More than 1.2 billion youth live in the world today (UN, 2009). This means that approximately one person in six is between the age of 15 and 24 years, or 17.6 per cent of the world’s population are “youth”. Globally, almost 87 per cent of youth are living in developing economies, with the Asian continent alone accounting for 62 per cent of the world youth population (UN, 2009). Over half of the global youth live in rural areas of developing countries. In sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia this figure rises up to 70%, with over half of rural youth working in agriculture for their livelihoods (Bennell, 2007).
The needs of children and youth are often underrepresented in development policies and programmes. For example, the rural and agricultural chapters of Poverty Reduction Strategy Papers rarely address the gender, equity and employment concerns specific to children and youth, and when they do, they tend to focus on urban youth. This situation has led to a number of problems that affect the well being of children and youth in rural areas, namely:
- inadequate opportunities and facilities for basic and appropriate education and training facilities for children and youth in rural areas
- poor or precarious access to productive assets, particularly land, property and financial services
- limited opportunities for decent employment of youth in rural areas, particular within the formal economy, combined with over-reliance on child labour in agriculture
- particular vulnerability of children and youth to shocks, diseases (including HIV), and extreme climate events
- limited capacity of youth to organize, represent themselves, and understand and influence the decisions and policies that affect them
Low income or agricultural production within households can place vulnerable children and youth at risk of food insecurity and exploitation. Greater investments in agriculture are needed for rural households to increase their income, food supply and employment opportunities.
To achieve this, the Gender, Equity and Rural Employment Division has developed the Junior Farmer Field and Life School (JFFLS) approach which is adapted to address these needs of vulnerable children and youth.
The goal of the JFFLS is to empower vulnerable youth, and provide them with the livelihood options and gender-sensitive skills needed for long-term food security while reducing their vulnerability to destitution and risk coping strategies. One of the other major objectives of the JFFLS is to promote the creation of gender-equal attitudes, by enabling youth to exercise the same roles and responsibilities and developing their capacities to critically assess relationships and understand the risks and resources present within their community. The strength of the JFFLS is its unique learning methodology and curriculum, which combines agricultural, life and entrepreneurship skills in an experiential and participatory learning approach uniquely suited to rural communities and low literacy levels.
The JFFLS approach has been adapted to address the orphan crisis associated with the HIV epidemic, emergency situations, rural youth employment and child labour prevention.