Engaging with youth in wheat and maize agri-food systems

05 Jan 2017 by Courtney Paisley

young Mexican farmer holding the YPARD brochureAs more and more  organizations begin to explore how they can more strongly engage youth in their work, members of YPARD are continuously being approached to provide their experiences and insights to inform discussions and decision-making. 

Such was the case of researchers from CIMMYT who are exploring how they can best understand and provide the research to address issues related to youth in maize and wheat agri-food systems. Representatives from YPARD and KIT travelled to CIMMYT’s headquarters to provide insight into these discussions as well as find out a taste of what is happening among producers in the area. 

In the field

interviews with farmers in the local market

The project of MasAgro – the Sustainable Modernization of Traditional Agriculture, linked us with five young farmers in the Guanjuato area of Mexico. Our aim was to obtain some insight into the motivations of these farmers to enter into agriculture, the challenges they face, and where they feel more efforts could be provided.  Some general observations from these discussions include :

  • The more innovative young farmers were generally those who had greater freedom from their parents (their fathers in particular) in managing the farm. One farmer said ‘My father doesn’t care what I do with the land, as long as I make a good return’;
  • Access to land is a challenge, by young farmers in particular and to young women farmers to the greatest degree.  All farmers that were interviewed were male and those to which we spoke stated that succession options were linked to sons instead of daughters;
  • Migration to the United States is a popular choice among young Mexicans, but if opportunities are present, the desire is less pressing. A 14 year of Mexican boy said: “Why should I migrate to the US when I have land”? His dream was to study agronomy and take over his father’s land. 
  • There continues to be an information and training gap among producers who receive technical assistance from programs. One farmer said that he was given a tractor but has little knowledge of how to use it;
  • Government programs do exist that target young farmers in Mexico. However, farmers said that these programs are often difficult to get into, in particular for rural farmers.

These were only some minimal observations and do not represent any substantial research, but they did provide some food for thought as we travelled to CIMMYT headquarters to discuss with researchers from IDS and CIMMYT to explore how to engage youth in maize and wheat agrifood systems. 

The meeting focused on moving to the operationalization  of the youth strategy within the MAIZE and WHEAT CGIAR Research Programs with discussions on a series of topics ranging from conceptualization to action research.

Discussions are still ongoing so watch this space for more information and updates on this new initiative!