Young people account for half the population in many of the world’s poorest countries, particularly in Africa, yet the meeting’s panelists in Wednesday’s round-table discussion said that they have been neglected as a social category in poverty reduction schemes. Some experts pointed to the urban bias in development policies of the past 30 years that have prevented rural areas from prospering from market economies due to lack of infrastructure and investment. Often for youth in poor rural areas, where employment options are limited, their transition into adulthood is accelerated, thus making it imperative to meet their educational, health and skills training needs. Education and training, especially in agriculture, is particularly key, and rural youth are impeded by a lack of access as well as low-quality schooling. In a separate IFAD meeting today, experts called for enhanced measures for poor rural farmers to allow them to access “value chains,” or activities such as processing and marketing that bring goods from production to consumption, and allow them to better compete against powerful large retailers. Without such actions, efforts to reduce poverty could be undermined. Such initiatives have taken place successfully in countries such as Colombia, where farmers themselves realized that without innovation and new markets for their products, they would not be able to survive. “They went from being passive actors to active actors who also recognized that their own change would affect a whole chain of actors,” said Maria Oliva Lizarazo, Director of the IFAD-backed Rural Microenterprise Development Programme. 15 February 2007New development programmes are necessary to minimize the growing youth crisis, often ignored by policymakers, in the world’s poorest countries, experts said at a meeting of the United Nations International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) held in Rome.