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In an era of land grabs and environmental uncertainty, improving smallholder productivity has become a higher priority on the agenda for poverty reduction and food security. Yet emerging evidence about the realities and social norms and desires of young people in developing countries indicates a reasonably widespread withdrawal from work on the land as an emerging norm. While this is not new, policymakers are right to be concerned about a withdrawal from the sector.

This working paper from the Institute of Development Studies explores questions of who wants to farm, and under what conditions. It asks what economic, environmental and social conditions would be favourable to active recruitment by educated young people into farming and explores the policy and programmatic conditions that are creating attractive opportunities in farming or agro-food industry livelihoods.

Based on analysis of interviews, focus group discussion and household case studies with almost 1500 people in 23 rural, urban and peri-urban communities in low and middle income Asian, African and Latin American countries in 2012, this research digs deeper into some of the established explanations as to why youth in developing countries appear reluctant to enter farming. It identifies conditions under which capable and enterprising youth are being attracted to farming, and the entry-points for youth participation in policymaking around agriculture and food security.

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