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No one left behind: The importance of youth’s voice at GCARD3

Lisanne at the IAAS conference in East Africa

The professionals of 2050

We all have heard the big numbers: Estimations are that by 2050, 9+ billion people will walk this earth and they will all need to eat (CGIAR). Therefore, in combination with increasing wealth, FAO estimates that food production by that time needs to increase drastically, even up to a 100% in developing regions.

So far the standard intro that you’ve probably heard before.

Off course I could have chosen to start this blog in a more original way. But no, especially in this case, writing about the role of students in agriculture, it’s important to once more repeat these numbers. Why? Because we, the students of today, will be the farmers, agronomists, politicians and scientists of 2050. We will actually have to deal with the skyrocketing food demand of that time. More than anything else, this is “our” problem!

Part of the solution to meet this high food demand will lie in increasing the productivity of the land. Especially in developing regions where population growth will be the highest (FAO) and the yield gap is substantial, there is great need but also potential to give the local food production a boost. At the same time this can develop the area thanks to the earnings gained from the increased productivity.

Luckily today we have a great global network of agricultural research institutions and universities doing research towards this common goal. However, it seems that a vital aspect in the chain of agricultural research has been forgotten: attracting young people. During the past decades, the number of students interested in studying/working in the agriculture related sector has steadily declined. But without young people active in the sector, both the innovation in- and the application of agricultural knowledge onto the field is hampered, making the 2050 goal an even more difficult one! (Referring to my paper (p.43-46))

However, the good news is that it seems that today we’ve come to a turning point. Interest of youth in agriculture is growing again, probably caused by the increase of awareness in our society of the big food related challenges our world is facing. It is of vital importance that this trend is continued and amplified. More youth needs to be attracted to study and work in our field. A big challenge for the agricultural research section is therefore to connect with youth and to speak a language that is understandable, appealing and attractive to them.  

The initiative of giving youth a special place at the GCARD3 is a great step into this right direction. Now it’s our duty, as young people, to set the next step ahead.

A hart for youth in Ag.

I feel very motivated to grab this chance with both hands to form a link between two worlds that in the past seemed so far apart: agricultural research and youth. With my experience from several positions within IAAS, the last being Vice- President of Communication, I’ve gained valuable skills that will be useful as a youth delegate at the GCARD3.

During my mandate as VPC, part of my responsibilities included: taking care of our social media platforms, developing and updating the new website and writing newsletters. This has improved both my skills in making to-the-point social media posts as well as writing reports on our activities in a short and youth-attracting way.

Being VPC of IAAS also provided me a platform to give speeches to a diverse public on diverse occasions, ranging from the World Congress of the World Association of Agronomists (WAA) at the World EXPO in Milano, to an OECD Co-operative Research Programme organized conference on Agricultural Higher Education in the 21st Century, to the yearly congress of the Association of the European Life Science Universities (ICA). Next to this, I’ve been a speaker and moderator at multiple internal IAAS meetings, for example the IAAS East Africa Conference which I personally organised. All these experiences make that currently I’ve developed good verbal presentation skills and feel confident behind the mic.

But  most importantly: In my 4 years of being active in our international agricultural student association, I’ve developed a true hart for students in our sector. My global network among agricultural students is extensive and I am very aware of their great capabilities. I try to mobilise and encourage our members to speak out and act, because when motivated young people get in action, world-changing ideas can be realized!

A good example of such an idea in which I’m personally involved, is increasing the attractiveness of agriculture for youth, for the reasons I mention in my paper (p.43-46). With our IAAS team we’ve made a promotion video and we are currently cooperating with WhyFarm to spread their Agriman-concept on global scale.  Together for more youth into ag. !

“Take it to the farmer”

Communication is vital in making agricultural research a success.

Previously I already touched upon the importance of narrowing the “language-barrier” between youth and agricultural research for development. One such barrier also exists between the research and the farmers. Integrating new, research based, agricultural practices at the farm is a vital but difficult step towards increased food production.

This summer, I will start my thesis-research at CIMMYT in the team lead by Dr. Bram Govearts. The credo of his team follows a quote of the famous Dr. Norman Borlaug: “Take it to the Farmer”, exactly referring to this important step: A newly developed practice will only be a really good one if it will be implemented by the farmers themselves. This might seem simple reasoning but is of essential importance to the direct effect of agricultural research. This is also why I personally have a particular interest for the GCARD3 topic “Scaling up: From Research to Impact”.

I could say that, currently, almost my whole life is about battling the world food problem in various ways. Today I’m an agricultural youth “activist”. In the future I hope to be a young agricultural scientist. In both these fields communication is of prime importance. The experiences and knowledge I would gain from participating at the GCARD3 and its communication trainings, will help me  to apply them in both these fields. I hope to learn how to motivate, engage and inform even more students about our agricultural sector, its state of the art research and its opportunities. Next to that I believe I can apply the skills I’ll develop during this event also in the future for improving my communication of research results.

This blog post is part of the GCARD3 Youth blogpost applications. The content, structure and grammar is at the discretion of the author only.