10 December 2021, Budapest, Hungary – In many places across the globe, rural communities are shrinking. Unemployment and rural poverty are among the key drivers of migration by youth, who are often searching for a more dynamic quality of life in urban areas or abroad. Countries of Europe and Central Asia are no exception, where one of the key social and economic challenges is ensuring that agriculture and rural economies offer an attractive path for the younger generation.

To this end, starting on 10 December, FAO is launching a consultation series for Europe and Central Asia to understand the challenges and needs of rural youth and discuss potential solutions for attracting youth into agriculture and other rural businesses. The virtual event provides a platform for young people to develop and learn from each other through sharing knowledge and good practices.

“The recent UN Food Systems Summit emphasized that youth are important agents of change in revitalizing rural areas and creating sustainable food systems,” said Raimund Jehle, FAO Regional Programme Leader. “Therefore, our role is to enable their participation in national and international governance and decision-making processes to improve their social and economic well-being, and address the drivers of rural out-migration. The new FAO Strategic Framework puts particular emphasis on better life, which is key to making rural areas and agriculture attractive for youth.”

Since youth in rural areas of Europe and Central Asia cannot be considered a homogeneous group, challenges may differ for various groups, countries, and cultures. Still, certain challenges – to a varying degree – hamper their progress, including limited access to knowledge, training, natural resources, and, in particular, land. These are in addition to not only financial resources, but also markets, decent employment opportunities, engagement in policy processes, and much more. With inequalities on the rise all over the region, youth unemployment is increasing, too.

These issues are complex and embedded in wider social and economic processes, therefore, the FAO consultations invite a wide range of partners, including youth organizations, representatives of the policymaking, civil society, academic, and private sectors, who are active in the field of food, agriculture, and rural development, to take part in the dialogue. This can build on the results of the recent World Food Forum – an international youth-led movement to transform food systems – and seek ways to adapt them to the region.

The outcome of the consultations will be channelled into FAO’s work in Europe and Central Asia on increasing employment opportunities and empowering rural youth, which is one of the priorities of the region-wide umbrella initiative “Empowering smallholders, family farms, and youth.”