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Giving Back Was My Take-away from Youth in Landscapes Initiative

My journey started a bit late – I’ve been doing forestry and conservation work over the last eight years but I’ve only came to realise that investing in the youth is equally important and vital if we really want to be genuinely successful in our chosen field of profession. This realisation did not came easy, as a young professional myself, I’ve often experienced being in that situation where I feel like I’m “too young” to be an expert and therefore I can’t express my perceptions on issues which I’ve seen first hand. Most of the time I also felt that I lack the confidence to just express my thoughts and perspectives even though my experiences said otherwise.

But all of those feelings of doubts and fears changed two years ago. It was May 2014 when I first experienced participating in a youth session during the Forests Asia Summit. I was then a participant under the climate change discussion and we talked about the skills that the youth need for future climate change careers. My experience during the youth session gave me new insights and encouraged me to become a better version of myself.  Hence, later that same year when the opportunity to facilitate a discussion about climate change and land-use opened, I didn’t think twice and I took the chance to apply for it. Fortunately, I was chosen as one of the 12 facilitators and pitchers during the Youth Session in the Global Landscapes Forum in Lima. Together with the rest of facilitators and pitchers we took the skills and knowledge building master classes to prepare us for our roles during the youth session. The succeeding year came with an even more amazing opportunity when I’ve been given another chance to participate in the Youth in Landscapes Initiative in Paris. I’ve met some of the most amazing and inspiring young professionals over that short course of time and the 4-day master class workshop helped our team to collaboratively come-up with our innovative solution to our landscape challenge.

Left: Facilitating a discussion at GLF 2014 © Marco Simala for CIFOR Right: Pitching the “Measuring Success” team’s idea during YIL’s Youth Session © Andrew Wheeler for Wild Dog Limited/WLE_CGIAR 2015

Little did I know that attending those master classes would change my whole perspective about my own journey as a young professional.

Upon returning to my home country and with my heart still burning with passion to share these newly found insights, I solicited the help of another young professional from IFSA named Jan Joseph Dida, who also had the chance to attend such master classes. We took advantage of one of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nation’s regional events called 3rd Asia-Pacific Forestry Week to conduct the re-echo of the various lessons we both acquired from the master classes we have participated over the last two years.

Participants of the re-echo of the youth capacity-building workshop during the 3rd Asia-Pacific Forestry Week 2016. © Beth Zaida Hernandez of AFFS-UPLB Local Committee (IFSA).

Having the opportunity to give back and share what I’ve learnt in these master classes gives me the motivation to continuously find ways to share these lessons from the youth sessions. The only way that we can truly sustain our shared aspirations is by also ensuring that the future generations are given the same (or a better) chance of empowering themselves. And this is what the Youth in Landscapes Initiative gave us. It provided us a safe and enriching space where each of us can learn from each other’s experiences and collaboratively create solutions to some of the most pressing environmental problems we have.

But learning does not end after attending university or completing a workshop, it can be as fluid and flexible as one wants it to be. I believe that my progression from being a participant, to a facilitator and pitcher and now an aspiring trainor was largely influenced by the organizing committee of these youth sessions. Their passion, mentorship and dedication on providing young professionals a safe space to build their leadership skills is what keeps me inspired and driven. Attending these master classes and having the chance to network with equally inspiring young professionals showed me the importance of continuously improving oneself whilst also taking the time to share it to others.

I might be on my last note on this reflection blog but certainly not on my efforts to continue this amazing journey of empowering the youth- all thanks to the once in a lifetime opportunity of attending the Youth in Landscapes Initiative.