It is often said good things don’t last. Such was the case when I participated in the GFAR Constituent Assembly as a social media reporter thanks to my affiliation with YPARD, the young professionals for agricultural development. The three days event went so fast that it looked like one day.
The GFAR Constituent Assembly, the first ever assembly, was held between the 24th and 26th of August. It brought together participants from the different GFAR constituencies and provided them space to discuss the future of GFAR in its entirety. The three days were therefore marked with sharing of experiences, deliberations, making of resolutions and breaking other constituents all in the spirit of reshaping the future of GFAR for the better. I was privileged to cover this as the social media reporter.
This opportunity introduced me to many things and people; besides being solely responsible for a social media reporting exercise of this magnitude for the first time, I met and interacted with many people and worth mentioning are the YPARD community members; Bi Jieying - the Asia coordinator and China’s YPARD representative, Gaye Sokhna - Senegal YPARD representative, Wyss Rahel - Switzerland YPARD representative and Paisley Courtney – YPARD Director and representative in the GFAR steering committee
To report on this agriculturally intense event, I had to learn the art given my different background in international relations. It was therefore not only a reporting exercise, but also a learning experience for me. As I got round learning about the different themes addressed at the conference, I discovered the multi-disciplinary nature of agriculture. Agriculture borrows from other fields such as biotechnology, engineering, research, biology, ecology, transport just to name but a few and this helped me to contextualize in my field too and now I see the important role international relations play in advancing agriculture.
During the conference, most people I interacted with-from academia, research institutions and Non-governmental organizations, wondered why I was there given that most of them were outside the youth bracket but I am glad that YPARD team was able to represent young professionals. Out of the 100 participants, five were youth representatives. I am hopeful because among the themes addressed we had youth in agriculture. Some key decisions were made for stronger youth’s empowerment. The assembly resolved to;
Support efforts to understand youth aspirations through listening to them, giving them guidance and letting them make their own decisions.
Create an enabling policy environment at the local level through funding, land and capital development.
Integrate farming in education system to attract more youths.
I also conducted interviews with some of the GFAR constituents – which presented an opportunity for me to interact with the high and mighty and yet down to earth- Government ministers, CEOs, Directors, Professors and farmers. Worth a special mention are;
Prof. Ruth Oniang’o – GFAR vice chair,
Dr. Yemi Akinbamijo – Executive Director FARA,
Mr Masum Mubarak - Director General of Agricultural Research in the Ministry of Agriculture, Turkey,
Mr. Paddy Browne – Crop and Environmental officer at TEAGASC in Ireland and
Mr. Joachim Knoth - Policy expert in Rural development, Food security and Nutrition at the European Commission.
Mr. Amuhada Mario -a farmer and representative of Rural/agricultural Development Advocacy INGOs in Latin America and Caribbean.
From my experiences and the conference proceedings, it is clear that youth issues have been put at the core of many initiatives. In his interview Dr. Yemi Akinbamijo, said that FARA implements the GFAR mandate in Africa and it takes youth and agriculture seriously. One of its agendas is to attract youth into farming. He alluded to a forthcoming meeting in Nairobi that will bring together participants from FARA and YPARD among other quotas. These are efforts in the right direction but there is need for more collaborative actions to support the youth as when it concerns them, they need to be part of the discussions too.
The whole experience left a better me as I am more confident, more informed about central challenges in agriculture and I am better connected professionally.Moving forward, participants exhibited good intentions for GFAR and the youth - what remains to be seen is the actualization of the good intentions. The proceedings of this conference can be found at the following links;