60% in order to support both this increase in the global population ( an increase of 50 million per year) and the changes in eating habits.
 According to the African Development Bank, 10 to 12 million youth complement the workforce in Africa each year, yet only about 3 million formal jobs are created. Urban areas continue to attract rural youth, as many do not consider agricultural employment as an attractive future. This had led to an ageing of agriculture in some countries- in Ghana, for example, the average age of farmers is already 55.
Senior Economist in the Office of the Chief Economist for the Africa region of the World Bank
National Coordinator, Uganda National Young Farmers Association
Aaltje de Roos
Senior policy advisor in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hagu
Commissioner for the special initiative “ONE WORLD – No Hunger“ and Head of Directorate 12 Food, Agriculture, Rural Development, BMZ
Expert advisor on agriculture and development at the Belgium Directorate for Development Cooperation, Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Senior advisor on Rural Development and Food Security at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Finland