Mainstreaming the youth in CGIAR Dryland Systems Research programs 1.1
So here I was, a young female Malawian representing YPARD and fellow youth at the CRP1.1 East Africa meeting in Lilongwe-Malawi, where representatives from CGIAR in east and southern Africa had convened. After spending a restless night reading the program document, I could hardly wait to pass my message and thoughts on to the delegates; the youth will be interested in the program, agricultural in nature, if the program has the right incentives for the youth such as employment opportunities.
The meeting was organised with the purpose of developing an 8th Intermediate Development Outcome (IDO) for CRP 1.1 , which was mainstreaming women and youth in the program for better access to and control; productive assets, inputs, information, market opportunities and capture a more equitable share of increased income, food and other benefits. Prior to this, the 7 IDOs had only implicitly made reference to the inclusion of the youth, women and pro-poor without detailed action paths.
Key Outcomes of meeting:
Members agreed to have the 8th IDO that would be mandated with ensuring that the rest of the 7 IDOs have mainstreamed youth and women in the activities.
Capacity building of both CGIAR, NARES and associated partners in gender and youth mainstreaming to ensure buy-in by all stakeholders
Recruitment of gender and youth specialist who would be reporting directly to the CRP director
My major contribution towards the meeting hinged on the key message that in rural poor communities, agriculture is seen as a poor mans occupation, hence no youth wants to be involved in it. Agricultural programs are not aligned to contribute to attainment of the needs of the youth. I proposed two main initiatives:
Presenting agriculture as a source of employment to the youth, and offering incentives for their participation. YPARD believes that agriculture is what will work for the youth, and we know that it has to be packaged in the right manner to get the youth interested.
Institutional reforms. Agriculture has to be promoted right when children start school and be presented to be having status quo with other professions. This involves awareness program among junior school teachers and relevant stakeholders.
The meeting all in all was a success, especially to us the youth as the aspect of youth mainstreaming moved from just being a priority to being embedded within an IDO ; implicitly giving the youth more mandate to participate in the program.
My sentiments from the meeting are that there is a need for a paradigm shift in believing that the youth will be automatically interested in the program without incentives, because they will not. I gave my thoughts to the team that as a program, it will have to put in place deliberate measures; attractive incentives that will show rural youth that agriculture can uplift their lives. I could see that some members were reluctant to take the suggestions on board, though they all seemed to agree that the participation of the youth in the program was essential. From the discussions, I was tasked to provide a situation analysis of youth participation in agriculture.