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Rejuvenating sustainable agriculture discourses: Increasing youth engagement

Global Landscapes Forum, Peru, 2014

Mona Zoghbi, Global Landscapes Forum youth participant.

It is counter-productive to discuss agricultural sustainability unless agriculture is made more appealing to today’s youth. Indeed young people are those who have the best capabilities for change on a long term, for a climate-smart agriculture - that’s to say, for a productive agriculture that doesn’t deplete our environment. This was the viewpoint and position of the representatives of young professionals and students in agriculture at the stakeholders’ meeting on “Farmers, agriculture and the UNFCCC”, on the sidelines of the COP20 in Lima Peru.

The stakeholders’ event, which was organized by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security – CCAFS, was convened to gather the views of different stakeholders in the agricultural sector and to deliberate on the way forward to getting agriculture into the United Nations Framework on Climate Change Convention (UNFCCC) COP negotiations. Young people’s perspectives were represented through YPARD: the young professionals for agricultural development, GLF Youth Steering Committee members and facilitators.

Riding on the back of a highly successful Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) Youth program, including masterclasses and a Dragon’s Den idea-pitching session - which the Vice-President of the World Bank and one of the dragons on the panel: Rachael Kyte, described as “one of the best events” she would be attending all through the COP20 activities - youth representatives at the CCAFS’ stakeholders meeting boldly outlined their views on agriculture in climate negotiations and  highlighted their vision for youth involvement in an increasingly climate-smart agriculture  era.

In the eyes of these young experts, there is no point trying to work on solutions to combat climate change and its present and future negative impacts on agriculture and food security, if the main demography of people meant to implement these solutions as farmers and agriculturists – young people - do not find the agri-sector appealing enough or are not themselves actively involved in the process of positioning agriculture in the COP negotiations – and participate as active stakeholders in the actual negotiations moving forward.

Rejuvenating sustainable agriculture discourses: Increasing youth engagement

Ayesha Constable, Global Landscapes Forum youth participant.

Although, many of the arguments of these young professionals have been expressed in the past and run the risk of being seen as increasingly rehashed, yet they are valid arguments that need to be repeated over and again to major stakeholders – especially policymakers, researchers and senior international development experts – in the food security and climate change fields and all groups interested in climate-smart agriculture.

Indeed, the fact that this argument is still continually being pushed forward reveals that there is still a gap in taking young people’s opinions on board and getting their perceptions more integrated into finding, proposing and implementing solutions in the areas of climate-smart agriculture, landscapes governance, rural development and the overall sustainable production of the world’s food supplies.

Thankfully, this is what some international organizations and forums like CCAFS and the GLF are now doing – providing young people with bigger platforms to share their views, to propose answers to nagging questions and to be part of the process of finding and implementing solutions to existing problems.

Active young professionals’ networks like YPARD, the GLF Youth program and others ensure that there is no short supply of passionate, knowledgeable and innovative young people to fill up this increasingly opening space for youth integration and participation in discourses and solving problems.

And if the presence, the animated interactions (between seniors and youth) and the enthusiasm shown by older experts at the GLF Youth session are anything to go by, then it may be safe to predict that with more active and sustained engagement, the drive for fully integrating young people’s ideas into sustainable agricultural development and landscapes discourses is finally taking roots. With some good watering, it will hopefully bring some daring and innovative solutions that are the hallmarks of youth!

Pictures credit: Gian Betancourt