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Unlike their parents, thousands of young Latin Americans leave the office for the countryside

Unlike their parents, thousands of young Latin Americans leave the office for the countryside

By Mariana Kaipper Ceratti

Just a few kilometers from one of the most popular beaches for young people in Latin America, a group of twenty-somethings live far from clubbing, surfing and tanning. Despite that, they have a good income, run their own businesses, and don't suffer from the stress of big cities.

They were born in these lands and - unlike their parents, for whom the countryside was a fatal destiny - these young people found a true vocation in agriculture. And what is better, an opportunity to carve out a long-term professional future, despite the intense workload.

"Everything is more relaxed, starting with the clothes we wear," says Jilson Vargas, 25. At some point he had an office job, but it took him half an hour to go and another half hour to return on a dirt road. "Dressed in a jacket and tie!"

His life changed completely when the group of rural youth in which Jilson was involved was finally able to purchase machines to bring to life the production of wicker, which is used in the manufacture of baskets and furniture.

Neither he nor his wife Thaise feel like leaving this place, which is, by the way, connected to the country's cellular network. They know that they are protagonists of a new trend that seems to go against what is happening in the region and the country, where 80% of the population lives in the cities.

At the same time, the couple assume that it is increasingly necessary to encourage young people to stay in the field. After all, it is up to them - and their children - to take care of the production of agricultural raw materials used in all industries.

Currently, 3 out of 10 Latin Americans depend on the land to survive. In countries like Mexico and Peru, it is estimated that 20% of young people work in the fields. In Brazil, more than a quarter of the rural population (8 million) is between 15 and 29 years old.

Millennials dream

It is also in the hands of the very young to produce enough food to feed 9 billion mouths by 2050. This is a huge challenge, to which Josimar Sordi, 23, is happy to contribute.

Even before graduating in animal husbandry, he has had the opportunity for almost a year to run a small meat processing plant founded by the Sordi and two families. Twenty types of products go from there to the markets of the region.

"This factory was a project of mine and that of a cousin, who died at 23 of leukemia, a month before realizing his dream," he says excitedly. "We worked in a refrigerator and we lived talking about what our business would be like," he adds.

His story evokes one of the characteristics present in research on millennials - the generation now in their 20s and 30s - and the job market: competitiveness and the desire to grow rapidly in employment.

And as Josimar himself points out with pride, the countryside has many possibilities for the young person who wants to undertake, provided the conditions exist, starting with the infrastructure: roads, rural electrification, internet and mobile telephony.

“If the process of starting a business is expensive and time consuming, young people are less willing to do business. We must also facilitate the certification processes for products and services ”, points out the economist Diego Arias of the World Bank, who is in charge of the Santa Catarina Rural program.

The program, a partnership between the Bank and the state government, is exactly what has allowed entrepreneurs like Jilson and Josimar to have a life project in the countryside. Similar initiatives are having great successes in places like Armenia, Cameroon, Malawi, Senegal, and Sri Lanka.

A toast with juice

The World Bank data also shows that investment in agriculture is not expensive when the benefits to farmers are taken into account: an increase in income associated with this activity is between 2 and 4 times more effective in reducing the poverty than growth in other sectors.

With some investment and a lot of persistence the parents of Estevao and Leonardo Ferrari - 23 and 21 years old, respectively - have prospered on just 3 hectares of land. After unsuccessfully trying to plant everything, the family attended a grape breeding program started by the city's mayor in 2001.

“For our father, it was the last chance to do something to work here, so he hastened to leave the vineyard ready and well cared for,” Estevao recalls. The fruits have adapted so well that in three years, the family sold not only the grapes in bulk, but also the juice.

Since then, a series of programs (including SC Rural) helped increase family planting to the current 4,000 vines, protect the grapes from the cold and send Leonardo to study oenology in Cádiz, Spain. "Our dream is to start wine production," says the boy.

While they prepare, the brothers run a store where they sell their products, including grape juice. “It is popular with young people and fans of healthy eating. Our goal is to market to that audience ”, says Leonardo.

And so, toasting with natural juice - not with the typical drinks of urban parties -, changing the nightlife for a precocious work life, there are already many Brazilians who are discovering the joys of living, working and having a profession far from the big cities. "Come work with us," Estevao says half jokingly, referring to young people in search of a good job opportunity. Ecoportal.net

* Online producer of the World Bank

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