It was beyond my wildest dreams: being part of the Global Forum for Agricultural Research (GFAR) Partner Assembly and delivering a keynote speech at the Third Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD3).
The experience at GCARD3 was more surreal than I thought it would be. There were approximately 512 passionate and brilliant delegates at the conference, and I had the privilege of speaking on behalf of my fellow young professionals, most of whom were more accomplished than I am. What drove me to write my speech, however, was a passion to end hunger and poverty, a drive to leave a mark on history, and compassion for those in need. These were some of the things burning in my heart that drove me to write something that I never expected would move others.
People didn’t need a doctorate to understand my speech. I was talking about some fundamental ways of engaging youth in agricultural systems. I suggested a ‘top-down’ and a ‘bottom-up’ approach
- Top-down: Agriculture is a highly political sector, and so fresh ideas and perspectives from young people are needed to change the status quo. Young people should be encouraged to be influencers in agricultural programs and systems, not just to take part in the discussions.
- Bottom-up: Grassroots-level campaigning and advocacy are needed to rally youth to return to agriculture by showing them its value. With the availability of information online and the advancement of ICT, young people will be able to farm smarter and earn better.
In YPARD Philippines, we targeted five different sectors where young professionals should be strategically positioned to influence agricultural development:
- Academia: Academic institutions have a key role, in transferring knowledge and theory to the next generation, but also in pushing them to dream of sustainable futures. An environment where students can think critically, rather than focusing just on passing exams, is an excellent way of nurturing leaders in agricultural development.
- Research and development: Youth can be creative and innovative and this should be expressed through research and development, leading to groundbreaking technologies. But it is also important for young people to understand that the wisdom of the experienced can be the springboard for their next ‘big thing’.
- Extension and communication: Much research has been undertaken in the past but many studies have collected dust in the shelves of prestigious universities. Only a few have been fully explored and brought to the farmers. With the power of new ICT tools (e.g. social media), information dissemination can be faster and can reach a wider audience.
- Agribusiness: Business is a key sector in agricultural development as it seeks to bridge supply and demand. The Youth Agripreneurs Project (YAP) is a great initiative from GFAR and YPARD to encourage young people to take their ideas to the next level. There were more than 420 proposals that came in when the call for YAP was announced online. This goes to show that there are many young professionals who have business ideas that are waiting to be taken to the next level.
- Policy/government: A country’s or region’s policies on food production, importing and exporting are highly dependent on what government leaders prioritize.Young professionals, who are in government, should find ways to be able to participate in high-level policy discussions. Senior government officials need to create pathways for young people so they can actively participate.
However none of these proposed modes of action will not work if we don’t value the SYNERGY OF TWO GENERATIONS: the senior professionals need youth and vice versa. Youth will require mentoring from the older generation, while young people will have to redirect their focus from merely attaining degrees and jobs to knowledge and active learning. I believe when the generations come together and work together, then we can bring lasting impact.
These are just the suggestions of one passionate young man. Now please make your move.
Blogpost and photo by Jim Cano, #GCARD3 Social Reporter – jim.cano7(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.