YPARD was invited as a partner and official representative of the youth during the CRP1.1 launching, held on 21-23 May 2013, in Amman, Jordan (CGIAR -ICARDA), to discuss the importance of the youth in the implementation of the CGIAR CRP1.1 on Dryland Systems to achieve its impact.
It was only about giving some general hints on how youths involvement could be done through the program. YPARD gave a panel presentation to highlight the key concepts and ideas for youth empowerment and inclusion. Then, we supported these ideas during the group discussions focusing particularly on regional implementation plan, in order to make sure youth is explicitly part of the work plans.
How to set the scene in few words? -> 17 women on around 200 participants, not many more young people, a majority of researchers, and very few laptops by the way... It was agreed that this shouldnt happen again.
Researches focused on youth aspects : role of the youth, M&E of youth activities, Best practices of youth involvement
Capacity Building : technological, institutional, enterprise/ innovation, research, strengthening critical mind of the youth
Mentoring: through policy level activities through the Innovation Platform - and beyond: on technical and institutional level
Youth inclusion in policy debates to address their specific needs
Youth to play a key role in information sharing, notably between regions
Key critical elements were highlighted the need for:
Age disaggregated data
Youth representation in country or regional strategic teams
Capacity Building needs identified at local level
Youth included in policy debates
Discussion group: IDOs, Regional plan and the Youth component
The event proposed 2 key working group times, focusing on 1- the 7 Intermediate Development Outcomes (IDO) , 2- regional implementation plans.
As representative of a cross-cutting theme, I was invited to take part in discussions in each group, to make sure that the youths aspect is addressed for each IDO and in each region. This was not feasible, due to the number of groups and the necessity to engage in depth into discussions in each group.
As an overall, youth aspects appeared though capacity building, need of age and impact disaggregated data, youth aspect to be included in legal framework, more participation of the youth in events and trainings, youth as key communicators and medium in and between regions.
YPARD was also recognized as an example of expert backstopper in order to formally determine the needs across stakeholders through a participatory process, and through the Innovation Platform. This was particularly supported by the West Africa, Sahel and Dry Savannas group where I directly contributed.
Upon the IDOs, each group had to identify priority research issues in the next 5 years at regional level, and principal research outputs in the next 2 years.
I picked up the group that seemed to me the most challenging in term of youths inclusion while being one of the most crucial: policy reform...: Policy Reform removing constraints and incentivizing rural households to engage in more sustainable practices to intensify and improve resilience.
We agreed with my group that youth shouldnt be one specific research area, but it rather should be a cross-cutting aspect for each agricultural related issue. These identified issues were: research on context for implementation for agricultural innovation, access to funding, land reorganization, incentives for intensification and sustainability, research on rural development approach (top-down; bottom-up approaches), migration and urbanization, existing and needed policies to support adapted agricultural curricula.
I was confronted by the challenge of giving importance to a cross-cutting theme. Indeed, in the mind of people, being cross-cutting means not to be addressed directly but through other topics. Therefore one tends to think that this should not be emphasized. It was considered as an approach among others and although important considered, as a detail not to be mentioned at this level. However, one must note that mechanisms and research topics have still to be identified to make sure the cross-cutting theme is addressed through.
The participants were also mainly thinking through a perspective Government Research Farmers without taking in account the other actors and different attributes of people.
I particularly emphasized the need to ensure age disaggregated data in order to extract data on youth when appropriate throughout these topics.
The Outputs expected from this were agreed as being:
Overview of historical policies and impacts policies had on agricultural sector
Overview of policies addressing specific youth needs and recommendations for youth empowerment
We eventually got heard and could get people understand that young people have specific limitations and needs that prove the importance of adapted support from specific policies.
Supporting Youth in Ag. versus Promoting agriculture among the youth
One of the main comment I had was that the focus should be on attracting youth in agriculture. I didnt think that it would be such a challenge to assert that supporting those youth who ARE in agriculture is the best way to attract others to join the sector.
It seems that one forgets that there ARE currently Young Professionals in Agriculture. One must only look at YPARD to be proved this.
The refutation based on the fact that they are not a majority and therefore should not get the attention is not acceptable and counter-productive: it is by empowering this little few that we will build the strongest incentives for others to take the challenge to get involved in the sector and be confident enough in doing so.
Lets build a youth-friendly environment and the youth will come in! You will never get them interested otherwise and will lose those who are already involved.
It was interesting enough that the most skeptical about this (or the only one who expressed it openly) was actually a young professional. Thanks to fruitful discussions we came to an understanding and the outcomes of the discussions on policy reforms as reported above.
Governance and Management's support for the youth
The governance and management plan doesnt seem to include mechanisms to ensure that the youth aspect would be diligently taken in consideration and monitored throughout the programme. This was pointed out by YPARD. Youths integration into the program may be highly supported in theory but the mechanisms for the implementation to reflect this seem still weak.
The nature of youth as a cross-cutting theme seems to be the reason why. It is agreed and well supported that youth should be fully included in the program as a cross-cutting approach, and should not be treated as an isolated topic and put in a box. However, as a cross-cutting theme, it is considered (wrongly) as an implied, hidden component which therefore doesnt need specific managerial attention.
At the opposite we do consider that giving the responsibility to all stakeholders to ensuring youths integration is not enough and that there should be a focal point in the programs board member to orient and monitor this. It does exist for the gender issues. It seems critical to get a responsible entity/ focal point at a high-level to make sure youths aspect is addressed, beyond YPARD stake as a partner, the same way it exists for the gender approach.
YPARDs participation at the CRP1.1 Launching is only the end of the beginning and the beginning of a long way to ensure youths inclusion in the programme implementation.
YPARD was confirmed as an important partner to work with on a long term in order to make sure that Youth gets its stake throughout the program. Discussions must carry on in order to refine the plan and build strong collaboration and mechanisms towards this purpose, at different levels.