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Enough talk, let´s act - engaging youth in agriculture

For the past few years, YPARD and its partner organizations have conducted a series of activities to support young people in agriculture.

Our mission is to enable and empower young agricultural leaders shaping sustainable food systems. To achieve this we have our members at heart, who are encouraged to become active voices for the youth in their respective fields and organizations and further, facilitate an exchange of ideas.

This year, we wanted to go beyond, shifting the discussions from “youth: this is what we want from you” to “How can we support youth’s visions for them to take charge and contribute to a more sustainable agricultural future”.

On Wednesday, September 18, 2019, a few hours before the 2019 Tropentag conference officially started at the University of Kassel, Germany. YPARD in collaboration with Agrinatura carried out a pre-conference workshop. The workshop brought together over thirty conference attendees comprised of students, researchers, young agricultural professionals, and other stakeholders to discuss what actions the youth can take to contribute to the improvement of the agricultural sector for future generations and how youth-based organizations such as YPARD and Agrinatura can contribute more to this issue.

Only the youth knows what the youth wants

This interactive session started with a brief presentation of YPARD and Agrinatura and an icebreaker where participants got to learn about each other and the five keywords that best describe them. Through this, we wanted to create an environment of comfort and trust where participants felt free to share their thoughts, views, and vision(s) and to let us know how youth-based organizations can do more to support sustainable agricultural development.

Small discussion groups were then formed to answer the questions: 1) what are the present realities of youth in agriculture? How has the situation changed in the last ten years, for agriculture and youth’s participation in the sector? 2) What are the primary drivers and influencers of this change? What can you do now as the present generation in the sector to make a change for future generations? 3) What actions/strategies can we take now and what are the near goals for improving the positions of young people in agricultural sectors? 4) Could we identify the crucial actions needed for the active participation of youth in agriculture? And 5) what do you expect from youth-focused organizations in helping you to reach your vision and what services provided by them do you see valuable?

The realities of youth in agriculture

All discussion groups responded to the first question on the realities of your in agriculture. Not surprising as it is what they face on a daily basis regardless of the region they reside in the response across the board was that youth in agriculture face too many challenges and amongst the discussed are: rural-urban migration, lack of government support, lack of technology in rural areas, bureaucracy, commercial influences of big companies, lack of projects and international programs, organic/GMO products, corruption, the price of food (asymmetry in the value chain), skilled labor and demand for work experience, agri-high risk (volatility), lack of investment, access to a water source, marketing, land quality (soil fertility erosion), lack of land and access, international youth exchange, promotion of government subsidies, lack of sufficient funding and perceived low rewards.

In brief, the youth in agriculture faces many challenges, and there is an increasing need to overcome them if we have any chance of achieving a more sustainable agricultural future. Yet, when the group discussed the role played by today’s youth to realize their vision, some participants stated the negative perceptions of youth. Some respondents asserted that agriculture is not perceived as fashionable or that it is perceived as not intellectually stimulating and has low profile jobs, additionally, they highlighted the laziness of the youth, generation change and youth lack of interests and motivation.

Never the less the honesty and willingness of the participants to respond to this question enabled them to identify primary drivers and influencers of change. What can be done now as the present generation in the sector to make a change for future generations?

Provide support, strengthening skills and competencies for their future!

A series of concrete solutions were given to support youth in the sector, through stronger capacity building, in particular. Crucial solutions were identified within the group discussions led by the young people at the session to encourage youth to get involved in agriculture and overcome the adversities faced in the sector. The solutions suggested to better prepare the youth for the future they want were:

  • Programs for youth business start-ups
  • Capacity building education and training
  • Voice of youth in policymaking
  • Market opportunities
  • Youth should be included in decision making
  • Invest in technology
  • Create links between students and migrant workers/job opportunities at home,
  • Credit access and availability
  • Strengthen programs for returnees in agriculture
  • Job opportunities and infrastructure
  • Link between research and extension and mindset (value of own community)

Youth-focused organizations- What more can they do?

In a bid to determine how we can serve you better! The workshop discussion was also geared towards figuring out ways in which youth-based organizations such as YPARD and Agrinatura can contribute more in supporting youth in agriculture and what key actions need to be taken to do so. A few suggestions from the workshop participants were: 1) facilitating links between the private sector, the youth, and linkage within youth networks, employment/paid internship hubs, knowledge exchange, online resources, networks, workshops, excursions and summer schools.

Both YPARD and Agrinatura are presently contributing towards these actions, discover these and more on the YPARD website at https://ypard.net/ and on the Agrinatura website at https://agrinatura-eu.eu/ and hope to encourage our partners and other youth-based organizations to get on board and actively support youth in agriculture so that they can reach their full potential and contribute towards a more sustainable agriculture for present and future generations!

Closing on a high note!

A highlight of the workshop was a training on how to publish a scientific paper in agriculture-oriented research: tips for early career researchers. The training was facilitated by Hynek Roubík, a young researcher from the Czech University of Life Sciences, Prague. Within the training, participants had the opportunity to get first-hand insights on why publishing scientific papers are important for early-career researchers. The training was filled with tips and tricks on how to write an informative yet engaging paper and the do's and don'ts when submitting a manuscript. With this training we wanted the young workshop attendees to be encouraged to share their scientific works as young agricultural scientists and to provide them with the necessary tools to do so.

The workshop organizing team is carrying out a participant’s survey to determine the theme for next year’s workshop at Tropentag 2020, which is to be organized by the Czech University of Life Sciences Prague (CULS), which is also hosting institution for YPARD Europe coordination unit. We hope to see you there!!

Picture credit: Tropentag 2019, Agrinatura & YPARD