Navigating Dreams & Precarity: Working and Learning Conditions of Young Agricultural Workers, Interns and Volunteers Across Europe
A report by Priscilla Claeys and Barbara Van Dyck, Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience, CAWR, Coventry University, UK
Published by the Youth Articulation of the European Coordination of Via Campesina (ECVC), July 2022
This report was first published on ECVC website January 31rst, 2023. You can find it here.
Peasant farmers and young agricultural workers represent two sides of the same coin: the failure to provide a decent income for farmers jeopardizes the training of future peasant farmers. Young people work in order to learn, and learn as they are working, even if no formal training is provided. However, the learning process of young agricultural workers takes place in very harsh conditions, including reduced or no payment, and inadequate housing, food and support. These are some of the important limitations that are preventing a socially and ecologically just transformation of the food system.
This report assesses the working and learning conditions of young agricultural workers, defined as people who labour in the fields, mountains and farms and also in the livestock or food processing units and who are younger than 40 years old. The report looks at a wide range of issues including working hours, fees, contracts, negotiation power, food and housing, and gender discrimination, including with regard to intersectionality. Issues such as finding a farm that is best suited for learning, difficulties and dreams for the future are also assessed.
With this report, the authors hope to contribute to the recognition of young agricultural workers’ conditions, and support the political work of ECVC Youth.
Youth in the Declaration of the Rights of Peasants
The UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants (UNDROP) makes two references to youth, in Articles 2 and 17. Article 2 is devoted to the general obligations of States, it is this article that sets out how States are to implement UNDROP. Paragraph 2 of this article asks States to pay particular attention to young people when implementing the rights contained in the UNDROP. This special attention is required in order to combat age-related discrimination against young people. All the rights in the UNDROP must therefore be read in the light of this fight against discrimination against young people.
Article 17 of UNDROP is dedicated to the right to land. This right is one of the greatest advances of the Declaration, and the mention of young people in its paragraph 6 on agricultural reform should be noted and especially used to advance the rights of young people. Paragraph 6 obliges States to carry out agrarian reforms in order to ensure an equitable distribution of land and natural resources. This paragraph specifies that in the redistribution of land, young people must be among the priority populations, along with landless peasants. This specific mention of young people is an illustration of the obligation of States to take into account the discrimination that young people suffer, in this case that of not having access to land because of their age. It is also the mark of a Declaration of the Rights of Peasants turned towards the future.