GFAR blog, Research in society

Sparking the Creativity of Youth at #ICYA


The International Conference for Youth in Agriculture (ICYA) held from 27 to 30 April in Leuven Belgium was created in order to give space to young, bright and internationally active people to interact, discuss, learn and project their ideas into practical solutions that could inspire students all over the world to take action and adopt those ideas and projects in their local communities. We wanted everyone to see and experience the amazing potential of young people’s energy and passion once you give them the spark of creation.

The outcome of this conference is part and parcel of the mission of IAAS: to bring together people from different countries, with different mentalities and mindsets, different cultural/social backgrounds so as to allow for expression of multiple and unique perspectives on the same issue. When a specific problem is put “on the table” an incredibly productive and creative debate can quickly get “on fire”. Participants realize there is a big capacity for young people to contribute and solve those problems through simple, practical and achievable youth projects. This is why IAAS is such a good fit as a Partner in GFAR. Not only does GFAR have a work stream dedicated to actions that take into account the voices and concerns of youth and women, but the spirit of the action is truly collective. Organized with support from the Catholic University of Leuven, GFAR and Syngenta, inclusiveness of diverse sectors was assured from the outset.

Preparing for the Conference

A pre-event took place in Ghent University where GFAR, represented by Peter Casier, hosted a Bootcamp for Social Media Reporters. For two days (25th & 26th April) 10 young students got GFAR-supported training to be first-time journalists and obtained skills to report and cover ICYA on social media. The goal was to expand the participation and visibility of the conference outside of the walls of the auditorium, include more people and share the news with the rest of the student community around the globe.

On “day-0”, Thursday 27th, participants of ICYA had the opportunity to build and improve their soft-skills in order to get all the necessary tools that they would use during the following days. Specifically a team of experienced trainers worked intensively to deliver sessions on brainstorming, project initiation, visualization of ideas, and danger analysis.

An especially motivating presentation that energized all the participants after those long and exhausting training sessions was made by Peter Casier of GFAR. A “Presentation on Presentations” was a perfect fit for day-0 and got the best impressions by all the participants. They were inspired to follow Peter’s guidelines during the next days of ICYA.


Conference & Working Groups

During the Conference itself, on Friday 28th and Saturday 29th April, the basic structure was split into two distinct sessions per day, a morning session including keynote speakers and an afternoon session based on a working group. Each day combined three different topics:

Day 1: -Refugee Crisis and Agriculture, how can the field of Agriculture help with the integration of Refugees -The role of Women in Agriculture, is it still a “grey zone” for gender equality? -Village Concept Project, how can young people help small local communities.

Day 2: -New Agri-Generation, teaching to kids and youth the importance of agriculture and food production -Urban Farming, how can it improve the quality of life in big cities? -No Food Waste, from over-consumption and food waste to hunger.

During the Morning Sessions, participants had the opportunity to learn from keynote speakers and experts of the field about social and scientific aspects of every topic. A short but comprehensive Q&A session following the presentations gave participants the opportunity to interact with speakers and clarify their knowledge. This insight was meant to be used during the afternoon session to spark the debate.


After an energizing lunch, the Afternoon Sessions began. Participants were split into 3 different groups and each group occupied a separate room for round-table-discussions. Each room was connected to one of the 3 topics of the day while expert trainers, facilitators and the speakers from the morning session were present to ensure good flow, creative interaction and productive debate. The first part of the Evening Sessions was focused on encouraging participants and experts to express their opinions, experience and personal stories in order to understand the bigger picture of each problem/topic and understand the role of young people in solving those issues. By the end of first part participants had already fleshed out some innovative and achievable solutions that could be organized and executed by young people around the world. The second part of the Evening Sessions was focused on creating practical projects which were sourced from the ideas that came up during the first part. Those new Youth Projects were supposed to be built and explained step-by-step by each working group in order to be shared and presented with the rest of participants on the last day of ICYA.

Project Presentations

Sunday morning was focused on sharing the 20 original, amazing projects that were conceived during the evening session’s productive moments of pure creation. Twenty teams got up on stage and shared their unique ideas with the rest of the participants.

Lvande_290417_0869The “Presentation on Presentations” speech by Peter Casier had done an amazing job to strengthen the participants’ skills on stage. None of the projects was boring, utopian or unrealistic. The youth engaged the whole auditorium with their bright ideas and passionate presentations. Keep a look out on the IAAS website for information and updates on these projects.

By the end of the last session, everyone had a clear overview of what had happened during those 4 intensive days of ICYA in every corner and every room of the venue. Everyone had the opportunity to join an international team and work on a global project to change the world together. In the end… Isn’t this what it’s all about?

#ICYA Doesn’t Stop Here

The follow-up goal is to keep all these teams motivated and in contact in order to actually make their projects a reality. IAAS is a global network of thousands of students around the world that can provide the expertise, help, guidance and connection with professionals in order to evolve a project from its inception phase to the final stage of making an actual contribution to society. We at IAAS challenge you to make your own mark to change the world, too!


Blogpost by Constantine Sarafis, Vice President of External Relations, IAAS

PARTNER SPOTLIGHT logoThis blog post is part of our Partner Spotlight this week on the International Association of Students in Agricultural and Related Sciences (IAAS), a Partner in GFAR.

GFAR Secretariat is turning the spotlight on the work and collective actions of Partners in GFAR who share in our mission to strengthen and transform agri-food research and innovation systems globally. Not a GFAR partner yet? Join now!

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