Youth in Landscapes: Taking action on recurring issues

Janusz Gawron, stock.xchange
Janusz Gawron, stock.xchange

Youth are sometimes asked to provide their input into the big issues in the landscapes sector (agriculture, forestry, fisheries, conservation, development, industry, climate change), but let’s face it — this input often stays on the sidelines and rarely influences the ‘real’ decisions that are being made.

We’re hoping to change this by providing a platform to bring the youth voice to the Global Landscapes Forum (see the event CIFOR and YPARD are planning here) and get these insights concretely reflected in the outcomes.

We have trawled through youth communiqués from past events to find the recurring themes. This is our chance to start from where we ended before, and move into concrete plans and commitments.  Let’s take an action-oriented approach together and focus on building a youth supportive environment within the landscapes sector. We want to hear your opinion, your experience, and your suggestions for moving forward.

Here are the four themes we have identified as important to building a youth-supportive environment within the landscapes sector. We need to determine strategies for dealing with them, including advocating for the policy support to create a place where they can happen.

1. Access to finance for youth.  Youth are being told to create their own opportunities through entrepreneurship in these tough financial times, yet are often not able to obtain loans for startup activities.  Youth are unable to access finance without collateral or specific government initiatives to support itPrevious discussions have identified that a shift in policy is required, and needs the support of governments and financial institutions.

2. Negative perception of agriculture/landscapes.The sector is often considered a poor, unattractive sector of the last resort. Making agriculture modern and sexy has consistently come up in youth centred discussions.  Suggestions include a stronger integration of ICTs, working on more attractive and potentially lucrative organic agriculture links, promoting farming as an income-generator, broadening perspectives on agriculture as a wide range of jobs that do not exclusively involve getting your hands dirty.Showcase of success stories and role models, spotlights on existing funding and job opportunities in agriculture and having “Youth in Ag.” social media rock stars are some of the concrete initiatives started towards fighting the negative picture of agriculture.

3. Reform of the education system. Let’s face it, parents very often invest in education to get their children out of rural livelihoods and agriculture, and the education system does not provide strong coverage of the scope of the landscapes sector, with all of the opportunities available. Recent studies report that tertiary and vocational institutions are not providing the skills and competencies necessary for young people to be a dynamic part of the landscapes sector. Curriculum reform is required, including inputs from a wide range of stakeholders. This also leads to the importance of internship opportunities.

4. Access to capacity development for young professionals.  Young professionals feel they need more opportunities to build up their skill sets, largely in the ‘soft skills’ sector. There is also a need for better integration of ICTs into the field.Mentorship, internships, capacity building trainings, negotiating with employers and other organisations to give more chance to young people were identified as ways to feel this gap.

Some questions for discussion:

1. How can we take concrete actions to improve youth access to finance?

2. What actions can we put in place to tackle negative perceptions of youth working in agriculture or landscapes – beyond or to scale up what already exists (i.e showcase)? Get creative with your ideas!

3. How do we start to reform education curriculums?  What can you do to help improve the educational system in your country?

4. What can we do to improve access to capacity development? How do we make sure capacity development strategies meet the expressed needs of youth? What needs to change?

5.     Are there other main areas where youth could play a major role?

So, to kick off the discussions, share your suggestions with us in the comment box below. Please indicate which point you are referring to (1-4). Through the discussions, we want to come to ACTION, so we would like to hear concrete examples, and concrete actions/remedies; and also what YOU are doing to overcome these hurdles…

Previous youth communiqués consulted include:

  • YPARD pre-conference youth session at GCARD2, 2012
  • A Call for Stronger Support for Youth Involvement in Agriculture and ICT (Communiqué) by CTA, 2011
  • “Youth in extension: are we making the most of our young assets?” Outcomes of YPARD and GFRAS e-discussions, 2011
  • “Factoring young voices to address critical challenges” YPARD’s representatives’ perspective on the CGIAR Science Forum, 2011.