Youth in Agriculture

There is great potential for employment growth in the agricultural sector.  But, we face a big problem:

How to make agriculture attractive to young people.  

Evidence suggests that most young people are not attracted to agriculture and to the rural areas.  A farmer has to work hard, and in almost every case, settle for very low incomes, living in poor conditions with little infrastructure and little prospect of improving their livelihoods.  The anecdotal evidence suggests that most young people do not find this lifestyle attractive, and leave in search of something different.  The graph below shows how sizeable this phenomenon is of young people abandoning opportunities in the agriculture sector.


Source: Census 2015.  These are smoothed ratios standardised for each age.


This graph shows (smoothed) ratios of the number of residents in Dili compared to other municipalities. If the age distribution was the same in both groups, the lines would be horizontal lines equalling 1.0.  Note that the Dili curve is well below the “Others” for children aged 16 and below, and for older adults aged above 42. The “Youth Bulge” is very evident in Dili, with almost double the proportion of youth aged in their mid-20s compared to other municipalities.  The (primarily) rural areas are populated with children and older adults, while many young people leave the rural areas and move to Dili in their older teens. 


Many young people do not see a future in the rural areas, especially not in agriculture.  Significant investment and a shift in approach is going to be needed, creating a different “type” of agricultural activity and rural non-agricultural economy that is attractive to more educated young people. 


The challenge of attracting young people to work in agriculture is not unique to Timor-Leste.  Many countries of the world, both developed and low-income countries, experience the same phenomenon.  Studies have investigated strategies for how to reverse the trend away from agriculture. 

What’s the most important thing to do?

Create opportunities for young people to be part of a transformation of agriculture from subsistence / traditional (lots of manual labour, poor incomes, with few non-farm employment opportunities) to modern (more use of inputs and equipment, increasing productivity, more marketed surplus, a range of non-farm businesses).


Youth and young adults are vital if we want to see that agricultural transformation take place.  Younger people usually have more education than their parents, are more able to adapt to new approaches and technologies, and have more physical energy for their work.  With a longer working life ahead, young people also have more incentive to work on improving their incomes, to “invest in their future”. 


In addition to general strategies to modernising agriculture, countries have found great benefit in strategies specifically designed to attract young people to a career in agriculture.  Here’s the five main approaches:


1. Incorporate agriculture, food and nutrition in school curricula from early ages

Start them early: Including food and nutrition in school curricula from as early as primary school raises young people’s interest in agriculture and the food sector.  And even better if this is practical - school gardens, midday meals programs, field trips, all help broaden the young person’s mind.


2. Promote Farming as a Business:

Young people will be more attracted to farming if they can see that it uses some of the skills they developed during their school education.  Seeing farmers as business people also helps raise the status of a farmer in the eyes of young people. 


3. Spread the word about successful young entrepreneurs

There are success stories out there of young people who have built successful businesses, either ‘on the farm’ or in agricultural support businesses.  Let’s spread the word about these success stories, and have young people learn from each other.  These role models can paint a different picture in the mind of young people for what success in agriculture looks like, and inspire them to take on new challenges.


4. Embrace technology in agriculture

Improved farming practices rely on two key aspects of technology: information and labour-saving tools.  Increasing use of information and communications technology places young people at the heart of new farming practices, and helps them see the potential benefits to their skills.  In addition, tools and equipment that save labour are the key to improved productivity, and help young people see that they can lead their family’s farm business into a new and modern world that does not stand in contrast with the “bright lights of the city”.

5. Create awareness of emerging agribusiness opportunities

Agriculture is far more than what takes place in the fields.  Agribusiness opportunities abound, particularly as farming practices modernise.  For example, the use of inputs will increase, from seeds to fertiliser to fencing and more, all of which create opportunities for young entrepreneurs.



What’s needed is a concerted campaign to provide accessible entry points for young people into improved agricultural practices and to creating successful agribusinesses.  This will unlock rapid growth in incomes through agriculture, greater food security for families, and vast and growing employment opportunities for young people.


Opportunidade, Opportunidade, Opportunidade


You can read in more detail about programs for young people to modernise agriculture in the report here:

Juventude iha Agrikultura

Iha potensia boot ba kresimentu empregu iha setór agrikultura.  Maibé, ita hasoru dezafiu boot ida:


Oinsá atu halo agrikultura atrativu ba foinsa’e sira.  Evidensia hatudu katak joven barak mak laiha interese ba agrikultura no ba area rurál sira.  Agrikultór ida tenke servisu maka’as, no iha kuaze kazu hotu, moris ho rendimentu ne’ebé kiik, hela iha kondisaun ne’ebé ladiak ho infra-estrutura ne’ebé mínimu no iha prospetu kiik tebes atu hadia sira-nia moris. Evidénsia anedótika hatudu katak joven barak mak la haree katak istilu moris ida hanesan ne’e atrativu ba sira, no abandona area ne’e hodi buka fali buat seluk ida.  Gráfiku iha okos ne’e hatudu oinsá fenómena boot hosi foinsa’e sira abandona oportunidade iha setór agrikultura.


Fontes: Sensus 2015.  Iha leten ne’e mak razão suavizada estandarizadu ida ba kada idade.



Gráfika ne’e hatudu razaun /ratio (suavizada) hosi númeru rezidente sira iha Dili kompara ho númeru rezidente hosi munisípiu seluk. Sé-karik distribuisaun idade hanesan deit iha grupu rua ne’e, liña sira sei orizontál deit igual ho 1.0.  Nota katak kurva Dili nian iha “munisípiu seluk” nia okos ba labarik ho idade 16 mai kraik, no ba adultu sira ho idade liu 42. “Esplozaun Juveníl” evidente duni iha Dili, ho númeru kuaze dubru hosi proporsaun joven ho idade 20 ka liu kompara ho munisipiu sira seluk.  Area rurál (prinsipál) sira nakonu ho labarik no ema idade adultu, maibé joven sira barak mak husik hela area rurál no muda ba Dili bainhira idade joven nian aumenta tan. 


Joven barak mak la haree katak sira iha futuru iha area rurál, liu-liu iha área agrikultura.  Presiza tebes investimentu signifikante ida no mudansa iha aprosimasaun, hodi kria “modelu” atividade agrikultura ida diferente, no ekonomia rurál la’o- agrikultura ida ne’ebé atrativu ba joven barak ne'ebé iha edukasaun diak. 


Dezafiu atu atrai foinsa’e sira hodi servisu iha area agrikultura la’os deit akontese iha Timor-Leste.  Nasaun barak iha mundu, nasaun dezenvolvidu tantu nasaun ho rendimentu kiik, esperiénsia fenómena hanesan.  Estudu barak investiga ona estratejia oinsá atu reverte tendénsia ses-hosi agrikultura. 


Saida mak importante liu atu halo?

Kria oportunidade ba joven sira hodi hola parte ba transformasaun agrikultura hosi subsisténsia / tradisionál (maun da obra barak, rendimentu kiik, ho oportunidade empregu la’os-agríkola ne’ebé uitoan deit) ba agrikultura modernu (uza insumu no ekipamentu barak liu, aumenta produtividade, iha esedente ka surplus ne’ebé komersializadu liu, ho negósiu la’os agríkola ne’ebé oi-oin deit).


Joven no adultu foinsa’e sira sai importante tebes sé ita hakarak haree katak transformasaun agrikultura nian akontese duni.  Joven ho idade kiik sira bain-bain iha edukasaun di’ak liu kompara ho sira-nia inan-aman, bele adapta ho diak ba aprosimasaun no teknolojia foun sira, no iha enerjia fíziku ne’ebé makaas liu ba servisu.  Ho vida servisu ne’ebé naruk liu, joven sira mos iha insentivu diak liu atu servisu hodi hadi’a sira-nia rendimentu, atu “investe ba sira-nia futuru”. 


Aleinde estratejia jerál sira atu moderniza agrikultura, nasaun sira seluk hetan ona benefísiu boot iha estratejia hirak ne’ebé dezeña espesifikamente atu atrai foinsa’e sira ba kareira ida iha agrikultura.  Tuirmai ne’e, deskreve aprosimasaun lima:



1. Inkorpora agrikultura, ai-han no nutrisaun iha kuríkulu eskola nian hahú hosi idade kiik

Hahú sedu: inklui hahán no nutrisaun iha kuríkulu eskola nian hosi kedas ensinu primária bele sensibiliza no aumente foinsa’e nia interese iha setór agrikultura no alimentasaun.  Diak liu tan no karik bele implementa – Jardin eskola nian, programa alimentar loron-manas nian, viajen eskola nian ba fatin agrikultura, hirak ne’e hotu loke juventude sira-nia hanoin.


2. Promove Atividade Agrikultura hanesan Negósiu ida:

Foinsa’e sira sente atrai ba agríkola kuandu sira haree katak uza duni abilidade balu ne’ebé sira dezenvolve durante sira-nia edukasaun iha eskola.  Haree agrikultór sira hanesan ema negósiu nian mos ajuda tebes hasa’e estatutu agrikultór nian iha joven sira-nia matan. 


3. Fahe informasaun kona-ba empreendedór joven sira ne’ebé suksesu

Iha istoria suksesu barak kona-ba foinsa’e ne’ebé harii ona negósiu ho suksesu, tantu ‘iha agríkola’ ka iha negósiu sira ne’ebé apoiu agrikultura.  Mai ita fahe informasaun kona-ba istoria suksesu hirak ne’e, ho fasilita joven sira aprende husi malu.  Modelu no ezemplu hirak ne’e sei lori efeitu pozitivu iha joven sira-nia hanoin kona-ba suksesu iha agrikultura mak oinsá ne’e, no inspira sira atu barani hasoru dezafiu foun sira.


4. Introdús no utiliza teknolojia iha agrikultura

Prátika agrikultura ne’ebé melloradu depende ba aspetu teknolojia xave rua: informasaun no ferramentas ne'ebé hamenus servisu maun da obra.  Utilizasaun informasaun no komunikasaun ne’ebé aumenta tau ona joven sira iha sentru hosi prátika foun agrikultura nian, no ajuda sira atu bele haree benefísiu poténsia sira hosi sira-nia abilidade.  Aleinde ne’e, feramenta no ekipamentu hirak ne’ebé bele redús utilizasaun maun da obra, mak xave ba produtividade ne’ebé aumenta, no ajuda foinsa’e sira atu haree katak sira bele lidera sira-nia familia nia negósiu agríkola iha mundu ida foun no modernu, ne’ebé la hamriik hasoru ka kontratriu ho “ahi nabilan hosi sidade”.

5. Kria sensibilizasaun ba oportunidade agro-negósiu ne'ebé hahú buras

Agrikultura la’os deit saida mak akontese iha terrenu agríkola nian.  Iha oportunidade agro-negósiu abundante ka lubun ida, liu-liu bainhira prátika agríkola nian komesa moderniza ona.  Hanesan ezemplu, utilizasaun insumu ka inputs aumenta, hosi fini, adubu to’o lutu no seluk-seluk tan, hirak ne’e hotu mak kria oportunidade ba empreendedór joven sira.


Ida ne’ebé ita presiza tebes mak kampaña ida ne’ebé konsertada hodi fornese pontu entrada ne’ebé asesível ba foinsa’e sira ba prátika agrikultura melloradu no kriasaun agro-negósiu ne'ebé suksesu.  Ida ne’e sei iha efeitu ba kresimentu ida lalais iha rendimentu liuhosi agrikultura, seguransa alimentar ida ne’ebé boot liu tan ba família sira, no oportunidade empregu ida ne'ebé boot no kontinua buras ba joven sira.


Oportunidade, Oportunidade, Oportunidade


Ita bele lee peskiza iha:

The Youth Bulge in Timor-Leste

Some interesting facts to get your attention. According to the most recent National Census data:

·       37% of the working-age population of Timor-Leste is aged between 15 & 24.  This percentage is among the highest in the world.

·       Every year around 30,000 young people complete their education, with most of these looking to enter the workforce in some form.

·       The vast majority of these young people do not end up in formal employment - some will become fulltime parents or carers, many will work in rural areas on the family land, others will find other forms of informal employment, and some will spend a long time looking for work with no success.  There is a big challenge of unemployment and underemployment amongst youth and young adults in Timor-Leste.

·       Our best estimate is that the unemployment rate among 15-24 years old looking for work is around 33% - one person in 3 in that age group cannot find work of any form. 

Earlier in 2021, the Monash team spent some time working on a report covering this challenge of youth unemployment and youth underemployment.  We will share a few posts here that talk about some of the main findings and proposals for how to move forward.


In this first post, we will summarise the main themes covered in the report. 

First, the fertility story: Timor-Leste went through a period of rapid growth in the number of births in the years post-1999.  For example, in 2004, 45% of the population of the country were aged below 15.  This boom in births has translated to a very large number of youth and young adults entering the labour market in recent years - the Youth Bulge.


We have also used the 2015 census data to measure vulnerability among young people, and there are some areas of big concern: in 2015, 14% of 20-24 year-olds have never attended school, 15.7% of young people (aged 15-24) were reported as illiterate. And there is a huge variation in illiteracy by municipality - 5% in Dili, up to 30% in Oecusse.  Young people with poor educational outcomes have virtually no employment prospects apart from being own-account workers on the family land.


What are the paths to creating employment for young people?


Path 1: Creating Jobs

Where will the new employment opportunities come from?

As we look at the sectors of the economy, there are a few areas where the prospects for creating new jobs are pretty limited:

·        Government Public Sector –

Already Timor-Leste has a large public service, and future budget challenges mean its not likely to grow much.

·        Oil and Gas –

The petroleum sector has been an amazing source of government revenue in the past, funding most of the budget.  But it does very little to create jobs, being so highly capital-intensive.


There are other sectors where employment possibilities exist, but are still not likely to be at high levels or grow quickly:

·        Formal sector private businesses –

Currently, these businesses employ over 50,000 Timorese.  Strong growth in this sector will help, but even at really healthy sustained economic growth, formal businesses are only going to create a few thousand jobs at best.  We can’t rely solely on growth in the formal private sector.  Having said that, with strategic investment, some employment-generating industries can produce a steady flow of new employment.  This includes: Accommodation and Food services, Education and Construction.

·        Overseas Employment –

Thousands of families have found new economic opportunities through overseas employment for their young adults.  There is scope for some expansion here, but in a post-COVID-19 environment, progress is likely to be slow and steady at best.


Here is where the sizeable growth can be driven …


·        Agriculture –

The sector that provides main source of work for 60% of adults, including plenty of youth and young adults, and almost all are low-income traditional farmers. The scope for new opportunities and growing incomes for young people here is huge. But its going to take some smart strategies to attract young people to a new form of productive agriculture.


·        Microbusinesses, small entrepreneurs, informal businesses -

75% of workers in Timor-Leste are self-employed / own account workers - mostly in agriculture, but in other sectors too.  Following trends in other countries, there is plenty of scope for growth in small business self-employment opportunities in non-agricultural sectors. Sizeable growth in microfinance access provides one key to seeing this happen - more on this in a later article.


·        Government work programs –

are these a good idea for Timor-Leste, especially with a focus on new opportunities for young people?  I don’t know, but do think it’s an important area to look at more closely - some small steps forward might be wise.


Path 2: Helping People be Job-ready


The more job-ready young people are, the more employment opportunities will open up for them.  International experience suggests that a key factor in determining outcomes is in the quality of labour that is provided.  For Timor-Leste, this comes down to:


  1. Continued improvements in the quality of basic education, from pre-school through to secondary school.  There is a long way to go here, but some great examples to follow within Timor-Leste.

  2. Ongoing investment in vocational training and in tertiary education.  But again, the priority is not expanding the amount of training, the greater need is with improving the quality.  Perhaps some creative funding approaches can help with this.


Investing in human capital is a long, slow process - there’s no time to waste!


There is more to write and say on all of these topics - keep reading as we go into more detail in later blogs, or look at the full report in the Reports section of  I feel hopeful that the future of Timor-Leste is in great hands with this emerging generation of young adults ready to do their bit in taking their country to the next stages of development …


Kresimentu juventude iha Timor-Leste

 Faktu interesante balu ne’ebé presiza hetan ita boot nia atensaun. Tuir dadus Sensus Nasionál ikus nian katak:

  •         37% husi total populasaun Timor iha idade ativu (katak bele servisu), ho idade entre 15 no 24. Persentajem ida ne’e konsideradu boot liu kompara ho nasaun seluk iha mundu
  •         Kada tinan, kuaze joven na ’in 30,000 resin maka kompleta sira-nia estudu, ne’ebé maioria buka forma oin-oin hodi bele tama ba forsa-de- traballu.
  •         Maioria husi Joven hirak ne ’e la konsege hetan empregu formal – balu sei sai inan-aman ka sai kuidador, barak mak sei servisu iha área rurál iha rai família nian, seluk sei buka forma empregu informal sira seluk, no balun mak sei gasta tempu naruk hodi buka servisu ne’ ebé dalabarak lahó susesu. Iha dezafiu boot konaba dezempregu no menus-empregu entre joven (idade entre 15 to’o 24) no joven adultu (idade entre 18 to’o 24) sira iha Timor-Leste.      
  •         Ami nia estimativu di ’ak liu katak taxa dezempregu entre idade 15 no 24 ne ’ebé mak buka hela servisu kuaze 33% – ema nain ida husi nain tolu iha grupu idade ne’e mak la konsege hetan servisu ruma.

Iha inisiu tinan 2021, ekipa husi Monash gasta tempu lubun ida hodi elabora relatóriu  ida ne’ebé kobre dezafiu dezempregu no menus-empregu ne’ ebé joven sira hasoru. Ami sei fahe postajen balu iha ne’e, ne’ ebé ko ’alia kona-ba konkluzaun no proposta prinsipal balu kona-ba oinsa bele hakat ba oin.

Iha postajen ba dahuluk ida-ne’e, ami sei halo rezumu kona-ba tema principal sira ne’ ebé kobre iha relatóriu ne’e.

 Ba dahuluk, istória fertilidade: Timor-Leste hakat liu ona periodu kresimentu rápidu iha númeru populasaun foin-moris hafoin tinan 1999. Nu’ udar ezemplu,  iha tinan 2004,  45% husi total populasaun nasaun ne ’e nian, ho idade 15 mai kraik. Aumentu iha númeru populasaun foin-moris ne ’e hatudu ona númeru joven no joven adultu barak mak tama dadaun ba merkadu taraballu iha tinan hirak ikus ne ’e – Kresimentu Juventude.   

Ami mos uza dadus Sensu 2015 nian hodi sukat vulnerabilidade joven sira nian, no iha área balu ne’ebé mak hatudu preokupasaun bot: iha tinan 2015, 14%  husi tinan entre 20 no 24 nunka atende eskola, 15.7% husi joven sira ho tinan entre 15 no 24 mak relata hanesan analfabetu. No iha mos variasaun boot ba analfabetizmu tuir munisipiu – 5% iha Dili, to ’o 30% iha Oecusse, Joven sira neebé ho rezultadu edukasaun mukit liu kuaze laiha perspetivu ba empregu exetu nudar traballador ba an rasik iha rai familia nian. 

Dalan oinsa atu kria empregu ba joven sira?


Dalan (ba dahuluk) 1: Kria Empregus

Oportunidade empregu foun ne ’e sei mai husi ne’ ebé?

Enkuantu ita haree ba setor ekonomia sira, iha área balu ne’ ebé prespetiva atu kria empregu foun ne’ e limitadu liu:

Setor Públiku Governu nian –

Timor-Leste iha ona numero funsionariu publiku ne’ ebé boot, no dezafiu orsamentu iha futuru  signifika katak karik numeru ida ne’e sei la aumenta bot liu. 

Mina no Gas -

Setór petroliferu durante ne ’e sai nudar fonte rendimentu Governo nian ne’ ebé diak liu iha pasadu, finansia maior parte orsamentu estadu. Maibé setor ida ne’e ladun kria empregu, tanba presiza kapital ne ’ebé bot tebes.  

Iha setór sira seluk ne’ ebé posibilidade ba empregu eziste, maibé seidauk iha nivel ne’ ebé aas ka bele iha kreximentu ne’ ebé lalais:

Empreza Sektor Privadu Formal sira –

Orasné dadaun, negósiu sira ne ’e fo servisu ba timoroan liu nain 50,000. Kresimentu forte iha setor ida ne ’e sei tulun, maibe mesmu ho kresimentu ekonomia ne’ ebé saudável tebes, empreza formal sira bele kria deit kampu servisu rihun resin. Nebé diak liu Ita labele depende loos de’ it ba kreximentu iha setór privadu formál. Nune ’e, ho investimentu nebe stratéjiku, indústria balun nebe kria empregu bele hamosu fluxu estável ida ba empregu foun. Ne ’e inklui: servisu Akomodasaun no Hahan, Edukasaun no Konstrusaun.

Empregu iha Rai li ‘ur-

Família rihun ba rihun hetan oportunidade ekonómika foun liuhosi empregu iha rai li ‘ur ba sira-nia membru familia ne ‘ebé joven adultu.  Iha ambitu ba expansaun balun iha ne’ e, maibé iha embiente pos-COVID-19, progresu ne ’e parese sei la’ o neneik no estavel.

Iha ne’e mak ita bele dudu kresimentu …


Sektor ne ‘ebe fo’ o fonte servisu prinsipal ba 60% adultu, inklui foin-sa ‘e no joven adultu barak, no kuaze mesak agrikultór tradisionál sira ho rendimentu kiik. Eskopu ba joven sira hodi hetan oportunidade foun no aumentu ba sira nia rendimentu iha setór ida ne ’e boot tebes. Maibé presiza halo estratéjia matenek balun hodi dada foin-sae sira ba forma foun agrikultura produtivu nian.    

Empreza mikro, Emprezariu ki’ ik, Negósiu Informál sira-

75% hosi traballadór sira iha Timor-Leste mesak traballadór ne’ ebe servisu ba-an rasik –barak liu maka iha agrikultura, maibé iha setór seluk mós. Tuir ba tendénsia sira iha nasaun seluk, iha espasu barak ba kresimentu iha oportunidade servisu ba-an rasik ba negósiu ki ‘ik sira iha setor naun-agrikultura sira. Kresimentu iha asesu ba mikrofinansas bele fo xave ida atu hare ida nee akontese – barak liu kona-ba ne ‘e iha artigu tuir mai.  

Programa Servisu Governu nian –

Karik ideia hirak ne ’e di’ ak ba Timor-Leste, liuliu ho foku ba oportunidade foun ba joven sira? Hau la hatene, maibé hau hanoin katak area ida ne ’e importante no presiza atu hare klean liu tan – pasu ki 'ik balu ba oin karik diak tebes.

Dalan (ba daruak) 2: Ajuda ema atu preparadu ba servisu

Wainhira joven barak ne’ebé preparadu liu mak, oportunidade empregu barak mak sei loke ba sira. Esperiénsia internasionál hatudu katak fátor xave ida hodi determina rezultado sira mak iha kualidade trabalhadór ne’e rasik. Ba Timor-Leste, ida ne’e atu dehan  katak: 

  1. Hadi ’a nafatin kualidade edukasaun báziku, hahú husi pré-eskolar to’ o ensinu sekundáriu. Dalan sei naruk atu ba ida ne’e, maibé ezemplu diak balun iha Timor-Leste laran nebe bele atu halo tuir.   
  2. Kontinua investimentu iha formasaun profisionál no ensinu superior. Maibé prioridade la ‘os atu aumenta kuantidade formasaun, nesesidade ne ‘ebé boot liu maka hadi ‘a nia kualidade.  Karik aprosimasaun finansiamentu kreativu balun bele ajuda kestaun ne ’e.

Investe iha kapitál humanu prosesu ida ke naruk, no neneik – Labele lakon tempo!

Sei iha buat barak atu hakerek no hato ’o kona-ba tópiku sira ne’ e hotu – kontinua lee, detalle liu iha blogs tuir mai, ka haree relatoriu kompletu sira iha Hau sente iha esperansa katak futuru Timor-Leste iha ema diak sira nia liman ho jerasaun foin sae  sira neebé  prontu hola parte atu lori sira nia rain ba etapa dezenvolvimentu tuir mai.