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What is a “young” farmer?

  Jean-Michel Schaeffer     Tuo Lacina     Sok Sotha I would like to reflect on a question which I asked myself when I participated in the G120 at the end of June: how do different regions of the world envisage the concept of “youth” in agriculture? One of the French organizers of the G120 was the farmers’ union Jeunes Agriculteurs, the members of which are farmers aged 35 and younger. Their current President, Jean-Michel Schaeffer, is 32 years old and voices the viewpoint of French young farmers to policy decision makers and other stakeholders of the agrifood system. French farmers have thus decided to create a specific representative organization for young farmers so as to stimulate the social debate on agricultural issues. Do young farmers converge towards the ideas and positions of their older peers once they have passed 35? My discussions with some young representatives of world farmers show this is not the case. For example, Tuo Lacina is an Ivoirian farmer. He is also the President of Intercoton, the commodity association for the cotton industry of Côte d’Ivoire. Tuo Lacina is 40 years old but he is still considered young by his peers in his country. He also considers himself like a young farmer and thinks he is some kind of an exception as young farmers are not well represented in African farmers’ organizations, the members and representatives of which are usually older farmers who already benefit from some social recognition within their community. Conversely, Sok Sotha, General Director of the Cambodian Federation of Agricultural Producers (CFAP), is “only” 38 but in Cambodia he is already recognized as an experimented farmer. Indeed, in this country, “young” farmers usually lie in the 18-24 age cohort. The principal issue in Cambodia is to maintain rural youth in the agricultural sector. Many rural young leave the family farm for a more remunerative salary in the industrial sector. These young people come back to the family farm when they get married. However, as they have not had access to education or training in farming techniques, these young farmers are not well prepared for their job. Generally speaking, the age distribution of the G120 participants demonstrates the difficulty young farmers have in being represented in farmers’ unions and organizations in developing countries. Fabienne Derrien, the organizer of the event, estimated that out of the 80 Presidents of farmers’ organizations from developing countries invited to the G120, only five could have been younger than 40, including three from Latin America. Would a possible solution be to promote the constitution of specific organizations to represent the viewpoint of young farmers, as is the case in France? The current problems already faced by farmers’ organizations in developing countries to constitute and fund themselves would rather point towards setting up youth working groups that will better integrate young farmers in decision making within these organizations. It is already the case, for example, in the commodity association of Tuo Lacina and the federation of Sok Sotha. Jo Cadilhon NB: this blog has been cleared for circulation, yet does not represent the views of the French Ministry in charge of agriculture   Jo Cadilhon Agro-economist – Governance and marketing chains Centre for Studies and Strategic Foresight French Ministry in charge of agriculture http://agriculture.gouv.fr/centre-d-etudes-et-de-prospective