Despite increased commitment to evidence-based policy in African agriculture, the profile of certain 'problems', and the imperative to address them quickly through policy and programmes, becomes separated from evidence and understanding. When this happens, policy advocates, policymakers and development planners rely heavily on 'common knowledge', anecdote and narrative to develop and argue policy alternatives.
This is unlikely to result in good policy and development outcomes, particularly when the problems being addressed are associated with complexities such as poverty, livelihoods, agrarian transitions, social justice or sustainability. It is important to ask how common policy responses articulate with ongoing economic, social and political transitions, and with young people's own imperatives, aspirations, strategies and activities.
In March 2012 the Future Agricultures Consortium and the Institute of Statistical, Social, and Economic Research co-hosted an international conference on 'Young People, Farming and Food' in Accra, Ghana. This conference examined how young people engage with the agri-food sector in Africa and how research findings were being integrated into policy processes. It also explored the dynamics of change in different components of the agri-food sector and the implications for young people.
The articles in this IDS Bulletin are drawn from the conference. They discuss social and economic structures, aspirations, livelihoods, land and policy, and illustrate the multiple dimensions, scales and complex dynamics of the young people and agriculture 'problem' – and why simplistic 'solutions' are likely to fail. It is hoped that this collection will stimulate the research to fill an evidence gap of very significant proportions.