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Challenges faced by youth in Coffee

As I mentioned in the last Post, when I spent time at the Neumann Foundation I got involved with their Youth Project and I thought it would be interesting to write about challenges faced by Youth in coffee producing regions in Brazil, which can be similar to many other producing countries.


I have a personal interest in learning about the challenges of getting new generations interested in coffee and help them have a promising future since I grew up in a coffee region and it has always been part of my reality.


The challenge: In rural areas in Brazil, despite of a seemingly high school attendance, the quality of public education is questionable and there is little support for extracurricular activities promoting leisure, culture or vocational trainings. Altogether, the lack of viable opportunities for rural youth is discouraging and unlikely to stimulate professional development, which has become a major driver for migration to big cities and, in extreme cases, involvement in illicit activities, such as violence and drugs. 


At the same time, few young people are interested in the coffee sector either because they consider it a low profit and vulnerable activity or because of the current negative impression about becoming a farm worker (unfortunately). The sector is further weakened by the lack of participation and involvement of young people in family farming due in part to the few families that handover farm responsibilities to their children. As a result, the mean age of farmers and agricultural labor force is increasing and becoming a threat for the future of coffee and other crops, the productivity of rural areas, and the overall food security. 


To illustrate this perspective, the Neumann Foundation Brazil conducted a survey with young people in the communities around Fazenda da Lagoa ( a farm from the group) and 86% answered they wish to migrate to bigger cities due to the lack of opportunities in the region.  

The main causes for this lack of opportunities are: 


• Youth have little awareness of the job opportunities available in the area, especially beyond the agricultural sector as, for example, in mechanics, commerce, services and education.    


• Youth do not have access to relevant professional or vocational training opportunities tailored to the local economy, which could make up for poor educational systems and provide an effective bridge to a satisfying job. They also have limited access to entrepreneurial support and incentives. 


• Farming Families do not handover farm responsibilities to their children creating a long-term dependency on the household and few perspectives for professional development as a young farmer.  


• Most of the businesses and coffee-related entities, including farmer organizations, do not sufficiently recognize youth as a valuable asset to their operations, do not promote enough opportunities for youth employment and have insufficient initiatives to promote the coffee sector. 


Project Proposal: For this specific project the Foundation decided to act at a small town in the South of Minas Gerais, where the group has a farm and it is also close to their regional office. Their Youth Project aims to integrate efforts from HRNS Brazil and Germany and local entities in order to offer a space for professional qualification, an environment for educational leisure and to create awareness for the valorization of the coffee culture.


For the project, it will be reactivated the Casa da Criança space, which belongs to a previous social project in the community, and will become an integration environment where the cultural activities will be carried, while the courses will be held at the organization’s farm both in partnership with local organizations and government entities. 


The target age range will be young people between 14 to 18 years old, which includes both school dropouts and students finishing their studies and preparing for a professional career or to continue the studies at university level, since they are the most vulnerable and affected group by the lack of skills and orientation. 


Main goals:


• To offer professional skills (E.g. Electrician, Tractor, Mechanics and Management courses). 

• To develop cultural and educational leisure (E.g. volleyball and soccer tournaments, picnic, contests, sustainable activities) 

• To add value to coffee (E.g. Coffee Valorization Events) 



This is just an example of one youth project being implemented and of course, the challenges can vary from country to country but it is important to have in mind how problems such as youth and gender inequality can affect global coffee production.


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