By: Michael Ruggeri, YPARD Belgium Country Representative
Being part of YPARD means being part of a community spanning across continents and countries with very different needs and plans when it comes to agriculture and rural development. Still, what brings all YPARDians together is their willingness to do more by learning from their peers, sharing experiences and acting as one when the need arises.
For this reason, I found that connecting country representatives on a one-on-one basis could serve as a stepping stone towards building a stronger YPARD community, could be an effective way to get to know more from others and give a face to a community that, due to its extension, sometimes we only know virtually. Additionally, the recent global changes and a world temporarily standing still taught us the importance of staying connected and showed us the potentiality of digital means in this regard.
In short, what was mentioned above gave rise to the idea of a Virtual Coffee initiative that became reality after receiving the full support of YPARD's Global Coordinating Unit. In practice, country representatives were randomly paired every week for them to have a virtual coffee break and explore activities they are spearheading in their respective countries, facilitate the cross-fertilization of ideas and have a peek into their upcoming plans. All this through online-based platforms.
Having the full support of YPARD's Global Coordinating Unit and seeing them involved in the process was key to reaching out to the whole YPARD network. In the end, approximately 15 representatives from South America, sub-Sahara Africa, Europe and Asia had very fruitful discussions. And what's more is that expertise spanned from researchers in plant biology to coffee specialists!
As a participant myself, I had the chance to get to meet representatives carrying out surveys to better tailor YPARD's activities to local needs, young researchers willing to start new chapters and people working with local communities to establish sustainable agricultural practices with the support of YPARD volunteers.
All of this is surely serving as an additional source of inspiration for some of YPARD's upcoming activities, at the global and local levels. As someone who easily gets carried away, it is not difficult for me to see this initiative as a trampoline to potential cross-country collaborations. And I hope it will be.