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Young agriculturalists chart a path to a better future

I think that YPARD has really come of age in 2014. As we started the year, I found that my role in creating a space for young professionals in agriculture was truly starting to pay off. I am reflecting on how the movement’s organic growth and its compelling narrative had attracted young professionals in agriculture to reach out to each other and make decisions on what’s important to them and other young professionals.

 However, as fantastic as that growth had been (34% membership increase in 2014 and a total of 60 national representatives), I think all of us in the movement started to see that we needed some structure: a frame to focus our energy and work. So we started the year by setting out a strategic path forward. Strategy development is as much about the product as it is about the process and in we entered into the planning with our trademark YPARD enthusiasm.

 It’s not often that, as a group, we can get together in the one place and so I’d like to acknowledge the donors who helped make this happen. Our gratitude extends to GFAR, the Swiss Agency for Development Corporation, the Netherlands Directorate General for International Cooperation and the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation who, through their generous contribution to YPARD, enabled us to take this important step forward.

Clearly the strategic planning was a key moment for our members, representatives, regional coordinators, staff, steering committee members and partners. All of us are aware that viable career opportunities in agriculture are vital for the future and I feel that the outcome of our strategic planning – the YPARD 2014-2018 Business Plan – provides the solid actions we need to take to influence, advocate and promote youth contributing to a more dynamic agricultural development that will bring strong leaders to the fore.

What I really like about this plan is that the structure helps give YPARD a stronger focus without losing the freedom for ideas to flourish. I find that our YPARD membership appreciates this, especially the new members who now can better understand what YPARD is doing and engage more quickly.

In true YPARD fashion we’ve moved from planning to action in an enthusiastic way. In 2014 we saw the new Asia coordination unit, hosted by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), mobilize a strong regional team for a range of activities. The European coordination unit brought in a large number of new representatives and the regional meeting set a team of passionate young people loose on the agricultural sector. The Africa coordination unit saw representatives mature into stronger youth leaders at the national level and the Latin American and Caribbean coordination unit developed one of its first comprehensive plans of action.

 Of course there have been a lot more activities in YPARD in 2014 through which YPARD members engaged even more strongly with the wider agricultural research for development arena. I’m seeing more youth engaged in high-level meetings and actually being asked to contribute and be a part of policy and decision making events. Some of the examples that demonstrate to me that YPARD is being seen as a legitimate and credible partner in agricultural research for development include becoming a member of the GFAR Steering Committee, and having YPARD representatives on the African Agribusiness Innovation Network and the EFARD management team. A very important indicator for me was YPARD joining CGIAR Research Program (CRP) leaders in discussing how to raise the profile of youth engagement and contributing significantly to the Dryland Systems youth strategy development, the first among the CRPs.

Are we in YPARD making a difference? Yes...I really think so. Can we continue to do this? Well, certainly the enthusiasm is there – and now we have focus and direction through our Business Plan. Of course, the challenge is to ensure we have adequate funding to make all this happen. As we look forward we are certainly taking this up and will be engaging with those who want to invest in today’s youth for tomorrow’s agriculture.

Read more on YPARD achievements in the YPARD 2014 Annual Report

Courtney Paisley (Director)' s contribution, on behalf of YPARD, GFAR youth constituent, in  GFAR 2014 Annual Report