Youth Network in Agriculture: we connect and rejuvenate the world

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At the occasion of YPARD 10 years, Marina Cherbonnier, the current communications and knowledge manager, expresses what the added value of YPARD is, as an international network of young professionals in agriculture.

I was 25 when I joined YPARD’s global coordination unit as the first web and communications officer. We were two employees then. In retrospect, I feel I grew up as an adult at a faster pace with YPARD, because, to a large extent, I had to take care of and be responsible for our youth community.

I had never understood how central my role could look like because, to me, YPARD was – and is – all the members that are joining, one by one, the community. I still remember my interviews for the position; I had one word in mind: ownership. It is only some months ago that the concept was brilliantly challenged by one of our colleagues from the IFAD’s youth desk: “Authorship should be the term, so that it reflects that Youth indeed write their own story”.

During all these years, I just followed the flow of the passion I had for the mission I was assigned to. And the more have I given it energy, the more inspiration and insights I got from our members themselves.

This passion goes beyond the idea of helping young professionals in agriculture, which in itself is yet one of the noblest causes I could think of and that I have at heart, for it recalls my childhood, my education and my values.

What is more is YPARD contributing to what the world desperately needs: a sense of belonging among young people from very different parts of the world, who despite their differences, face the same type of challenges and simply try to find their way in life. At YPARD, they find a community they can rely on, which shows them that they are not alone, they can do it and they can be proud of themselves as young professionals in agriculture.

Our togetherness has no boundaries

The magic truly operates when members move from helping themselves to helping others, at YPARD. Many members’ first introduction to the network was through our website and our information services on funding opportunities. Then, as they got to engage with the community, they started to understand that while they have needs, others need them too for building, together, a world that sustains each of us. They recognize that by helping others they help themselves, because all is connected.

And more than just a necessity, this is a passion that grows among YPARD members. They appreciate the diversity of individuals, cultures, the wealth of knowledge and the different perspectives it brings. They finally recognize in others another self. We are together in this.

YPARD challenges the way we look at helping others: it is not unilateral. It is not about the educated helping the “poor” – a model which has brought more bad than good. And as world’s power dynamics are changing, we can increasingly feel that we truly are all on the same boat.

We are all learners, ignorant and knowledgeable in our own ways. We exchange our wealth of knowledge and perceptions, and complement each other. Pity or even compassion, condescension in the worst case, would come from positioning ourselves as if we knew better. At the opposite, dignity and sympathy (- a fellow feeling, some benevolence -) is all that (young) people need to unleash the best of themselves in an empowering environment.

More than ever, it is not about supporting others but about supporting each other.

It’s been a long journey sometimes, at YPARD, when some members would keep looking up at you because you are part of the global unit. For too long, we have been brain-washed with the concept of leaders as “know it all” authorities (that still leads the World to elect Protective Paternalist figures, today). We have slowly moved away from this at YPARD. That is why we can call ourselves a family of brothers and sisters.

All of us learn to take individual responsibilities for collective action, uniting and expanding further as a community. This is what enables us to be heard and to build the supporting environment we need.

The magic of an open-ended network

It is precisely because each and every member of YPARD is an unsung hero, who has a role to play in a fast-paced changing environment, that YPARD cannot be a formal institution as we tend to know them: rigid and static. We need the flexibility of a network to be able to unleash the potential of each youth who wants to be active within the community. A rigid structure would create walls to creativity and a hierarchy that would damage equity.

We do need strong pillars that can help uplift the community – not everyone has the talent to coordinate a team or to articulate a strong broad vision – but we are convinced and we know that everybody is a leader at their own level. You will find the role that fits you at YPARD.

I believe in development. Real development, to me, happens when people help themselves the way they want it, while someone else only eases the way or provides the little knowledge they were missing. The latter isn’t needed on a long term; things come and go as situations evolve.

Along the same line, I believe in a YPARD that rejuvenates itself naturally with new blood and fresh perspectives joining the movement. YPARD is organic; YPARD nurtures itself, changes, transforms and grows by creating and adapting to its environment while keeping true to its original essence.

Keeping generating nodes

If YPARD exists the way it is Today, in 10 years’ time we will have failed. I certainly want YPARD to be alive and kicking then, but with another agenda. Indeed, I hope it won’t be about sensitizing on the need to get youth fully involved anymore. I hope it won’t be about making a case on the necessity for people to get and work together.

I hope YPARD will stand as a community of empowered youth together with seniors, supporting each other, and particularly involving those the most in need towards a hunger-free world, with healthy, balanced natural, political and social contexts (- economy being a means, not an end -).

In this world, fair policies, public and private sector services, social entrepreneurship as well as adequate research will work along, while civil society will keep ensuring that human, social and natural capital remains a priority. And all this, the current youth generation will be leading it. This is why YPARD – its melting pot of members of all horizons and talents– exists, today.

What it means in practice is YPARD members building projects together, promoting the spirit of collective action beyond personal interest. YPARD’s reason for existence, niche and added value IS in collective action for collective benefits: learning to think and work together should, I believe, be our continuing focus.

There are plenty of initiatives targeting individual projects but what is truly missing is a reflexion of the world as ONE which is equitable, where young people can be both actors and beneficiaries, in-action powers and yet receiving support. The world isn’t binary, as well as it isn’t about youth against seniors. The ultimate value of YPARD as a network is in connecting people across all ages, disciplines, sectors, regions and gender. There is no sustainability without generating nodes and connecting the dots, without one-world dynamics.

I feel privileged to have been in a position that enabled me to help young stars – all of you – to dream and shine. I am incredibly proud to have contributed to what YPARD – all of you together – has become Today.

Dear Supporters – not you as an entity but you as human beings – do you still believe in development work? Get to know us: our more than 13 800 members, our over 60 country chapters from all over the world, and all our achievements onsite and online to equip youth with stronger capacities, more inspiration for agriculture, pride and meaningful collaborations for a world that sustains itself. They may not give you numbers immediately; they will unfold stories of impact.

Dear Youth, as your 20s awake: open your eyes, bring new perspectives on things, bring your creativity, your energy, your passion. Don’t get too comfortable: constantly challenge yourself and your environment; learn, question; stick unconditionally to your dreams in making the world a better place, and take action.

To all: we need you and you need us; we need each other. Join us!

Celebrate YPARD 10 years with us; stay tuned at www.ypard.net/10years

This blog post by Marina Cherbonnier, YPARD Communications and Knowledge Manager, was originally published on the YPARD blog here

Photos Credit: YPARD


3 thoughts on “Youth Network in Agriculture: we connect and rejuvenate the world

  1. I am from Ghana, but pursuing an MSc in Agricultural Science and Resources Management in Bonn, Germany. How do I join the Youth in Agriculture programme? Are there also possibilities for internships to gain practical experience in the field of Agriculture?Thank you

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