The Sahel region and in particular the countries of the G5 Sahel, Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania and Niger, is experiencing a demographic transition characterized by a growing population and a “youth bulge”. The region counts a population of over 89 million people (World Bank, 2021), with around one third of them are aged 15-34 years and two thirds of them living in rural areas.
The Sahel is also a place of opportunities, full of human, natural and cultural resources that are significant and abundant. However, the region is nowadays facing many challenges, including insecurity, rising extremism, as well as lack of economic prospects and employment opportunities, while also experiencing poor access to education, vocational education and training and basic services. Within this context, climate change is weakening the whole region further.
Strengthening decent employment opportunities for young women and men is therefore at the heart of breaking the cycle of poverty while boosting social inclusion in the region. Urgent attention is also needed to bridge the humanitarian-development and peace nexus, whilst systematically increasing opportunities for young people to enable them to support their countries economically, environmentally and socially.
The project Building resilience in the Sahel region through job creation for youth, funded by the German Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL) aims to build resilience and social cohesion while improving livelihood stability via employment creation. The approach consists on actions at different levels.
At the regional level, activities aim at strengthening local, national and regional capacities, including by sharing experiences, while also further analyzing the various inter-connected challenges of the context. In this respect, a first study, developed in collaboration by FAO and ODI, has analyzed selected triggers of youth radicalization under a socio economic angle with the aim of preventing potential negative coping mechanisms. A forthcoming study will analyze instead the readiness of G5 Sahel countries in respect of green transformation while assessing youth opportunities for green jobs in agrifood systems.
The social cohesion component in the project is carried out both at regional level and country level in the pilot country, Mauritania. Via a regional learning route, participants from all the G5 Sahel countries, including representatives from national Governments and youth leaders, had the opportunity to exchange with local actors and learn about successful experiences with the aim of finding innovative solutions for greener and decent rural employment opportunities.
In addition, a regional forum gathered more than 80 participants, including youth and Governments representatives, to express their challenges and needs for youth inclusion in agrifood systems while also having to possibility to learn from technical experts from FAO, IFAD, ILO and UNDP on various topics. The need for holistic actions at different levels, which respect the heterogeneity of youth, such as: (i) strengthening national and regional youth organizations and promoting inclusive dialogue spaces; (ii) reducing administrative burdens on youth access to financial mechanisms and land purchase; and (iii) investing more on access to education adapted to the rural context and market demands are some of the key recommendations that emerged from the forum.
National youth forums, such as the youth consultation in Mauritania, fed into the regional forum as an intergenerational dialogue for further discussion on topics related to: (i) the socio-professional insertion of rural youth in the agrifood sector (ii) the role of rural youth in the design and implementation of inclusive policies and programs and (iii) youth involvement in peace building.
Further, at national level in Mauritania, short and medium to long-term employment schemes, allowed to support to date, over 500 young women and men. The short-term employment scheme specifically, included trainings for youth in various value chains techniques, aiming at quickly addressing specific potential vulnerabilities to different factors like, food insecurity, adverse drivers of migration and overall to negative coping mechanisms due to lack of economic opportunities. Instead, the long-term employment scheme, is supporting national programmers to promote youth work on green practices in agriculture while also strengthening the capacities of youth and technical staff from national institutions in the area.
New activities are being designed based on challenges emerging from the regional and country dialogues, and feedback from ongoing processes. Project results until now are highlighting that good outcomes can be achieved only when youth are engaged and listened to in all steps of a project cycle.
Thus, the project build on youth solutions to support the humanitarian-development and peace continuum in the region, through job creation. In particular, it aims to address some of the negative factors of youth migration and radicalization, increase sustainability, resilience and stability, and strengthen social cohesion.