Of the 14 side events that I attended during the Committee on World Food Security (CFS), the event on farming, innovation and youth was the most engaging and energetic.
It was organized by World Farmers’ Organization (WFO), Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Youth Economic Summit (YES) and the Chamber of Commerce of Rome. It aimed to provide a joint platform for various stake-holders (international organizations, government organization, NGO’s, private sector, research institutions and young farmers).
The room was full of young farmers and young people who work in agriculture sector. It was really a meeting of youth from all over the world: Belgium, Iceland, Ireland, Slovenia, Mali, Nigeria, Uganda, Kenya, Peru, Columbia, Georgia, Mongolia, Luxemburg and many more countries. After panelists finished presenting session’s moderator Mr. Corby Kummer, a senior editor of Atlantic Monthly, gave young people in the room the chance to speak about the main challenges they face while farming.
No microphones and no interpretation, but this is when all the fun begins! One by one, young farmers from different countries stood up and shared their opinions loudly as if there were “thirsty” to talk.
Denis Kabiito, national coordinator of Uganda’s National Young Farmers Association (UNYFA). told those present that farming is not attractive because there is no “role model” to look up. “Do you know any farmer who is famous? And who is known globally, like you know soccer players?” he asked during the discussion.
This made me realize that I have never met a kid whose dream was to become a farmer when he grew up. The usual answers were always doctor, policeman, fire fighter, lawyer, chef, a cleaning lady (for me), but rarely “a farmer”.
Then I Googled “ definition of a farmer” to know what young kids would see when they search the term. The first result was “a farmer is a person who farms; person who operates a farm”. Despite being very simple, this looked quite okay. But the second definition was, “an unsophisticated person from a rural area”. This is the “real” problem. Now, who wants to be an unsophisticated person?
This is highlights the issue with agriculture’s “image”, and is partially why the agriculture sector is aging. According to an FAO publication, the average age of farmers is 60 years in developed countries and 60 years in Africa (given that 60% of whole population is under 24 years old). And this trend is similar in other countries too.
The current definition of a farmer is not helping to tackle the challenges of feeding nine billion people by 2050 and eliminating hunger by 2030. We have to call out young people and show them the opportunities in agriculture. I’d say “Let’s make farming famous!”
We can do it by engaging young people from rural areas in using social media tools to better access information, to learn about great opportunities, and to promote people in the agriculture sector. An example of this is the Young Professionals for Agriculture Development (YPARD). It is a social platform movement and a network of young professionals. YPARD has more than 10,000 members from more than 45 nations, all working in the agriculture sector. It reaches the rural youth on the ground through its country representatives, enabling young farmers to inspire each other.
YPARD is one of many more platforms we can use to make farming famous. Other organizations such as Farming First, International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD), International Association of Students in Agriculture Related Science (IAAS), Global Forum For Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS), and many more are working together to promote the sector.
If you are a young person then go ahead and join them! Contribute to change the farming “image” that we have now. In doing so you will be contributing to zero hunger, a sustainable future and feeding the world.
Share your story. Share your friend’s story. Be a role model! Sharing is Caring.
This Blogpost by (Anudari Enkhtur), #CFS43 Social Reporter – ([email protected]) is part of the live coverage during the 43rd Session of the Committee on World Food Security (CFS) and represents the author’s views only.