Last year, YPARD, Dryland Systems CRP and HAFL teamed up to conduct a pilot study on ‘Youth and Agriculture in the Drylands’ to better understand the realities, viewpoints, aspirations and challenges of rural youth living in the agricultural dryland areas of Midelt, Morocco.
The province, characterized by steep mountain slopes and numerous valleys, is located between the High and Middle Atlas in the northern part of the country. Besides traditional nomadic (sheep, goats) and sedentary (sheep, goats, cows, poultry) forms of pastoralism, both annual (vegetables, fodder legumes, grain) and perennial crops (such as apple and other fruit trees) play a vital role for farmers’ subsistence and their income. The main crop that grows under rainfed conditions is barley.
With the ongoing study, supported by the Drylands CGIAR Research program, we aim at providing a diagnostic analysis for policy makers and researchers to better take into account the specific situations of youth engaging in the three agricultural livelihoods systems (ALS’s) of dry areas, namely ‘irrigated’, ‘rainfed’ and ‘pastoral’. Besides, we try to unearth external factors that have implications on youth’s choices and decisions (e.g. the decision to stay in their current place or to migrate), and their overall contribution and participation in agricultural development. This shall form the basis for the discussion and the potential role of Agricultural Research for Development in improving their livelihoods based on their own perspectives.
We have been carrying out a survey – applying a purposeful sampling approach – between October 2015 and March 2016, comprising a total of 100 in-depth interviews with rural youth (with 69 young men and 31 young women). In addition, we are conducting key informant interviews and we recorded 23 short videos with rural youth to visualize their realities and aspirations. To better understand what type or rural life young people would want, we made use of a creative and participatory approach during focus group discussions (FGDs) to get youths to draw the ‘village of their dreams’ where they could have a more comfortable life with their own families and farm better.
While we drafted some preliminary findings, we are currently undertaking the analysis of the data and the results will be available in June.
Our preliminary findings
In areas where food security has been assured, before expressing their aspirations in their rural life and career, youth raised first the issue of the lack of primary needs which are not fulfilled yet in the surveyed villages, i.e. access to education, access to potable water, a lack of roads and infrastructure and heath care. The excessive degradation of natural resources and poor water strongly affect the livelihoods in all the three systems.
Many youth are illiterate, they own little or no land, and only few livestock, no properties, and they are cut out of job opportunities offered in the surrounding areas due to a lack of infrastructure. Young women’s positions are even more unfavorable, as their choices and desires are strongly influenced or taken by their fathers or husbands and their level of education is even lower than that of their male peers. The use of modern information and communication technology (ICT) is limited to mobile phones and internet use was not very widespread.
Training on agricultural practices is required – including livestock management, the use of inputs, etc. – as the present system of associations and cooperatives fails to include youth. Value added activities within the agricultural sector are very limited. Only few youths reported to process or add value to their produce, and often these activities did not encompass what is sold on the markets but were instead limited to subsistence production.
Migration from their rural homes to urban areas – and generally to other places – was found to be a controversial issue among the youths that were interviewed. Many young people expressed their wish to stay with their families in the surroundings where they grew up and have lived since.
However, not a few of them stated that the generally difficult conditions of establishing their own independent livelihood in their current place may force them to leave their homes in search of a better life elsewhere. This is why it is so crucial to better understand the realities and needs of rural youth in agriculture. Increased research is required from the CRPs and a better focus and collaborative action from different stakeholders engaging in the field of agricultural development.
Keep an eye open for our final report expected to be ready in June 2016.
Alessandra Giuliani, Sebastian Mengel and Courtney Paisley
Acknowledgement: Karin Reinprecht, Oliver Oliveros, Mariana Wongtschowski, Ingrid Flink, Nicole Perkins, and local partner ‘Association Al amal’ Midelt: Aomar Melkaoui, Ben Youssef Aït Daoud, Abdelatif Abdelaali, Abdellatif Ouzougagh, Mohamed Ouled Cherif, Malika Chkirni
Photo courtesy: the study team (HAFL, YPARD) - FGD in Tiswite village: young ladies depicting the village of their dreams