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Migration is not a one-way street

Today’s youth have experienced more rapid change than any previous generation.

According to the United Nations, in 2016 there was 71 million youth unemployed globally. While there are many reasons for migration, the search for work continues to be a significant driver.

This youth demographic is a particularly important one as ideas around migration are shaped at a young age. With more widespread and enhanced communication, more people being exposed to images and information of other areas. What type of information are young people receiving and how does this influence their decision-making?

Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD) asked its members to share their personal stories on migration. We received a varied and diverse response. The results demonstrate that perspectives related to migration vary significantly between individuals. Each author had his or her own reason to leave…and to come back.

Coming back was a common thread among the responses; everyone who left has a desire to return. While several voiced that they could not get the training and skill development they need in their place of origin, they saw that they could have the strongest impact with these newly acquired skills in their home countries. The drive to make a difference permeated the narratives, along with both the positives and negatives of rural-urban migration and emigration.

Youth migration testimonials

Two members from Nigeria highlight education as the driving force for their migration abroad. Apeh Omede began to feel frustrated that his “dreams to become a world-class agriculturist and animal scientist may not be realized due to unfavorable conditions of the agriculture and education sector in [his] country.” He says that young people in Nigeria are unable to provide input into the policies that influence the way that young people’s careers move. He says that this lack of support means that they are unable to see the “successes” that they are able to in other countries. He furthermore indicates that there is simply a lack of funding in his country and by going abroad he is able to tap into funded bursaries, which are not available in Nigeria.

As an early career researcher Apeh states that some of the research studies that he dreams of are not possible in his country because of the lack of the facilities as well as technical support. He was able to learn some research and laboratory skills through his study in Australia but is concerned that when he returns home he may not be able to apply them.

Olawale Ojo says that ‘I left Nigeria once, and I will leave again”. After studying agriculture in Nigeria, Olawale did some hands-on work in Benin, where he says that he received a truly holistic agricultural experience including farming, research, rural development, food processing/packaging and the sales of farm produce in it various form at the Songhai Centre. He also met over 200 young people who had agricultural aspirations of ensuring food security.

Olawale says that the problem in Nigeria is that agricultural education is too much based on theory, and not enough practical application. He says that he knows that Africa needs experienced young people who can transform the sector, and that is why he will leave again to get more experience and information that he can bring back to his country.

Bivekananda Mahat from Nepal talks about how much of impact remittances from young people has on local communities. Young, able-bodied people migrate out, leaving a deficiency of on-farm labor support. While remittances do bring valuable hard currency, Mahat notes that it also skews the per capita earning potential, with those receiving remittances earning far more than those working on the land. The real concern Mahat states is that if youths are migrating, the period where they are most active and engaged in the agricultural community is lost. He feels that Nepal may be missing out on a generation of potential innovators.

Enricka N Julien from Trinidad left her rural community, to move to an urban area abroad. She is grateful for the employment opportunities and social mobility offered to her in her new location. But while she has developed a community, it does not replace family and she finds herself wondering if what she has gained makes up for what she lacks on the family side.

Grace Njeri shared her migration experience from Kenya to a student in the United Kingdom. Initially, she wanted nothing more than to leave her country to go and study abroad. She worked tirelessly to raise the adequate funds so that she could finally leave. Once away, she realized that she wanted nothing more than to use her newfound knowledge to give back to her community. She focused her research on improving food security, enabling her to return home and make a difference.

Andrew Weleilakeba, from Nausori, Fiji Islands shares strategies that he uses to create employment in rural areas. He has worked with others to create a network of small-scale, young farmers. When united, the cooperative is able to compete against larger players who have more land and cash flow. Working together enables them to access economies of scale and provides them greater opportunities and thus greater returns. While this gives them a stronger economic position, the group also has a greater aim. They are all concerned about urban drift in Fiji and are working together to find other passionate youths to stay on the land.

Stories such as these can help us better understand the variety of experiences that young people face. All of them can be found on the YPARD website.

The collection of testimonials doesn’t aim to provide answers to youth migration. It simply provides mosaic of experiences to give a flavour of the struggles as well the several positive aspects related to youth migration. Read more details on the youth and migration summary page here.

Find the original post on the Chicago Council Blog.

Photo credit: ILO Flickr