GFAR blog, Research in society

Mediterranean Youth aims at fighting marginalization with agriculture


We hadn’t left the Milan Congress 2015 when the YPARD’s Mediterranean team – a group of 25 agriculturists from the South and the North Mediterranean- got together and said: “This was a very rich experience of South-North Mediterranean dialogues for rural development upon which we can reflect, and the discussions and outcomes really highlighted the key role of young people as agents of change in the region. But we can also see limitations in the way we discussed during the congress. So, we would like to propose a new model for the 2018 Congress to boost dynamic interactions among partners.’’

Since then, the YPARD Mediterranean chapter has been taking part in further discussions with current and emerging partners and initiatives leaders towards a series of 2016-2018 Dialogues and a set of actions for better livelihoods in the region.

The team’s objective is to make sure that youth are partof the process as agents of change for long-term development in the Mediterranean, together with other stakeholders.  Three key messages color the youth group’s contribution. First of all, we believe that rural-urban exodus isn’t a fatality and rural development should be seen as an opportunity. Secondly, we want to create inclusive and dynamic discussions and actions with partners around a common vision and strong collaborations. Finally, we urge stakeholders to involve young people as core contributors for inter-generational and co-learning experiences. These are keys, we believe, for sustainable development.

Rural-urban exodus isn’t a fatality

The YPARD Mediterranean group believes that rural-urban exodus isn’t a fatality. Many people want to leave rural areas because they can’t imagine viable lives there but many would ideally like to remain in their communities. So we want to engage in constructive discussions where we would talk about youth’s aspirations, opportunities in rural areas and creative solutions to challenges, notably through youth’s own capacity to respond creatively and collectively to every-day challenges.

This would also lead us to look at rural development beyond agriculture, that is, with its collection of livelihood assets (natural, social, economic etc). In that sense, we strongly recommend to not isolate economic aspects from the rest but link them to other livelihood assets. We need to look at the inter-connectedness of factors to make sustainable livelihoods possible in rural areas.

Let’s be inclusive

Youth believe in true, inclusive dialogues and collective actions among different stakeholders from different sectors. They want to invite people to a youth congress to propose new ways of boosting dynamic dialogues and interactions among partners. Particularly, we would like to see local communities invited and taking part in the discussions so that we ensure that policies do serve these communities and that communities lead their development for real impact on the ground in the long term. Foresight, is a powerful approach towards inclusive processes helping to first look at what people aspire for themselves instead of proposing development solutions to and for them.

Let’s shape our common vision

Youth believe that we need to define, black-on-white, with the partners involved, our common vision and framework so that the Dialogues be instrumental to boosting on-the-ground activities forward. A common framework will help clarify the common vision for all the partners and the synergies among the partners’ activities, particularly.

Indeed, we want to understand how the different initiatives for the region are working together because we see the potential of joining forces and creating better, coordinated actions. This will also help define better the role the different partners are actually playing in this with YPARD as a youth catalyst.

Welcome Youth to work WITH you

We believe youth should be fully involved from scratch into the design and implementation of development initiatives. That’s what we mean by “agents of change”. Yet, on paper, youth are often depicted as beneficiaries or passive instrument towards development. It isn’t so much about their “innovative ideas”” but about the fact that they do represent a big part of the population; they are particularly vulnerable yet very capable and they have the power to help support livelihoods today and more so on the long term as the new generation. We can’t work towards sustainable development without actively involving the youth. Youth is not an instrument for economic development and innovation; their involvement IS ensuring human and social development on a long term, further contributing to sustainable natural assets.

Our inter-generational and action-oriented dream

As young people, we have three objectives through stronger collaboration in the Mediterranean region:Creating inter-generational synergies where the needs and wishes of the youth meet the support of senior experts, particularly with strengthened channels between youth and policymakers.

  • Showcasing youth projects to inspire new projects, improve existing ones and prepare youth to take their ideas forward, through testimonials and mentorship
  • Conducting more research on youth’s needs, best practices and failures in engaging youth, so that it further documents other initiatives

We hope to see open, inclusive and inspiring dialogues that aim to respond to the real challenges of the youth in rural areas and improve existing projects and initiatives. Through this, we want to inform further initiatives and research, establish solid commitment to actively work in improving livelihood assets and life’s options for young people, and achieve better management of resources, innovative projects, and ensure sustainable livelihoods for the youth that want to live in rural areas. One of our key activities would be to create working groups that will focus on designing and writing proposals for public national/ local institutions to convince them to begin projects to support youth who want to live in rural areas and generating more localized exchange channels between stakeholders and young people.

It is a development key to welcome youth to contribute the content of discussions, to propose new ways of generating discussions such as to get their hands dirty on concrete projects, together with other stakeholders. We are asking: will you join and support us?


This blogpost by Marina Cherbonnier was originally published on the YPARD Blog on 3 October 2016. 

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