According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), nearly 1 billion of the world’s 1.2 billion youth live in developing countries like Nigeria, with almost half of them residing in rural areas. This resounding fact and figure is particularly salient in August when International Youth Day is celebrated globally (on the 12th of August).
In light of the growing number of young Africans faced with limited job and developmental opportunities, countries, policymakers, and stakeholders have an urgent choice to make: create employment opportunities, especially in rural areas, and reap the demographic rewards of a young, vibrant workforce or face the social unrest and political instability that high rates of youth unemployment may bring about. Since our work at Durian is essentially centered on human development, we cannot afford to shy away from this topic.
We’re probably all familiar with the concept of empowerment, and sadly, when a term is used frequently enough, the total weight of its meaning can sometimes be lost. However, the importance of youth empowerment can never be overstated because the youth is the base of any nation. A country can never achieve the heights of success if its young population lags — and Nigeria is living proof of this.
With over 60% of the populace being under the age of 30, the size and youthfulness of Nigeria’s population offer great potential, but the county doesn’t appear to be reaping the benefits at all. The decline in economic fortunes, fluctuating inflation rates, and rising waves of unemployment have greatly emphasized the need for youth empowerment, mainly through job creation and engagement. Furthermore, in our line of work (community development), we also understand that any effective rural policy or development plan must include and be in alignment with the needs of the rural youth by addressing the three factors of productivity, connectivity, and agency—balancing investments that promote widespread rural opportunity and those that focus specifically on youth opportunity.
Rural youth, in particular, have particular needs that set them apart. Rural youth have little to no access to many agricultural success ingredients. These include land, credit, farm inputs, agronomic and vocational training, insurance, and lucrative markets. Farming is also becoming more arduous because of climate change, degradation of natural resources, water scarcity, and loss of biodiversity. Young rural women are especially susceptible to these and other drawbacks that stunt their growth as individuals with limitless potential. Still, one must always be wary of repeatedly stating already-known problems without offering tangible solutions.
As a youth-led and youth-driven organization, we understand the importance of harnessing youth’s power, enthusiasm, and creativity by creating gainful employment opportunities. At Durian, we pride ourselves in being a clan of young, driven people, with more than 60% of our staff comprised of youth. We also equip the young people in our environment with as many necessary skills as possible to help them find their own feet. In our little way, we are enacting positive and powerful change, fostering a much-needed sense of inclusivity in our community despite the dire circumstances. Going forward, we intend only to do more.