Youth in Extension and Advisory Services: Rwanda. Developing Local Extension Capacity Project


Approximately 88 percent of the world’s 1.2 billion youth (ages 15-24 as defined by the UN) live in developing countries. By 2050, the global population of youth is projected to rise to 1.8 billion, with 35 percent of that estimated to live on the African continent. This presents a challenge to many developing countries given the need to create economic opportunities for this growing segment of the population. According to the World Bank, even if countries had suitable conditions for growth and economic transformation, the job market in developing countries could not absorb the growing number of young people projected to become eligible for jobs. In addition to the youth bulge, meeting the growing global demand for food and nutrition also presents a challenge, with some estimates citing a need to increase food availability by 70-100 percent. At the same time, factors such as an increasingly globalized and connected world, higher global incomes, urbanization and widespread access to digital tools are creating new opportunities in agri-food systems for youth and other rural actors. Tapping into the potential of youth and creating opportunities for them in agriculture, including in extension and advisory services (EAS), will be key to meeting global food and nutrition needs as well as achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and Feed the Future’s Food Secure 2030 vision. Rural extension and advisory services are defined as all the different activities that provide the information and services needed by farmers and other players in the agri-food system and rural development to develop and build their technical, organizational and management capacities, so they can improve their quality of life and well-being (Christoplos, 2010). Governments, bilateral and multilateral aid agencies, the private sector agri-food companies and educational institutions have all recognized and emphasized the importance of youth in the global economy, and especially farming and food systems, as a major driver of the economy and contributor to agricultural transformation. Some 32 African countries have policies on youth, including Ethiopia, Nigeria, Rwanda and Uganda. However, young people face many barriers within agriculture such as access to land, finance, education and adequate skills. Additionally, climate change, rural to urban migration trends and increasing population pressures on land will make agriculture even more challenging in the future. Agricultural extension and advisory services present a unique opportunity to engage youth as both recipients and providers of these services. EAS has an important role to play in youth and leadership development throughout the education system, not just when young people enter the job market. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded Feed the Future Developing Local Extension Capacity (DLEC) to target Feed the Future countries to measurably improve extension programs, policies and services by creating locally-tailored, partnership-based solutions and by mobilizing active communities of practice to advocate for scaling proven approaches. The five-year (2016-2021) project is designed to diagnose, test and share best-fit solutions for agricultural extension systems and services across the Feed the Future countries. Led by Digital Green in partnership with Care International, the International Food Policy Research Institute and the Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services, DLEC is an action-oriented, evidencebased learning project that generates evidence through diagnostic studies and engagement activities, which in turn are used as a catalyst for mobilizing global and country-level communities of practice to advocate for improved EAS. This report on youth in extension and advisory services in Rwanda is one such diagnostic study