Rwanda is a youthful country. The median age is estimated as 19 years, and about 78 % of the population is below the age of 35 years. According to (UN DESA, 2019), the average age in the country is 20 years, and around 67 % of the population is below 30 years and those aged from 16 to 30 years old make up almost 27 percent of the total population (NISR, 2018b).
Agriculture is the main economic activity in Rwanda with 70% of the population engaged in the sector, and around 72% of the working population employed in agriculture. Despite the various interventions and strategies to meet the country’s aspirations, youth unemployment remains a serious challenge in Rwanda. According to the Rwanda Labour force survey annual report, 2020, the labour force participation rate is 56.4% and the youth unemployment rate stands at 22.4%.
Yet, employment opportunities for rural youth remain limited and of poor quality. In this context, facilitating the participation of the youth cohort in the agricultural sector has the potential to reduce rural poverty amongst youths and adults.
Rural youth are the future of food security. Yet around the world, few young people see a future for themselves in agriculture in rural areas. Rural youth face many hurdles in trying to earn a livelihood. While most of the world’s food is produced by (aging) smallholder farmers in developing countries, older farmers are less likely to adopt the new technologies needed to sustainably increase agricultural productivity, and feed the growing world population while protecting the environment.
The inclusiveness policy also incorporates special groups, where youth females and people with disabilities are being represented in youth decision-making forums/ organs. 50% of Rwandans are under 20 years of age and working-age youth (15-34) comprise 77% of rural people.
The 2018 EICV5 shows that 63% of working females are in agriculture-related occupations compared to 43% among working males. Equal opportunities in agriculture are therefore a key factor for sustainable development and more particularly employment, income generation and poverty reduction, and the attainment of high-quality living standards for Rwandans. Rwanda’s main employment challenge, especially for youth, is not only the creation of jobs but the creation of higher-quality jobs that will reduce poverty. Today Farming accounts for 33% of all new jobs created in the Rwandan economy (2018 EICV5). The high expectations for agriculture to increasingly provide employment (especially for the youth), as well as to contribute to the transformation of the economy and the lives of Rwandans (especially the majority poor, many of whom are women), make gender and youth mainstreaming in agriculture inevitable.
RYAF was officially launched on 3rd May 2016 under with the the initiativesupport of the government, through the Ministry of Agriculture in partnership with the Food Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and other stakeholders. It was established to challenge and change the mind-set among the youths vis-à-vis agriculture, to influence transformation of agricultural business landscape, impacting positively the status of on & off- farm jobs, integrated and sustainable agro-economic development, food and nutritional securities.
It was established as a national umbrella organization,an employer organisation of the youth in agribusiness purposed to convene and represent the interests of all Rwandan youth involved in agribusiness (Primary agriculture & livestock production, agro-processing and value addition, inputs and agro-extension services, & ICT4 Agriculture) integrating and amplifying the voices of existing youth organizations.
To achieve such ambition, the Forum bring together different youth groups, individual youth farmers, and young entrepreneurs in the agriculture sector, with the mandate to change and challenge the current mind-set among the youth in the agricultural sector. One of the responsibilities for the youth in agribusiness is to mobilize other youth both urban and rural; to understand and raise awareness on the advantages of the best practices of business-oriented agriculture and to leverage opportunities that the agriculture sector offers.