Many rural youths are seeking higher-paying jobs in urban centers. Their exodus strains the farms that provide 80 percent of the regions’ available food. To ensure this demand is met, we must offer profitable agricultural opportunities for young people both on and off the farm. The current youth population (around 1.6 billion) nearly matches that of the entire earth in 1900. Tapping into the potential of this workforce, these young people can contribute to profitable economies and stimulate innovation.

The survival of farms always depends on the next generation. In sub-Saharan Africa, for example, one-third of employed youth (350 million) will work in agriculture by 2035. Thomas Jayne makes the case that supporting this upcoming generation of farmers will determine the financial growth of these regions. According to Jayne, increased farm production and income can lead to and support a technology-driven economy. Whether agro-dealers, farmers or food processors, creating and maintaining these jobs will be key to national economic development.

Agricultural opportunities also exist off the farm in the research lab. Sir Gordon Conway points out that feeding the world necessitates a new generation of scientists in agricultural research and development. Equipping the youth to become agricultural scientists will drive job creation while spurring innovation and sustainable development. Sustainable development will take place when researchers and their institutions invest in youth. For example, Dr. Norman Borlaug spent much of his life mentoring young researchers. His dedication resulted in the creation of the Norman Borlaug Institute for International Agriculture, an effort of Texas A&M University that continues Borlaug’s legacy of feeding the world.

Young people are a powerful workforce. It is up to us to engage them in profitable agricultural pursuits that can ensure both global economic growth and increased food security.

Join the conversation on Twitter and visit IFDC Perspectives next week for a guest blog on nutrition from Dyno Keatinge, Director General of the World Vegetable Center.

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