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YPARD: The Youth Platform That Changed My Professional Career

I have always had an interest in understanding the world around me and this is the reason why I chose to study economics because it affects every aspect of our lives. My favorite definition of economics is “Man´s struggle to ensure his material subsistence.” However, it is important to know the earth´s natural processes and forces in order to definitely understand that nature is not a subsystem of economy, but rather that economy is a subsystem of a larger and finite system: the biosphere. From this perspective, I started looking for a specific field where to apply my knowledge about economics but at the same time connected to the natural sciences.

The First Opportunity

The opportunity came when I became a visiting researcher for the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT in Spanish) in the Decision and Policy Analysis Research Area (DAPA). The research project I was involved in allowed me to know more about the primary sector of economy or agricultural sector and its relevance to providing sufficient, safe and high-quality food for a healthy and fulfilling life; without neglecting its importance to other economic sectors. However, I decided to go a step forward and have a more direct form of participation when I realized that agriculture plays a more important role for humanity than ever before, due to its connections with the impending climate change, water crisis, food security, and the urgent need for clean energy sources.

An amazing and changing life experience

I still remember when I first heard about YPARD: CIAT the hosting organization for YPARD-LAC (the regional unit for Latin America and the Caribbean) was looking for a new coordinator for YPARD LAC.  Dr. Guimaraes, the coordinator for CIAT LAC pitched about YPARD to a big group of young researchers, he said: “this youth platform will allow you to get more involved in agriculture and develop your leadership skills.” After listening to these words and hearing about the opportunities available, I did not doubt it and I started a new phase in my professional career. The biggest opportunity that changed my life was when I became Latin American Coordinator for YPARD. 

During that year I learned to work for an international organization and learned from my colleagues’ experiences working in other countries how to work both as a team member and an individual within an organization. I also gained an understanding of the future of global agriculture and came to the realization that the future of the world’s economy, environment, and food supply is in the hands of young professionals working in agriculture. Moreover, forms of social media are key to encourage people to think, work and act together. This was one of my most valuable lessons I learned from my work with YPARD that uses modern forms of social media to promote agriculture among youth and encourage them to pursue a professional career in this field.

The legacy

For a long time, I thought about pursuing a Ph. D in economics due to my research and teaching experience in Colombia. However, my experience at CIAT and YPARD changed my mind and showed me the path that I really was looking for. After my work with YPARD, I decided to change my professional career and started my doctoral studies in agricultural communications and education. YPARD’s vision on the proactive contribution of youth to innovative and sustainable agricultural development encouraged me to improve my knowledge and skills in agricultural communications, agricultural education, and agricultural leadership. I am aware of my responsibility for a better future in my country which is still dependent on the agricultural sector. I continue to be an economist, but now my personal thought on economic growth is based on the development of a system that produces and distributes goods and services by taking care of the environment, promoting sustainable production systems and educating citizens to be more responsible with their use of natural resources.

As a result of my feelings of gratitude for the experiences YPARD has given me, I have been sharing my experience and YPARD’s mission and activities with others. This time in the U.S. with the undergraduate and graduate students at the department of Agricultural Education and Communications at Texas Tech University. I also had the opportunity to share a research poster on “Social Media as a Tool to Promote Agriculture and Exchange Information Among Youth: YPARD case study” at the 2016 Association for International Agricultural and Extension Education (AIAEE) conference held in Portland, Oregon. The results generated interest of the audience which manifested itself through their questions and desire to create a profile on and I won an award as the Second Runner-Up Poster.

Gipsy social media poster

I am very glad to be part of the first ten years of YPARD. I am one of the thousands of youths who have benefited from YPARD’s work, activities, and information. Without a doubt, I will always be grateful for their help in shaping my present.

YPARD’s future is promising as there are more youths interested and involved in the platform, more services offered to the young community through mentorship and more regional scope with the valuable work performed by the national representatives. Moreover, people like me who take the flame from their mentors and continue the path sharing what was learned and building a legacy for new Ypardians and the new generations in order to promote and improve the agricultural development.

Testimonial by Gipsy Bocanegra Ochoa a national from Columbia currently a student at Texas Tech University.

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