Applying a youth-lens to the value chain approach: Five ways to integrate youth into LVCD projects

Today’s post was written by guest blogger Kate Williams – World Vision Australia’s youth specialist.  

Today’s generation of young people is the largest in history.

Globally, youth (aged 15-24 years) make up 25% of the world’s working age population, more than 85% of whom live in developing countries.   Over the next decade, one billion young people will enter the global labour market and it is predicted that more than 50% of these youth will be employed in agriculture, working in rural economies.[1]   For these rural youth, integration into market systems can play a central role in their inclusion to the labour force.

How can LVCD programs more meaningfully engage young people as value chain change agents?

Let’s explore what is meant by the term ‘youth engagement’:  the Youth Leadership Institute defines youth engagement as “the active, empowered, and intentional partnership with youth as stakeholders, problem solvers, and change agents in their communities.” [2] This definition requires us to go beyond viewing youth as passive beneficiaries of our programs but instead to look at them as partners, as change agents, and as co-drivers of our work.

Research suggests that intentionally engaging youth as part of an LVCD project does not require a radically different way of thinking than traditional value chain development[3]  – what is important is considering the ways that engaging youth that can add value to the project:

“…rather than asking how can we include youth, what we like to think about is how can young people be incorporated into value chains in a way that makes those value chains more efficient and/or more profitable. This important for a couple of reasons: One, we don’t want to lose site of the competitiveness perspective as we consider the integration of young people into value chains. Also, we recognize that the sustainability of youth inclusive imitative is closely tied to the ability of young people to actually raise the competitiveness of those value chains to the extent that other value chain actors see a benefit in including young people in their value chains.” [4]

 What are concrete ways to encourage youth participation in an LVCD project

1. Be youth inclusive while maintaining a multi-generational focus.

Often youth engaged in agriculture are working on household farms owned by parents or relatives and are generally not the primary landholders, producers, or decision makers.

  •  LVCD projects should proactively involve young people along with other community members in value chain development rather than create projects that are designed exclusively to benefit youth.

 2.  Engage and empower youth throughout the project cycle.

Youth participation is vital to effective youth-inclusive programs:  youth should be present throughout the design, implementation and evaluation of the LVCD project.

  • build in feedback mechanisms for youth
  • elevate young people’s roles and responsibilities within the project.
  • provide ongoing coaching and support to youth
  • provide youth with role models and/or examples of success

 3. Acknowledge youth specific barriers in value chain selection and analysis.

Young people face a different set of opportunities and constraints from other value chain actors. LVCD projects should purposefully identify, understand and address youth-specific opportunities and constraints, for example:

Value chain selection: Some products have barriers to entry for youth, such as requirements that:

  • youth own their own land
  • youth make large investments of capital
  • youth have access to collateral to get loans
  • youth have established networks.

In your LVCD project actively:

  • Identify the specific needs of youth stakeholders, through discussion and interviews
  • Consider more youth-friendly choices such as products that can be produced on small land parcels, agricultural services (i.e spraying, weeding), construction, or small-scale processing (i.e. oilseed crushing, husking, shelling, sorting).
  • Identify the most effective points for interventions for youth
  • Reach out to youth through, for example, media messages and role models.

4. Meet youth where they are: identify specific entry points for youth

Programs need to meet youth where they are both physically and emotionally: understand their circumstances, their interests, ensure that they feel valued and they want to access the services available to them.

A first step is to recognise that not all rural youth are interested in agriculture, or that they are interested in very specific things within the context of agriculture. LVCD interventions need to reflect that:

“Young people don’t want to plow the fields. That’s what their parents did. That’s what they’re trying to get out of. And I think it’s important that we recognize that in terms of our program and project interventions.” [5]

When examining potential entry points for youth in the value chain we need to ask the question: “What else could young people be doing that was consistent with the kinds of skills and interest that they have themselves?”

  •  Frame farming as a business: this can change the perceptions and the attitudes that youth have towards agriculture. This is particularly important to youth who are involved in working in farming to pay for school or to save money to start a business.

 5. Identify and engage the support networks of the youth participants

It is critical to gain the buy-in of a youth-participant’s family (or other networks) so that they feel adequately supported and encouraged to take on new roles.  Families are a source of moral and financial support for young people –  in a lot of cases young people are either working in the family (agricultural) business, and the family may have a vested interest in not allowing them to participate in project activities.

  • Look at the family unit, and not just young people alone.

Today’s post was written by guest blogger Kate Williams – World Vision Australia’s  Economic Development Consultant – Youth Pathways.  If you’re interested to find out more about World Vision’s work with Youth, contact Kate at   


[1] ILO (2014) Investing in youth for rural transformation, Rural Policy Briefs, ILO

[2] YLI (2009) Education Change and Youth Engagement: Strategies for Success, Youth Leadership Institute, San Francisco, USA

[3] MPEP (2014) Exploring Frontiers in Inclusive Market Development: Engaging Youth in Inclusive Market Development, MPEP Seminar #12, May 29, 2014

[4] David Feige of Making Cents International at MPEP (2014) Exploring Frontiers in Inclusive Market Development: Engaging Youth in Inclusive Market Development, MPEP Seminar #12, May 29, 2014

[5] David Fergie, Making Cents International at MPEP (2014) Exploring Frontiers in Inclusive Market Development: Engaging Youth in Inclusive Market Development, MPEP Seminar #12, May 29, 2014

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