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The 21st century has witnessed a constant growth in international development with most NGOs expanding their operations to rural areas which are fast becoming development hotspots. The general impression about rural areas in our world nowadays is gradually changing from a place of little or no opportunities to that of hope for our world. There exist a general consensus amongst development experts that most urban areas are becoming too crowded because of the general belief about a better life. It is true that urban areas offer so many opportunities for growth and development as a result of different facilities which are available from health, to education and economic development opportunities however the rural areas present huge untapped resources and some of these places which were once considered rural have now been absolved by our towns which are growing every day.
The importance of having a strong rural youth presence in the midst of these growing rural areas is therefore of prime importance. The challenge is that youth are understandably constantly on the move in search of better opportunities while at the same time, their innovation skills and energy is quintessential in rural transformation. A 2014 IFAD report talks about the fact that ‘An increasingly urbanized world will rely on rural areas for goods and services, such as food and green energy. Thus, rural transformation must foster sustainable livelihood opportunities for the young people of today and tomorrow, and this demands an end of the traditional neglect at planning and policy levels of rural concerns in general and smallholder agriculture in particular. There is a pressing need for coordinated responses to emerging dynamics such as migration, urbanization, growing pressures on food production systems, economic integration and globalization, and climate change, and these responses must be sensitive to the realities of present and projected youth demographics. Rural youth issues should be viewed within these broader processes of change, as prospects for creating viable and sustainable livelihoods for expanding rural youth populations will depend on the wider environment of pro-poor transformation.’
The Commonwealth Youth Council recognises the need for these rural youth to be part of the change process and for them to have a say in the decisions and the policies made by governments, NGOs and other stakeholders involved in the rural transformation process. The ‘No Future for Us Without Us’ slogan has had a large following within the last few years because of the need to involve young people in decision making process. The CYC aims to involve rural youths in every step of our programme design process and this explains why we intend to start implementing our strategy with a Rural Needs Assessment that will help us ascertain the best way to communicate and reach rural youth and the best way that they can engage with the Commonwealth Youth Council. This would help us to better understand the needs of young people in rural areas and to adapt some of our proposed strategies to these needs. It would empower them as it is an effective way of ensuring that they take part in decisions and issues which directly concerns them. Furthermore, our Rural Needs Assessment which is in the form of a questionnaire would be administered in different regions of the Commonwealth in order to ensure that we get the rural story from different angles, create rural development partnerships and opportunities for exchange of ideas in the different rural regions of the Commonwealth.
Rural youth just like their urban peers have a passion for rural innovation and the wind of positive change is blowing slowly but surely in rural areas and rural innovation hubs are providing everyday solutions to everyday problems. It is therefore hoped that after this Rural Needs Assessment which aims to highlight the needs of these young people, stakeholders should be able to design programs which can cater for these needs.
Contributed by Alphonse Akouyu
- Investing in young rural people for sustainable and equitable development by Rosemary Vargas-Lundius Senior Researcher, Statistics and Studies for Development division, Strategy and Knowledge Management Department, IFAD and David Suttie Consultant, Statistics and Studies for Development division, Strategy and Knowledge Management Department IFAD young rural people for sustainable and equitable development
- Images from IFAD’s #YouthDay album collection