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What is the Mediterranean area's future?

Olive treeBeing a PhD candidate of the Agricultural Transformation by Innovation program (AgTraIn), with a thesis on biodiversity of olives in the Mediterranean area, was of special importance for me to be invited to the First preparatory workshop for the Congress 2015 “The Left-Behind: Democratic Transitions and the Mediterranean Agricultural Communities” that took place the 15th of June 2014, in Volos, Greece.

The organizers of this workshop and congress were the Foundation for the South-North Mediterranean Dialogue (Louvain-la-Neuve), the Laboratory of Rural Areas of the University of Thessaly, the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) and the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.

Since in this context all the Balkans, belonging to South Europe, are considered to be part of the Mediterranean area, the fact that I am very much involved in agricultural issues in my homeland, Serbia, together with being a YPARD representative there, improved a lot my participation.

Compactness, intensity and efficiency

Even if this preparatory workshop included mainly participants from Greece, Balkans, Turkey and Tunisia -Eastern part of the Mediterranean in general-, there were also attendees from France and Italy.

The workshop was organized to be very compact, intensive and efficient. Therefore, in one day only, it was possible to present the general problematic and individual experiences from different countries, conduct a round table discussion on several different topics (including employment and education, policy and government, natural resources and food security), as well as to summarise all and extract some key messages. In order to accomplish this in a very short time, we had two working groups who were discussing in parallel and reporting the findings to each other.

Youth participation & Territorial approach

I was participating in two sessions. While in the first one called “Sustainable use of natural resources, biodiversity, food security, health and nutrition” I participated in the discussions; during the second one titled “Employment, education and institutional capacity development, access to services, infrastructure and rural investment”, I had also the opportunity to have a presentation.

We heard several interesting but quite different presentations. However, thanks to the moderators, we managed to keep the focus on the common and important issues: youth participation in agriculture (having university professors, young researchers, representatives of the Greek Young farmers Association), the necessary change in the education system regarding agriculture as well as the territorial approach as a concept.

Hope for good future outcomes

To describe better that the importance of youth in agriculture and youth voices were both underlined during the workshop, I shall mention the closing session’s special moment when 4 young participants (all of whom came through YPARD) were given the chance to provide their insights towards the future.

We all agreed on the importance of empowerment, participating, as well as interacting with other young farmers, researchers and people involved in the rural Mediterranean areas. Likewise, we also agreed on the relevance of collaborating within the region. In the end, all the participants in the workshop came to realize that there is a lot of work to be done in both North and South Mediterranean areas, but there is also hope for good outcomes!

Picture credit: Olive grove, by Andreas Krappweis.