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This analysis examines the dynamics of youth employment in agriculture and the agri-food system in Tanzania and Malawi. The study finds that when extending the definition of a farmer beyond household heads, the average age of ‘farmers’ is 34 years in Tanzania and 31 years in Malawi. With 59 and 56 per cent of rural youth consistently engaging in farming, juxtaposed against high turnover into and out of the sector, it is likely that poor economic prospects outside farming are driving strong youth participation. To increase rural agricultural youth employment, it is recommended that countries promote opportunities in the agri-food system.