Rural development is powered by improvements in three mutually-reinforcing factors:
- Connectivity, and
- Agency, which is the capacity for decision-making and action.
Rural youth are striving to become productive and connected individuals who are in charge of their own futures. That makes these elements an essential cornerstone of rural youth development.
The ability of young people to become productive individuals depends on several factors. First, where they live is hugely important – many social and economic factors may aid or hinder their progress. Second, their productivity hinges on their cognitive and non-cognitive skills.
Governments need to ensure social structures and attitudes help rural youth progress rather than hold them back. That is especially important for young rural women, who tend to lag behind. Governments also need to align all stakeholders in the educational system. This will help ensure youth get the knowledge and skills they need to become more productive.
Improved connectivity to people, markets, services, ideas and information create opportunities for rural youth to become more productive. When rural areas have better information and transport links to markets, everyone's opportunities widen, including for rural youth. Greater connectivity also offers them a way to build and strengthen their social and human capital, develop skills and boost their self-confidence. As a result, their sense of agency and productivity increase.
Rural youth tend to be less in-charge of their lives compared to adults and urban youth. That’s especially true for young women, who may be constrained by the expectations of their family and society. Likewise, rural youth facing multiple layers of exclusion may find it challenging to harness today's rapid pace of change to enhance their agency.
It is important to pay special attention to the setting in which rural youth live. What factors determine the potential productivity and connectivity of the national, local and family settings they live in? Secondly, what are the particular constraints with young people’s transition from youth and dependence to adulthood and greater independence?
An effective rural youth policy and investment agenda must address the three factors of productivity, connectivity and agency, which are mutually reinforcing. It must identify the specific challenges for youth, and then develop the policies and programmes to help them.