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A central stage for the youth, for World Food Security

13 October 2015, Rome, Italy - CFS 42 Side event: Enabling innovation: cultivating young talent to drive sustainable agri-food systems in 2030. FAO headquarters (Red Room).

Youth had an unprecedented central stage at the 42nd Committee on World Food Security.

For the first time talent development and the role of youth in food security was explored in the Committee for Food Security (CFS). YPARD played a strong role in framing two side events that brought strong youth innovators to the sessions and encouraged member states to give more space and listen to what youth in their countries have to say.  

The CFS Idea incubator enabled the youth to pitch their ideas for food security while the CFS special youth session gave a space for discussions on youth challenges and opportunities to further food security and nutrition. YPARD was also part of the MyFood30 side event which looked at youth’s aspirations and what is needed to enable young talents to drive sustainable agri-food systems in 2030.

Youth Idea Incubator

Ten youth from around the world were invited to the CFS to pitch their idea or initiative which engages youth in agriculture and food systems. They delivered their pitch to a panel of experts in youth engagement, food security and nutrition including entrepreneurs, social leaders, academics, and others, receiving valuable feedback to strengthen their project.

Read Johnson's inspiring testimonial as one of the 10 youth innovators invited to pitch their idea during the idea incubator: My Experience at the Committee on Food Security of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Watch the full sessionYouth Incubator, Youth for Food Security and Nutrition, (1.30h) and check #Y4FSN on Twitter for live interactions. You may prefer the 2.30mins video: CFS Youth Idea Incubator – youth pitching their ideas.

Meet more Youth giving their ideas on how to end food security and nutrition on this 3mins video and view the 63 youth champions’ videos received by CFS, on CFS website's idea incubator page.

An insightful special youth session

Developing the knowledge, skills, and talent of youth was raised as crucial to further food security and nutrition. This implies, first, raising awareness on the challenges and lessons learned in building the capacity of youth in agriculture and food systems. The special youth session created this space for exchanges on those challenges, opportunities and best practices.  

The facilitator, YPARD’s Steering Committee member Sithembile Ndema from FANRPAN challenged the delegates and provoked discussion in the room including, who do you picture as your famous personality in agriculture, are there really opportunities for youth in agriculture?  It was agreed that more and further discussion is required on this topic.

Watch the video of the special youth session. (2hrs)

The CFS Secretariat had issued a call for case studies highlighting examples of initiatives on youth in agriculture, to prepare a synthesis of lessons learned and potential policy implications. Over 60 cases were received, of which 24 edited cases can be found in this document: Developing the knowledge, skills and talent of youth to further food security and nutrition. You can find this report in other languages on CFS' website.

Young talent to drive sustainable agri-food systems in 2030

The Myfood30 session was a very interactive one, orchestrated by the famous Mr. Frank Sesno, international journalist and Director of the School of Media and Public Affairs, George Washington University. UN-FAO/GWU Student Innovation Award winners played short video clips presenting their answers to the equation food + innovation = ? and shared their aspirations for the next steps of their projects for sustainable solutions to global hunger and malnutrition challenges.

Mr Adrian Aebi from the Swiss Federal Office for Agriculture introduced the MyFood30 project designed to listen to young people’s voices on the future of our agri-food system and support them in maximizing their contribution to the Sustainable Development Goals. Five key challenges were identified through the project  ranging from understanding the political and economic context and facilitating exchange between young people and decision makers to tackling practical barriers, addressing missing skills and knowledge and gaining practical work experience.

Young volunteers within the audience took part in a mini flashmob and read out quotes shared by international respondents to the MyFood30 survey, recognizing the current barriers but also highlighting the next generation’s commitment to making change happen.

An interactive workshop session enabled participants to prioritize the measures needed to take this agenda forward, share best practice examples or suggest additional actions required. As the votes were counted, three young people joined Mr Sesno on stage for a panel debate and plenary discussion.

The workshop exercise revealed that delegates wanted to see:

  • more information about sustainability issues included in educational syllabuses
  • a greater number of youth representatives on advisory boards
  • increased support for agri-food sector specific start-up programmes
  • inclusion of entrepreneurship skills in school and university syllabuses and
  • the alignment of incentives to encourage professionals to create quality work experience placements.

The MyFood30 report with all these inputs shall be released by end of November 2015.

Mr Aebi and Courtney Paisley from YPARD shared some final thoughts before encouraging all attendees to consider the action that they could take on an individual level.

Live tweeting throughout the events with #Y4FSN and #MyFood30 enabled young agri-related actors across the world to see how their views were being shared with international decision makers and to take part online.

See the CFS MyFood30 session slideshow in Flickr.

Check also the side-event on empowering youth to pursue careers in agriculture through a public-private approach, including the contribution from Bayer, 4H Canada and Future Farmers Network Australia who run the Youth Ag Summits.

Picture credit:  ©FAO/Pier Paolo Cito. Editorial use only. Copyright ©FAO.

MyFood30 above report is based on Laura Robinson (Foodways Consulting)'s input.