After 3 days of lengthy meetings and positive interactions, I honestly do think a change is coming. At the very least I can see it.
Last month, a suprise came in our email. Tech4Agri was elected as the local Youth Representative for the GFAR Steering Committee.
We had just signed up to become members of the forum, having seen an open call, which is still open, for stakeholders of all types and all regions of the world to apply.
As huge advocates for networking, it was a given that we joined the Forum. Additionally, #ICYMI, our YPARD Global Coordinating Unit is housed with GFAR, meaning they provide the support we need to keep our young professionals network going.
However, we truly did not expect to be elected by our fellow youth constituents. Not only were we humbled but it also shows our work is having a much larger impact than we thought. Our work is being seen.
Therefore we definitely had to rise to the occassion.
The members of the Steering Committee of which there are 32 in total, are there to represent their constituents in their various sectors. As a result, the committee is extremely diverse, ranging from and including farmer organizations, women and gender advocates, private business representatives, regional organizers, research institutions and more; all of whom represent a forum of over 400 partners.
Such diversity is the perfect environment for the sharing of experiences, particularly those that provide solutions to the problems stakeholders face in the course of their activities. The aim is to create GFAR’s new Medium Term Plan which guides its efforts in assisting forum members to collectively work towards demand driven research and innovation.
This is quite a challenge, given the various backgrounds and mandates of the various groups that committee members represent. There are so many moving parts to such wide scale collaboration.
Regardless, can you imagine what could be accomplished? By partnering with multiple stakeholders, at different levels and starting from the ground up, the Forum will encourage research and innovation that is actually needed.
In this sense a dynamic shift is in effect as such collaboration is likely to have an impact on the overall sector – a trend to ensure that true impact occurs.
Tech4agri as a member of the forum can partner with other institutions around the world by agreeing on a collective action.
A collective action is defined as a multi stakeholder program of work that is initiated by 3 or more partners of the forum while being prioritized by all members. It must include a focus on gender and youth while contributing to the objectives of the forum and the GCARD Road Map.
This means a more powerful working structure is possible to facilitate agriyouth needs. For instance, YPARD Trinidad & Tobago could partner with FONTAGRO, a regional mechanism for technical support and innovation in Latin America & the Caribbean and YPARD to facilitate an online mentoring program. One aspect of the program requires an international mentor. As such, we can work with other members and tap into the Forum’s resources to bring this into reality.
Despite the many moving parts of the structure it will certainly be much easier to facilitate a partnership that has direct impact on the ground.
Let’s pause for a second. Your immediate thought was that something like this would require funding, a concern many of the other Steering Committee members had during our first meeting.
However, I disagree. I view the Forum as a great opportuntiy to ensure agriyouth are able to access what they need. Based on the response from the youth constitutents, our needs remain the same as they have been for years – access to land, labor and captial/finance services. Given the diversity of the members, we have some highly influential partners who could lobby and succeed on behalf of youth and gender in support of truly meaningful programmes and policy in order to access these resources.
Furthermore, agriyouth also need technical support, co-workspaces, mentoring and exposure to new technologies and the likes of which can certainly be achieved through the maximization of resources that Forum members already have. For example, many partners have access to an office, even a small shared space, provided for young agripreneurs to work on their businesses. Having access to such an office would provide immense motivation for these youth to succeed.
This would in no way affect the cost of that office in terms of utilities, rent, internet and phone access, etc as it is likely that the institution already pays a set price for these services. By providing a co-working space, the resource use is simply being maximized. To me this would be an excellent start as it helps to bring new agribusinesses into the sector keeping it healthy and growing while simultaneously motivating these entrepreneurs to succeed.
All in all, I, like the other committee members have a positive outlook on the new direction of GFAR. I look forward to the next meeting where our collective actions will be solidified and we can get to work, moving forward.