Young women and men often have many barriers which prevent them from participating in fisheries and aquaculture. These barriers can include limited access to fishing grounds, capital and training.  

Empowered and innovative youth are essential to the future of small-scale fisheries and aquaculture. Thus, it is crucial to understand how youth can engage with the sector to have decent and meaningful livelihood opportunities. 

Youth is considered to be the transition period between childhood and adulthood, and as such encompasses a diverse group of individuals. Differences in gender, caste, class, sexuality and ability influence livelihood aspirations, opportunities and challenges. Issues of intersectional and intergenerational equity must be addressed to improve youth access to assets, finance, knowledge and decision-making power.  

FISH adopted a youth-responsive research agenda to increase opportunities for safe and rewarding employment and entrepreneurship, and engage youth to determine the factors that enable or hinder participation in decision-making, as well as access to training, technology and finance. The research agenda targeted young men and women and was guided by an initial youth assessment led by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI). 

Three main objectives guided the research: 1. To assess the participation of youth in fisheries and aquaculture, and the associated opportunities and challenges. 2. To analyze how we engage with youth in selected countries, and associated learnings. 3. To identify policy and investment recommendations as well as future research priorities, with an overall purpose of improving benefits to youth from small-scale fisheries, aquaculture and associated value chains. 

The International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and WorldFish assessed youth participation in small-scale fisheries, aquaculture and associated value chains in Africa, Asia and the Pacific, drawing on the voices of youth in Bangladesh, Cambodia, Egypt, Myanmar, Nigeria, the Solomon Islands, Tanzania and Zambia. A critical review of literature, supplemented by interviews, was complemented by an empirical study of the opportunities and challenges for youth participation in aquaculture in Nigeria and another study on the livelihood aspirations and realities of youth in small-scale fisheries in Myanmar. 

This assessment was used to identify opportunities and challenges for youth participation in fish agri-food systems and the development of policy guidelines for Nigeria and Myanmar as well as a close cooperation to support youth into new youth-focused interventions in the 10-country aquaculture component of the Technologies for African Agriculture Transformation initiative and youth-oriented capacity development initiative on aquaculture vocational and entrepreneurship training in Zambia. 

The research concluded that issues of intersectional and intergenerational equity must be addressed to improve youth access to assets, finance, knowledge and decision-making power. Young women and youth from poor or landless households often face additional burdens or are more acutely affected, but differences due to other intersectional identities have yet to be fully understood.  

The FISH research stressed that efforts to improve youth engagement requires a coherent and integrated response from governments, private companies, development partners, research institutes and youth organizations. There is unrealized potential for decent and meaningful livelihoods for youth in small-scale fisheries and aquaculture. This finding is especially important as youth are increasingly engaged in non-standard, informal and less secure opportunities, and as youth unemployment rises. However, successful engagement of youth in small-scale fisheries and aquaculture requires that policies, investments and other interventions be informed by an understanding of the livelihood opportunities and challenges faced by youth. 

FISH’s work helped identify future opportunities for youth. There is particular potential in downstream segments of the value chain, including processing, value addition and trading, that do not require assets needed for production. In some cases, processing and value addition can be done from home, which may facilitate greater inclusion of young women or more stability in times of crisis. A thriving aquaculture sector can create opportunities as it generally contributes to non-seasonal employment generation for youth. 

Download the brief “Youth in small-scale fisheries and aquaculture” here.