Young people in rural communities are struggling. There are few jobs–and those that exist are seen as low-paying, sporadic, and unfulfilling.
It’s no wonder so many youth leave rural areas behind. Their parents can barely make ends meet. Crop disease and extreme weather make it harder every year. Eager to find meaningful work, young people migrate to urban areas at home and abroad—but jobs are scarce there too. With few options, their lives become even more precarious.
The answer lies in the beating heart of rural communities: local cooperatives, farmer associations, and small private companies. These businesses make agriculture work for young people by providing reliable incomes and jobs—not only for farmers, but also for skilled employees throughout the enterprise. They connect young producers to better markets, where they can get a higher price for their labor. And they provide technology, training, and services that make farming less cost-intensive and more productive over the long term.
Our Next Generation Jobs Impact Pathway was designed to ensure that young agricultural leaders are poised to succeed by:
- Recognizing the power and potential of rural youth. Youth are essential to the future of rural communities, particularly in emerging markets, where they serve as an indispensable local talent pool for agricultural enterprises with aging workforces. Working with our clients, we are ensuring young people have the opportunities they deserve.
- Partnering with and growing agricultural businesses that invest in the future. We identify, train, and finance clients that are positioning agriculture as a viable, long-term occupation. Local agricultural enterprises and farmer-owned cooperatives provide some of the most stable livelihoods in rural communities. When youth have viable career paths at home, many will choose to stay and work.
- Connecting businesses to young and promising talent. Due to myriad factors, many of our clients struggle to recruit local applicants. We work with agricultural enterprises to place university graduates with business, food technology, agronomy, and accounting expertise in paid, one-year internships, funded by us, through our Talent Partnerships
- Preparing the next generation of agricultural leaders. We encourage agricultural businesses to invest in the next generation through advising and training. Our capacity-building advisory services address the unmet needs of youth working in the agricultural sector and include leadership development training, such as goal-setting, decision making, and team management—skills that spur business growth and prime young people for career advancement.
Through a combination of Talent Partnerships, resilience grants, and advisory services, we cultivate early career talent, drive youth engagement in agriculture, and create space for young leaders to rise.
Talent Partnerships: A Rural Apprenticeship Program
The Talent Partnerships program forms the backbone of our Next Generation Jobs initiative. Since 2016, we’ve placed skilled young interns with nearly 150 agricultural businesses in 11 countries. These youth bring vital skills in areas such as digital business intelligence, business management, agronomy, and accounting to our agricultural business clients. In turn, the year-long internships, funded by Root Capital, jumpstart young people’s careers and open doors to future job opportunities.
In 2023, we expanded the footprint of our Talent Partnerships program, launching 75 Talent Partnerships across the globe.
Talent Partner Spotlight: Joshua Nsengimana
Born and raised in rural Rwanda, Joshua grew up in a smallholder farming family. Two years ago, he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in rural and community development and was selected to work as an agronomy intern at Koperative Kopakama, a coffee cooperative and Root Capital client. Not only is he fortunate to have found work in the agricultural field, he has also found his Talent Partnership to be an invaluable learning experience. He has acquired technical and interpersonal skills and grown his farming skills in areas such as mulching, planting, and fertilizing.
“Now I am able to understand how climate change and climate adaptation is affecting farmers and how we can be resilient to climate change and still grow our crops.”- Joshua Nsengimana
When it comes to soft skills, he describes how he has enhanced his communication, public speaking, scheduling, planning, negotiation, and critical thinking skills at Kopakama. He adds, “I am getting better at networking with other farmers and also with different sectors.”
He appreciates how the Talent Partnership program gives young people the opportunity to work in the agriculture sector. He sees the program as the launching pad to a future in entrepreneurship—in fact, he hopes to use the skills he’s developed at Kopakama to one day establish his own agricultural business. One thing is certain: He knows his future is in the agriculture sector.
This year, we’re continuing to expand our Talent Partnership program. We’re partnering with agricultural businesses to make agriculture work for young professionals and establishing the next generation of agricultural leaders. We know that there are many rural youth, like Joshua, who simply need a foot in the door to jumpstart their agricultural careers. In the months to come, we’ll be sharing their stories on the blog—stay tuned!
About the Author
Kelly Acheson is the Content Development and Communications Manager at Root Capital.