It was the first day of the Africa Agriculture Science Week (6th edition)– hosted by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) in Accra, Ghana – and like every other young social reporter/blogger for the conference I was struggling to find my way around the International Conference Centre and locate the venues for the side events I had penciled down to attend – either for live-tweeting or for blogging.
I had just scurried out of the side event on “Empowering women and youth for improved productivity and resilience of African agriculture” where Dr. Lindiwe Sibanda of FANRPAN had dazzled the mostly women and youth gathered with facts and figure, and her understanding of the plight of women and youth in agriculture in Africa, when I ran into a colleague who had just left the next side event on my list – The future of sustainable rural areas in Africa.
As I entered the foresight session I noticed the small size of the group – arguably the smallest number of all the events I attended at the conference – but, although I had expected to see more people participate in such an important session, I was not really bothered by the turnout.
Nonetheless as I settled down, I found myself being drawn increasingly into the discourse and over time transmuted from a social reporter – out just to get a story – to an active participant and a young professional with know-how in issues being discussed.
The transformation reached its peak when the issue of youth rural-urban migration and reluctance to pick up agriculture as a profession was raised within the context of “Future sustainability of rural areas in Africa”. Then, the space was ceded to me as a young African, an agriculturist, an advocate of ICT for agriculture and one of the very few young persons in the session, to share my views and experience about the topic being discussed.
Thereafter, my contributions as a young person were really considered, and sometimes sought, in all the activities that took place at the session, from identifying trends to scenarios building and finally to recommendations of the side event to the FARA General Assembly.
By and large, it was a great learning experience for me. The discussions were stimulating, insightful, participatory, inclusive and above all focused on identifying key issues that may influence future scenarios and brainstorming on possible solutions to those issues. The facilitation, led by Robin Bourgeois of the GFAR secretariat, was outstanding and succeeded in blending the views of the different stakeholders – especially on women and youth – in the group.
In the end, not only was I enthralled and educated in the two days of the side event, but I also met experienced foresight experts, like Ms. Katindi-Sivi Njonjo and Dr. Ann Kingiri, with whom I have had the privilege of relating and learning more from ever since then. Now, with the rate at which I frequent the GFAR website and read about scenarios building and foresight activities/briefs, I can only say that I have been bitten by the bug of foresight – and I hope not to recover from it.
That's for the same reason I wrote the article: "The future belongs to the youth", which discusses the interest in getting the youth involved in Foresight activities in order for them to shape their future. Particularly, it is about bringing awareness and mobilizing YPARD community of Young Professionals to contribute to the Global Foresight Hub of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), towards this. Have a look at it.
Picture credit: Roxanne727