The global population is projected to reach 9 billion by 2050. The number of young people (aged 15 to 24) is also expected to increase to 1.3 billion by 2050, accounting for almost 14 percent of the projected global population. Most will be born in developing countries in Africa and Asia, where more than half of the population still live in rural areas (UNDESA, 2011). But young people face many challenges: unemployment, limited roles in decision-making processes and, a lack of national youth policies focused on their needs.
As we learned from discussions at the Third Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD3), there are some promising success stories of youth in agriculture which can be instrumental in orienting and motivating others: youth as business and farming entrepreneurs, as innovators, in agricultural education, and so on. Young people are a great resource to be gainfully employed for agricultural development. But we are at a cross-roads and national systems must first undergo major transformation through in terms of capacity development, and enabling greater participation.
The challenges of keeping young people in agriculture have been recognized globally since it the first global conference organized by the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) in New Delhi, India in 2006. Discussion then resulted in an agreement to form a youth-led International Forum, which led to the formation of Young Professionals in Agricultural Research for Development (YPARD).
GCARD3 showed that these actions are having an effect.
Of the 512 GCARD3 participants, 140 were young people (more than 25%). Youth were represented on all core teams (panels, and speakers) of virtually every theme and session, to discuss how youth-led initiatives and partnerships can work collectively towards the empowerment of youth for agricultural development.
The Youth Agripreneurs Project (YAP) is a pilot project targeting young agricultural entrepreneurs developed by GFAR, CGIAR and the Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD). Within three weeks of launch, 428 YAP proposals from youth around the globe had been received. Through public voting and jury selection, six proposals were chosen as the finalists for the YAP. Each will get US$5,000 seed funding to facilitate the startup of their project, spread over the period of one year, and will be mentored by YPARD.
As part of GCARD3, a three-day social media boot camp was organized to train a group of 75 social media reporters to report live from the event. This international team of communicators is made up of young communicators, finalists of the Youth Agri-preneurs Project (YAP) and young staff from GFAR partner organizations.
In addition to these initiative, 14 enthusiastic young people were chosen as GCARD3 Youth delegates to be the voice of the youth at the GCARD3 Conference: to be part of the discussions online and on-site, to solicit their peers to contribute with their own input, and to express the specific aspirations of youth. Thanks to their interventions, conference participants learned of the challenges, needs and opportunities for youth to be active agents of change for agricultural development at all levels.
Blogpost and photos by Dr. Mohammadreza Davari, #GCARD3 Social Reporter – ypardira(at)gmail.com
This post is part of the live coverage during the #GCARD3 Global Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, 5-8 April 2016. This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only.