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Online platform of SEARCA tackles agricultural underpinnings on youth empowerment

As part of the initiatives to encourage young people to create societal change, the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) once again organized the SEARCA Online Learning and Virtual Engagement (SOLVE) webinar on "Youth Disengagement in Agriculture: Empowering Future Leaders in Southeast Asia" on 12 August 2020 via Zoom and Facebook.

This webinar is the second instalment of the August webinar series on gender and youth in ARD. The first instalment last week highlighted youth disengagement in agriculture. It addressed challenges faced by the youth as well as how to create opportunities in gearing towards sustainable development.

For the second instalment, the online discussion invited four passionate and young individuals from all over the world to share their best practices in their community or work on the ground. The webinar also served as a launchpad for collaborative engagements between SEARCA and the Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD).

Mr. Sonny P. Pasiona, SEARCA Communications Associate, presented the Center's youth agenda and officially launched its youth program, "Young Forces for Agricultural Innovation (#Y4AGRI)". As the focal person of the program, Mr. Pasiona highlighted gender and youth engagement in ARD as one of the priority areas of SEARCA's 11th Five-Year Plan (2020-2025). He emphasized that "the young ones learning from the once young and the once young also learning from the young ones." Mr. Pasiona also mentioned that the #Y4AGRI also has Communicate, Capacitate, and Collaborate (3Cs) components as well as the 4As strategies: Awareness, Appreciation, Action, and Alliance. He ended his discussion by introducing SEARCA's Youth COVIDeo Contest.

Echoing SEARCA's commitment to its farmers and farming families including women and the youth, Mr. Kofi Kisiedu Acquaye, Regional Coordinator for the Young Professionals in Agricultural Development (YPARD) of Africa, touched some vital aspects of youth engagement in agriculture that are based on the views of the youth who are immersed in agricultural-based initiatives. Mr. Acquaye also drew examples from the global YPARD community on how to empower youth via their strategic positioning of youth to amplify their voice in decision-making, Youth Innovators Awards, mentorship programs, and essay competitions. He also said that the youth are not engaged until they are charting the engagement. "The perspective of the youth is indispensable in the conversations on youth engagement. It is therefore important for the youth themselves to be included in the establishment of a credible knowledge base for our own use. This is to help us engage with governments and other decision-makers."

Augmenting the gaps of most countries and regions in the agricultural industry where information needed to operate strategically was lacking, Mr. Carlos Castellanos Neira, Chief Operating Officer of Cultivando Futuro, Colombia, tackled his company's mission in big data to develop farmers' potential. Mr. Neira introduced their online platform and its importance in the production and marketing sectors of the agricultural industry. He also shared that some of the challenges for farmers in Colombia brought about by the global health crisis' were the lack of options or expensive transportation fees, increased supplies price due to currency devaluation, food centrals becoming infectious focus, and farmers' opportunities for trading. He shared that Cultivando Futuro seeks to value the importance of communication and community tools by creating higher amount of users, conducting massive offline solution, and using digital capacitation for operators. He stressed that "it is important to have the proper channels of communication and have a vision about the future which we can communicate to the youth and they can be engaged with it."

Lastly, the lone female speaker Ms. Charlene Tan, Founder of Good Food Community (GFC), introduced the concept of community shared agriculture and how to relocalize food economies for health, environment, and peace. Ms. Tan shared that "at the heart of what we do is relationship. It is meeting the people behind your food and getting to know what their lives are." She also said GFC values agency, discovery, and nutrition for the consumers while connecting to markets, technical knowledge, and diversification for the farmers. Ms. Tan concluded her talk by encouraging everyone to change the world with food. She said "the opportunity is people are going back to what is important now that we are stuck at home and without distractions. What is important—food, relationships, community. The best thing we could do is take advantage of this clarity. We can change the world and do something. The youth can be a part of this as they can think of what is possible."

This article was first posted at SEARCA's website.