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New study sheds light on youth issues in drylands

Two girls drinking water in Morocco. Photo Credit: A. Yahyaoui/CIMMYTby Courtney Paisley and Karin Reinprecht

One in five youths, or 125 million, are working but live in extreme poverty (on less than US$1/day). 70 percent of the world's poor (youth) live in rural areas with agriculture as main source of income and employment. Youth make up 40% of the world's unemployed in 2013.

A new study – the first of its kind - on Youth and Agriculture in the Drylands: Realities, Viewpoints, Aspirations and Challenges of Rural Youth, commissioned by the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems and the Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD) was recently completed and its results will be published shortly.

The study was conducted in the province of Midelt, Morocco in October 2015 and May 2016. The Midelt region is located on a 1,500 meter-high rain-sheltered plateau in the mountains of the Northern part of Morocco, where rural youth represent a majority of the population in Midelt.

The study aims to provide a diagnostic analysis of the livelihood choices and options of young people living in rural drylands, especially with respect to agriculture and migration. The research team - led by Bern University of Applied Sciences, School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences (HAFL) with a contribution from the Dutch Royal Tropical Institute (KIT) – sought to investigate rural youth’s realities, perspectives, aspirations, challenges, and opportunities in the selected study site in the three Agricultural Livelihoods Systems (ALS) of dry areas, namely ‘irrigated’, ‘rainfed’ and ‘pastoral’.

The study enables a better understanding of the key issues faced by young people in rural drylands, so that appropriate programmatic interventions can be identified, with the ultimate goal of engaging young people in developing their future in agriculture. Based on this information, different options to improve the livelihoods of youth in the studied area are discussed.

When researchers asked the young women and men interviewed to draw the ‘village of their dreams’, they focused on good infrastructure such as schools, wells and better roads, which would enable them to lead a more comfortable life, building their own families and earning a living as farmers, rather than chasing their ‘dream job’ outside of agriculture and the rural areas.

Young women and men aspire to be educated, have a family, and improve their agricultural activities through owning land, having access to trainings, and establishing a more market-oriented production. The majority of the young people interviewed said they desired to stay and make a decent living in their home villages and communities. This challenges the prevailing narrative whereby it is assumed that youth are eager to migrate from rural areas.

The high levels of illiteracy suggest that interventions need to adapt to locally available skills and competencies rather than use approaches applied in working with higher educated youth. Another piece of important Dryland Systems research on gender, working conditions and migration within the framework of Dryland Systems adds to this with the recommendation that attention should be paid to the living and working conditions (gender wage gap, social protection, and tenure security), when intervening to create jobs in the agricultural sector.

Using a combination of qualitative and quantitative participatory research methods, data was collected through 106 in-depth interviews with rural youth. The study applied a purposeful sampling approach to target youth. Additionally, Focus Group Discussions (FGD) using participatory drawing of the ‘village of their dreams’, and key informant interviews with a range of different stakeholders were carried out. Some short videos of interviews with rural youth were recorded. A final multi-stakeholder workshop was organized last month to present and discuss the results, as well as the way forward.

Explore the video on the realities, aspirations and challenges of youth in rural drylands.


This blog describes the full report on: Youth and Agriculture in the Drylands – Realities, Viewpoints, Aspirations and Challenges of Rural Youth. To receive a copy of the report please contact Alessandra Giuliani atThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Research team: Alessandra Giuliani (HAFL), Sebastian Mengel (HAFL), Courtney Paisley (YPARD), Nicole Perkins (Planet-H2O), Ingrid  Flink (KIT), Oliver Oliveros (Agropolis Foundation), Mariana Wongtschowski (KIT).

Acknowledgements: Karin Reinprecht (CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems) for advice and the local partner ‘Association Al Amal’ Midelt: Aomar Melkaoui, Ben Youssef Aït Daoud, Abdelatif Abdelaali, Abdellatif Ouzougagh, Mohamed Ouled Cherif, Malika Chkirni.


  • United Nations Youth Skills Day website.
  • Population reference bureau – youth % of population 2013; World Economic Forum, 2013
  • Link to journal article of Dina Najjar et al.

Photo Credit: A. Yahyaoui/CIMMYT - Two girls drinking water in Morocco.

Contribution originally posted on CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems' website: New study sheds light on youth issues in drylands

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Wednesday, 24 April 2024

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