Youth and migration in food systems

Youth transitions and livestock in Kenya

Renee Bullock

Globally, the youth transition to adulthood is becoming more complex. The relative importance of key milestones that are used to describe the transition from youth to adulthood are culturally embedded and change across generations. So-called critical moments may include completing education, moving from school to the labor force, leaving home, marriage and parenthood. In the global south, sub-Saharan Africa in particular, agricultural and livestock assets are also culturally valued and often critical to supporting major achievements in transitions. What can we learn from youth studies to better understand youth engagement in agriculture and livestock sectors? This work aims to bridge youth and gender studies to explore young women’s and men’s transitions, and the various ways that livestock feature in the achievement of key milestones. What are young women’s and men’s values and experiences as they enter adulthood? How does livestock feature in youth transitions and for whom? Recognizing that gender and age intersect to create and constrain youth opportunities and experiences, we undertake a gendered analysis of livestock value chain actors to explore their perspectives on the importance and attainment of milestones. We use a mixed-methods approach that includes 700 market surveys, 38 focus group discussions and 20 key informant interviews in six counties in Kenya that include pastoral, agropastoral and mixed crop systems in both peri-urban and rural settings. We describe the shifts in cultural values across diverse contexts over time and the various roles that livestock play in supporting youth transitions.

Livelihood aspirations and realities of young people in a Myanmar fishing community

Indika Arulingam

Youth livelihoods in food-systems are increasingly the focus of development institutions, drawing attention to how the livelihood aspirations of young people shape their engagements with food-systems. This study sought to understand the livelihood aspirations of young people from a historically poor and marginalized fishing community in the Ayeyarwady Delta of Myanmar, and how these aspirations shaped livelihood realities. Data collection was through focus group discussions (seven FGDs) and semi-structured interviews with youth and other household members, from fisher households and others in the village (73 interviews, including 15 female youth 13 male youth from fisher households).
For these youth, the political and economic transitions experienced by Myanmar in the last decade offered aspirations for new desired futures, beyond those associated with poverty and marginalization. However, for many of these young people, due to the realities of their socio-economic and gendered positioning, aspiring did not involve a straightforward navigation towards futures that were strictly defined. Instead, their aspirations remained broad and vague, and concretized, on strongly gendered terms, based on opportunities encountered in the present. Therefore, while few of their livelihood realities aligned with these desired futures, in a changing environment considered synonymous with progress, these engagements were marked by a sense of temporariness, and a looking to the future for better opportunities to emerge. The study contributes to the growing recognition that the livelihood engagements of many young people and their intersections with food-systems are not marked by complete arrivals or departures, but by a moving in and out of multiple geographies and sectors.

Men’s rural-to-urban migration in Burundi: Effects on banana farming systems by left behind women

Francois Iradukunda

Men’s outmigration triggers organizational changes in households and influences household labor expectations, power relations and agricultural practices. It also has important influences on reshaping the family structure and transforming the traditional gender roles in rural societies. This case study draws upon a mixed-methods research design involving 29 semi-structured interviews, 6 focus group discussions, and a household survey (N=180) to shed light on how a ‘men's crop’ is managed by wives in the absence of their outmigrated husbands. While prevailing narratives consider the banana as a ‘men’s crop’, we highlight the significant ways that household structural changes induced by men’s outmigration challenge these narratives. In the absence of the outmigrated husbands, the wives become primary decision-makers and have as much interest as men in the banana crop. We find that not having enough land implies not having banana, the main source of income in Burundi, which leads to poverty and men’s outmigration. At the same time, migration remittances contribute to the acquisition of land and banana, and the wives of migrants play a key role in that process. However, the negative stereotypes surrounding men’s views on women's capabilities to manage the farms, and existing gender-differentiated norms in the household and on the farm, are likely to perpetuate and reinforce existing gender inequalities embedded in the management of cash crops such as banana. This study suggests exploring shifting gender roles and practices in farm management without men (rather than relying on stereotypes) as an entry point to advocate for a gender-transformative approach in agriculture and food systems in Burundi.