Youth Employment Challenge
The COVID-19 pandemic is affecting health systems globally, but other than the pressing health needs as a result of the pandemic, the socioeconomic consequences include significant implications for employment, financial stability, public welfare, and industries and value chains that heavily rely on logistics. As an emergency response to the pandemic, the Palestinian Government announced an emergency budget aimed at keeping public spending to a minimum. The budget will be allocated to health expenditures, income support to vulnerable Palestinians, support for affected firms, especially micro, small and medium enterprises, continuity of government, and maintaining security. Globally and in the State of Palestine food systems are projected to be disrupted for the coming months.
A recent perceptions survey conducted by SEC revealed that agro-processing industries were the most affected by higher production and logistics costs, as 83.8% of respondents pointed to unavailability or high costs of raw material. Furthermore, the current restrictions on movement and the closure of borders affect the flow of food supplies with major logistical challenges and impediments for farmers’ in accessing markets. Reliance on local products is likely to increase profoundly driving the ‘farm-to-fork’ concept of promoting locally sourced food through strengthening the agri-food value chains.
In the State of Palestine, the agricultural sector has played an important role in providing employment opportunities, especially in times of crisis to ensure food security and during which it was difficult to work in other sectors. Given the current lockdowns, the need to focus on the sustainability of agri-food value chains is critical to curb the levels of unemployment and to ensure food security in the coming months as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
To this end, the Prime Minister’s Office with the support of UNDP/PAPP is running a challenge to crowdsource ideas that contribute to strengthening youth-inclusive agri-food value chains. The ideas are expected to suggest new ways of strengthening the agri-food value chains while increasing youth engagement and lowering the unemployment rates.
The focus of the youth employment challenge will be to seek proven models for youth engagement in agricultural value chains. The goal is to decrease dependence on the Israeli agricultural market by supporting the existing and new value chains with technologies and services, strengthening the sustainability of local food systems, and to create a space for youth employment thereby lowering the rates of unemployment.
The models could be around introducing new models, practices and support services in fields such as:
- Collective models of youth engagement such as cooperatives and social enterprises
- Schemes to provide access for youth to investment, finance, and land
- New technologies and innovation models that can be taken up by youth to improve and better manage resources, inputs and products in the agri-food value chain
- Enabling policy and incentive schemes that encourage youth engagement in agricultural value chains
- Access by youth to markets and business models in mid-high chains or off-farming opportunities
- Access by youth to a pool of appropriate skills, capacities and knowledge in agriculture
- Creation of national or regional youth forums in agri-food value chains with youth participation
- Digital innovations that encourage resource sharing, marketing and logistics.
The “agri-chain” is a key focus sector (chain defined as from “farm-to-fork” including all its suppliers and services, such as food distribution, retailing, restaurants and catering, nutrition and supplements and dietary complements for a healthy life-style, etc.). The Agri-value chain is broad and diverse and can be divided, as shown below, into a series of “technological niches” and or broadly classified into various segments that the applicants would tackle in their proposed solutions:
- Agri-tech: from soil or livestock to the agricultural product or supplements;
- Food-tech: from the raw product to final processed products or supplements;
- Other technologies which are critical for the food chain, but are not exclusive to it: such as packaging, machinery, retailing, logistics, chemical and bio-components, etc.;
- Logistics-tech (food and non -food): especially the “cold-chain” and other specialized food logistics;
- Packaging-tech (food and non -food): including design, new materials, printing, recycling, etc.;
- Retail-tech (food and non- food): from the corner stores to the massive hyper- markets distributing food and other consumer products;
- Bio-tech (food and non-food): treatment of food stuffs to resist diseases, obtain hybrids, new flavors, nutritional components, etc.
The Prime Minister’s Office has announced the year 2020 as the ‘Year for Youth,’ and this presents an incredible opportunity to tackle multi-sectoral challenges through youth engagement in proposing solutions that would advance various areas: agriculture, education, capitalize on the use of technology, and respond to the socioeconomic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, the Government has launched the Cluster Program in 2019, which could be used to encourage solutions per cluster to promote the resilience of communities. As part of the Cluster Program, the following sectors were selected: agriculture, tourism, and industry. Additionally, one of the guiding pivots in the agricultural sector strategy for 2017-2022 emphasizes the role of farmer organizations to engage youth in agriculture, as well as it encourages youth entrepreneurs to access quality agricultural services needed for increasing value chain along with improving agricultural value chains.
What do you benefit?
Through this challenge, the Prime Minister’s Office aims to identify and support models and practices that increase responsible and youth-inclusive opportunities to modernize the agricultural sector, thus unleashing its huge potential, offering attractive employment opportunities and creating a level playing field for youth in agricultural clusters.
After screening and selecting promising models, the Prime Minister’s Office and in partnership with UNDP/PAPP will support the applicants in starting-up/expanding their idea through incubation support and seed financing. The Accelerator Lab will run experiments to validate the winning solutions/models, disseminate learning, advocate for solutions uptake and work with the Prime Minister’s Office to mobilize partnerships to support the scale-up and sustainability of these solutions. The individual/team with the most innovative and inventive market-based, technological or entrepreneurial solution will receive $10,000 -$15,000 as seed funding that can be used to further test and validate their solutions. The funds could be used to develop/improve prototypes, fulfill necessary conditions for the test, gather feedback, attain licensing or regulatory requirements. The Prime Minister’s Office in partnership with UNDP/PAPP will consider integrating some of the proposed solutions into existing development programs implemented by the Palestinian Government and its local and international partners. Following this rapid cycle of testing, the solution owner/s would benefit from further coaching by national and/or international experts in the sector and foster linkages for funding and uptake if the early test provided evidence of scalability and readiness for investment.
This challenge aims to unlock high impact and system level changes particularly in youth engagement in agri-food value chains. Individuals or teams are encouraged to apply, as well as entities from private sector and civil society. The ideas will be evaluated based on the following criteria:
- Technical and economic feasibility of the solution;
- Extent to which it has been tested and validated;
- Extent to which the solution contributes to supporting the government response plans to address COVID-19 impact on the economy;
- Potential of solution to be adopted and adapted to the Palestinian context;
- Scale of impact for the adoption of the solution;
- The potential of the solution to contribute to agriculture cluster plan and sustainable development goals (SDGs);
- Qualifications of candidate/team in terms of educational background, experience and the extent to which the candidate/ team are committed to further develop and implement their solution with the support of the PMO and UNDP/PAPP
Applications for the challenge will be accepted through the ‘Solve It’ website. The solution owner/s shall submit a complete online application by clicking the “Apply Now” icon below. Only one application per solution should be submitted if you are applying as a team. Both English and Arabic applications are welcome, so it is up to you to decide which language you prefer to use to have your application stand out! The deadline for submitting the complete application is 7 July 2020 by 3:00pm Jerusalem time. No applications will be accepted beyond this deadline.
Selection of the Winner and Next Steps
A panel consisting of the Prime Minister’s Office, UNDP/PAPP, and experts in the sector will select winning solutions to benefit from the incubation support and potential seed financing made available through this challenge. The next step would be to advocate for the solution uptake and scale-up. The winner/s should be available and committed to enroll in the incubation support, as well as kick-start the testing phase immediately after being awarded. The Prime Minister’s Office will not only promote for the solution uptake at the national level but would encourage and support transforming these solutions into private ventures that generate more income for solution owner/s and others involved in the scale-up and widespread of the solution across the State of Palestine.