Market of traditional grains in Kastamonu, Turkey (Photo: Alessandra Giuliani)

SFIAR Project Showcase

With a fixed set of questions, this series aims to showcase interesting Swiss projects in Agricultural Research for Development.

Showcase No 1 - October 2017

Rural youth and agriculture in the drylands
Alessandra Giuliani (project team leader)
Sebastian Mengel (MSc student and winner SFIAR Master’s Thesis Award 2017)

Young nomad herder with his sheep grazing on a typical pasture in Midelt Province, Morocco (Photo: Sebastian Mengel)

What do we see on the project photo?
A young nomad herder with his sheep grazing on a ‘typical’ pasture in the Midelt Province, Morocco. While Midelt is located on an elevated plain at about 1500 masl, we can see high mountains in the background – the Atlas. We have chosen this photo to show the harsh natural conditions in a remote area being a strong limitation for agriculture and other sources of livelihood.

How would you explain to a child what the project is doing?
Agriculture as a source of livelihood is very important for many people in less developed countries. However, it is often not attractive or even viable, particularly in dry areas where many young people leave their rural homes in hope to find ‘better’ sources of income in urban areas. The project is exploring how young people perceive farming, and what they would need to make it more attractive and viable, so that they do not have to leave their homes to make a decent living.

What is the project’s main objective?
Investigate the realities, viewpoints, challenges, opportunities and aspirations of rural, farming youth in the research site, in order to determine possible entry points for support and intervention aiming at improving their livelihoods.

Why is the project important?
Active involvement of youth in agriculture is necessary for sustainable agricultural systems but is currently a challenge in many areas due to the presumed unpopularity and chronic neglect of agriculture, precarious living conditions, low attractiveness and viability of farming, etc. To avoid that even more young people turn away from the sector, they must be engaged in creating their own desirable farming futures.

What has been the most positive moment during the project?
We conducted a focus group discussion with female rural teenagers, living in a poor and remote village with no access to secondary school. When we asked them to discuss and depict their village of their dreams, they got full of energy in showing their willingness to remain in their village and to see more development in agriculture and to create their own cheese cooperative.

What have been the biggest challenges encountered in the project?
When asking the rural youth about their dreams and aspirations, some young women said they do not have the right to dream. Young male nomads shared their desolation of being hopeless to build a family, as no girl wants to marry a herder without a house and education. How can these conditions be improved?

Which is the most important lesson learnt from the project?
That youth’s perception of rural life and agriculture is not per se negative. There is considerable interest to develop their agricultural systems, in particular among young men who aspire to have their own profitable farms. Female youth aspire to access basic education and vocational training. Also, rural outmigration is not a first choice for many but rather driven by precarious living conditions.


About the project

Rural youth and agriculture in the drylands - A research study conducted in Midelt, Morocco

Contact persons:
Alessandra Giuliani (project team leader)
Sebastian Mengel (MSc student, winner SFIAR Master’s Thesis Award 2017)

August 2015 – June 2016

Funding agency:
CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems, c/o International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA)

Implementing institutions:
Bern University of Applied Sciences (BFH) - School of Agricultural, Forest and Food Sciences (HAFL), Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD), Planet H2O (Rabat, Morocco), Royal Tropical Institute (KIT)

Further information:


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