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NEXT IN LINE: The youth as the next key players in agriculture

Sonny in the fieldThe young takes the center stage. The spotlight is ours. The key players are us. This act is orchestrated by young and dynamic individuals with burning desire to learn, to innovate, and to inspire.

This is our generation. And this is our quest for sustainable development in agriculture.

The key players

About 85% of the world’s youth come from developing countries. But unfortunately, majority of the world’s youth does not see agriculture as a lucrative career. In the Philippines, for instance, declining enrollment in agriculture and related sciences against a growing demand for agriculture products threatens human food security. No wonder, many don’t find this industry a smart choice.

It is in this light that the younger generation should see themselves in the big picture. That they will be a key player in agricultural development. That no role is too small to make an impact to this sector.

With my current work as a development communication specialist at the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), my interest and appreciation for agriculture have exponentially grown. I take an active role in bridging the gap among the rice science experts, extension workers, and farmers – documenting impacts and popularizing technologies.

I write, design, and produce knowledge products on certain rice technologies, events, projects, or issues in a way that is clearly understood by our major stakeholders, the farmers. And in doing so, technical knowledge and a laymanized language are of great importance. This work is not a piece of cake, but the fulfillment of producing outputs with great impacts makes this work bittersweet.

Working with various stakeholders makes this work all the more fulfilling. I see the impacts of a research and development institution and how other key players take active roles in uplifting the lives of resource-poor farmers.

For instance, I co-produced a video on rice hull-fired power plants inspired by years of research at PhilRice. A once considered agricultural waste was turned into biomass energy and has now become a booming industry. Projects like this generate jobs, resolve power crisis, improve the economy, and most importantly, it ensures environmental sustainability.

The music

Harmony is a key point in agricultural research and development projects. Voices from all the stakeholders should be heard through participatory decision-making and development processes. And those different voices shall make a “harmonious music” that facilitate actionable solutions.

Interestingly, there are more organizations today that involve the youth in consultative workshops such as the Youth Assembly at the United Nations. Indeed, if we are to achieve inclusive growth, there must be “no one left behind.” Inclusion and integration are essential keys to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The instruments

Social media has become instrumental in connecting people from many parts of the world. It transcends culture, economic status, gender, and opinions. With the Filipino youth’s active social media engagement, we can spark love or hate.

Hence, this platform should be maximized to engage the youth in conversations about agricultural issues that concern them simply because we want them to participate and voice out.

Many would take pictures of their food and post it on Instagram or Facebook. While they enjoy their food, almost 800 million people in the world still go to bed hungry. Basic information like this should be mainstreamed. More than the selfies, bragging, and self-righteous posts on social media, we must engage the youth to join discussions as to how they can do their part in ensuring food security ― that in the future, our family will eat sufficient, nutritious, and safe food without too much compromise on our environment.  

Recently, Venezuela declared a “nutritional emergency” because they are running out of food to feed its population. In Southern Philippines, farmers suffer from the onslaught of El Niño. Climate change and several socio-political issues on food and agriculture should be mainstreamed among the youth sector. After all, it is our future that is at stake.

This is where I see myself taking the spotlight. As a communication specialist and social media manager of my organization, I need to engage the youth and the general public in significant innovations and issues in agriculture both locally and internationally. My work could hopefully influence policies and projects that can build capacities, attract investments, and shape partnerships to ensure sustainable agriculture. This comes timely during this campaign season for the Philippine local elections.

The stage

Online platforms are not the only avenue for the youth to actively participate. Seminars, workshops, forums, and conferences on research outputs, development projects, and policy creations are integral venues for the youth to speak their minds. 

The opportunity to join the 3rd Global Conference on Agricultural Research and Development (GCARD3) event will be my first global experience. Here, I would be able to practice my presentation, facilitation, and reporting skills. The fact that I will be surrounded with people who are experts in their respective fields and project proposals with utmost potential in changing the agricultural landscape means that I am not alone in my quest for a better world; that our planet is still full of people who are crazy enough to invent, innovate, and inspire.

I am particularly interested to learn more about sustaining the business of farming and ensuring better rural futures. I was born and raised in a rural community with parents who have passion for farming. Going back to my roots by establishing an enterprise is what I intend to do in the future.

The audience

The youth shifted from merely consumers to major stakeholders of agricultural development. I am excited to be part of this global act. That with the right instruments, I can build networks and be a collaborator to mobilize the youth as key players in the agricultural system. The global audience needs to hear what the youth has to offer. I am next in line. Together with like-minded individuals, I am putting this journey forward. And the GCARD3 event is where that journey is taking off. 

This blog post is part of the GCARD3 Youth blogpost applications. The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.


Picture: Sonny talking to a group of farmers in Iloilo, Central Philippines. Photo taken by John Glen Sarol.