Investing in young people to harvest future-proof solutions

The youth population in the world and the average age of those involved in farming are increasing. According to United Nations estimates, there are about 1.2 billion young people aged between 15 and 24. This is equivalent to 16% of the global population. It is also estimated that young people in the poorest countries will increase by 62% by 2050.

  • Young people are the future of inclusive and sustainable food systems.

  • They are powerful leaders of change who take an eager interest in bringing innovations into every sphere of life.

  • They have the potential to become experts in modern farming technologies.

Investing in young people and young initiatives means investing in the future. The need for young people to migrate from rural to urban areas poses new challenges for cities and the countryside. How can we achieve this balance between increasing production waste in rural areas and difficulty in feeding the growing population in the cities?

Although it doesn't attract much attention at the moment, it is a rapidly growingthis problem has been snowballing over the years like a snowball. Standing along with the youth power is our response to this challenge.

“I would like to exchange with other young people that struggle with the same questions as me. That’s the way to change our thinking about agriculture.”

Julio Rivera, 20

Takeaways from Jorge Flores

  • The best person to coordinate a youth project is another young person who has been trained the subject and also has a lot of passion for it.
  • Every young person has potential - we must allow them to demonstrate their talents and polish those talents. A young person you support is a potential boss who will treat you well at some point in your working life.
  • The key to working with rural youth is empathy, to build a relationship of trust.


In its programmes, Rikolto harnesses the power of youth to test and harvest new solutions to change the recipe of our food system forever.

With an innovative and accelerative mindset

  • Setting up food incubators in cities across the globe, where rural and urban youth find the tools to kick-start their business ideas to make local urban food systems more sustainable.

  • Creating opportunities in rural areas for young women and men and empowering them to revitalise value chains and food systems through innovation. These opportunities can range from production to processing, marketing and quality checking to creating their own start-ups.

With collaboration and inspiration

  • Empowering farmer organisations to become solid business partners and to implement future-proof, sustainable practices. This includes increasing youth participation in their membership base and governance systems.

  • Connecting farmer organisations with wholesalers, banks, and other stakeholders to explore new ways of doing business, and we facilitate public-private sector alliances to increase youth participation in the agri-food sector.

  • Bringing together universities, farmers’ organisations, NGOs, companies, and governments to join forces to create new opportunities for young people.

  • Inviting youth policy groups to the table in city food councils, to co-create local urban food policies.


Rikolto has over 40 years’ experience in running programmes across Africa, Asia, Europe and Latin America. Our first youth programme dates back to 2009. Here, you can download our full track record... or continue scrolling for a sneak peek.

Involving young people in farmer organisations

Our #YesYouthCan! Project initiative is directed at making Central America’s cocoa sector more attractive for young people. Since 2015, 250 young people linked to La Campesina Cooperative in Nicaragua have a been running a 1 ha cocoa plantation. Since 2018, the Belgian supermarket chain Colruyt Group has been selling ‘their’ single-origin chocolate. A committee with 24 young leaders represents the voice of young farmers in decision-making processes, and youth membership has increased from 5% to 11% in 5 years. Furthermore, each year, 75 young women and men from Honduras and Nicaragua attend a diploma course on "Cocoa production in agroforestry systems", afterwards passing on the knowledge to their peers.

Generation Food

Generation Food is an international agri-food movement aiming to solve food-related problems in collaboration with universities, businesses, local food production/distribution initiatives, municipalities, and farmer organisations by promoting innovation and giving new entrepreneurs a boost. Since the launch in September 2019, we have established Generation Food incubators in different cities across the world:

Engaging with innovators in Leuven, Belgium

Since the launch of Generation Food in 2019, Rikolto has been working to engage young entrepreneurs in the co-creation and development of new business ideas, for farmers, food start-ups and local organisations, in collaboration with the province of Flemish Brabant, Boerenbond, PROEF, EIT Food, KU Leuven, UCLL, KBC, in the City of Leuven.

The innovation-tracks with hackathons in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso

As of mid-2020, Rikolto detected the youth potential and set up a Generation Food incubator in Ouagadougou. 60 participants were encouraged to innovate and co-create business ideas during hackathons. 15 new innovative agri-businesses have been created and have access to start-up funding. A rotating fund has been set up to make sure that other youth entrepreneurs can tap into start-up funding in the future. Through the project we are stimulating 80 young entrepreneurs in a six-month training programme to innovate business plans with practical experiences and developing business skills.

Building a sustainable foodture through entrepreneurship in Arusha, Tanzaniaa

The Generation Food journey in Arusha started in early 2020. Since then, 158 young entrepreneurs who had been informed through social media platforms and radio stations in Arusha participated in a 2-day Hackathon and 65 selected young entrepreneurs were trained in a 2-week Generation Food Camp to improve their marketing, financial and entrepreneurial skills. The 25 finalists were awarded low-interest loans.

  • 22,218 young farmers, members of 129 farmer organisations, and 354 young entrepreneurs, across 16 countries.
  • Companies and wholesalers aiming for youth-inclusive value chains, such as Colruyt Group, Mars, Pacari and Conexión Chocolate.
  • Networks and multi-stakeholder platforms, like Thought for Food, One Planet Network, Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD), FAO and EIT FOOD.
  • Research institutes, including the KU Leuven and Flores University.
  • Funders, such as the Belgian Development Cooperation, YOUCA, the Colibri Foundation and Gillès Foundation

Meet our partners

In Latin America

Lith Montes
Lith Montes
Coordinadora de proyectos del programa Café | Perú

In East Africa

Hilda Okoth
Hilda Okoth
Food Smart City & Youth Agribusiness Advisor

In DR Congo

Rafiki Kalulu
Coffee & rice value chain expert

In West Africa

Yvonne Arden
Yvonne Arden
Cocoa project officer

In Belgium

Naomi Dries
Naomi Dries
Program Advisor GoodFood@School

In Vietnam

Le Hong Hanh
Le Hong Hanh
Junior Planning Learning and Accountability Officer
+84-24 6258 3640/41 - ext. 36

In Indonesia

Peni Agustijanto
Peni Agustijanto
Cocoa & Coffee Southeast Asia Regional Director