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The near future of agriculture: opportunities for the Youth - YPARD China

China teamYPARD China chapter organized a conference themed The Near Future Of Agriculture: Opportunities For The Youth on the 3rd June 2013. This conference held at the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS) had Prof. Ajit Maru, Senior Knowledge officer at Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) as the key speaker.

It was also attended by key professionals and technical experts in the field of agriculture including Dr. Dong Yiwei, Assistant Professor of the Institute Of Environment And Sustainable Development of agriculture of the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences (CAAS), Mr. Zhang Ping, Director of Oil and oil seed research center, Sinograin Oils Corporation, Mr. Liu Danping also from Sinograin Oils Corporation, Ms. Zhong Fang, Assistant to the CEO of Green Ground Economic Technology Center and Director of Research and development department of Little Donkey Farm in Beijing and Mr. Li Liuyang who works for the Liang Shuming Rural Construction Center a center established by the Dean of Rural Development School of Renmin University.

This conference was directed and coordinated by Ms. Bi Jieying YPARD China Coordinator who gave a welcoming speech and introduced the team of experts to the participants. In her opening remarks she quoted the words of the Chinese president Xi Jinping “the Chinese nation’s bright prospect on the road to revival is the China Dream”. Ms. Huang Jiaqi, YPARD China Secretary and Mr. Boniface Nobeji a Phd. Scholar and international student at the Graduate School of CAAS were also given the opportunity to open the discussions.

Ms. Huang Jiaqi had the first opportunity to give a presentation on the overview of YPARD and a review of YPARD China Activities in which she gave the participants a detailed overview of the meaning of YPARD, how it works and the process participants have to go through to join the YPARD community.

The keynote speaker for the conference Mr Ajit Maru then took the floor and gave an informative presentation on opportunities for the youth in agriculture borrowing the words of the former American President Ronald Regan who said that “Each generation goes further than the generation preceding it because it stands on the shoulders of that generation. You will have opportunities beyond anything we’ve ever known”. Read Mr Ajit Maru's full key note: The Near Future of Agriculture: Opportunities for the Youth.

His discussion mainly centered on Challenges in Agriculture included the urgent need to eradicate hunger and extreme poverty, feeding the 9 billion population in 2050, climate change, diminishing natural resource and agricultural biodiversity, trans-boundary spread of diseases and pest, concerns of food safety, nutritional security and human health and highly competitive global market for agricultural commodities, technologies and services.

He also mentioned mentioned about the Challenges of the Young professional in agriculture which include environmentally safe and sustainable use of natural resources, economically and socially sustainable production that reduces inequalities, how to gain recognition for individual and collective contributions and become leaders of change and innovation, opportunities for the young professional and how youths can prepare to take advantage of the opportunities that arise in the current fields of agriculture which brings with it new opportunities in making agriculture and farming sustainable in its entire meaning:  feeding 9 billion population projected in 2050.

It is also about dealing with the complexities of new agriculture in which resources have to be used in an eco-friendly and sustainable way and bringing in new agricultural knowledge services and technology related enterprises that are global in scope.

To be relevant in the field of agriculture and to take advantage of the opportunities that are emerging in the current world of agriculture the young professional has to think in terms of being:

"The Trans – Disciplinarian –the disciplines which were in vogue in the 1960s like population genetics, biochemistry and molecular biology, agricultural engineering and epidemiology are fast becoming obsolete as the challenges for today call for new and modern fields of study that include biotechnology, nanotechnology, information and communication technologies, material sciences and space sciences. The modern day young scientist has to fit his inventions within an ever changing field of fast paced and cutting edge technology just to stay relevant.

The Scientist – Innovator- Entrepreneur – in the middle part of the 20th century science and technology was primarily for development purposes in the 21st century the pursuit of science is increasingly being seen as entrepreneurial and modern day inventions have tended to attract a lot of attention in terms of their potential market value. Development of applications for phone-tablets “phablets”, cloud computing based on 4G platforms can when combined with geo-spatial data and incorporates a wide variety of functions such as logistics, agricultural inputs, produce, forecasting, traceability, market pricing, consumer preferences and targeting offer huge set of opportunities for the modern day inventor and entrepreneur.

The dealer in complexity –simple solutions to complex agricultural problems have been found not to work, even though agriculture has always been complex, its complexities are now more than ever recognized as having a much greater impact on the sector in light of new and emerging challenges. It is a fact now that “There are no low hanging fruits” the young professional now and in future has to deal with complex problems and understand complexity to solve these problems effectively. Opportunities and challenges that arise from resolving complex problems like solving complexities of the supply chain and making national research systems deliver outcomes necessary for development, now seriously expose the current education system that has been found inadequate in preparing graduates to fully understand and exploit these new paradigms.

The internationalist – Agriculture is becoming globalized, prices and markets are transmitted and integrated faster through regional and global markets, as such new opportunities in agricultural technology, seed and machinery and knowledge based services are now emerging as critical components of the supply, value and product chain. The world is seeing more expertise demanded in the fields of agricultural commodity trade, foreign farming systems, language, culture, societal norms, local human behavior, trends, legislation and standards such as biosafety, food safety, traceability and good agricultural practices."

At the end of his presentation Prof. Ajit Maru left the participants a challenge in the following words:

“Face new challenges, seize new opportunities, test your resources against the unknown and in the process, discover your own unique potential    – John Amatt”

Panel discussions session of the conference addressed issues such as safe food production, challenges of declining resource potentials, shift of interest from agriculture, challenges of trans disciplinary focus, attraction opportunities and the challenge of remaining relevant in the job market, Micro and Macro research, development issues and rural-urban migrations resulting in youths preferring to work in cities. Other challenges mentioned were: food networks and innovations to take into consideration the interests of the small farmers, information technology as a resource for the future, globalization, consumerization and capitalization and the work currently being undertaken by Renmin University to train young professionals, seed rural development. Eco – agricultural experimentation and technology development were the main issues of focus.

Engagement with the audience participants, mainly international and Chinese students, elicited concerns about the aging farmer population, lack of interest in agriculture among the youth, the role of financial services in the adoption of technologies by young small holder farmers. Narrow or fixed mindedness among professionals and scientists and lack of management skills were among the main concerns of the audience as well.

Following the hearty open discussion session the conference also had a brief presentation on the structure and functionalities of the CIARD RING http://ring.ciard.net/zh-hans portal from Prof. Pan.  

In his closing remarks at the end of the conference Prof. Ajit Maru mentioned that the future would see the launch of more global services in the wake of the highly successful CIARD RING, there is also need to effectively use resources within the CIARD RING especially by stakeholders in the agricultural industry and he also took the opportunity to welcome YPARD into the CIARD RING adding that such open access resources need to be brought more to the public domain. Finally he noted that in a bio based economy where labor, knowledge and bio products are traded every one had a role to play, a role that is increasingly taking on importance and more and more firms paying top notch salaries to attract such talents.