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Leveraging global experiences for Africa’s agricultural development

In a globalized world, international mobility is a commonplace. 

We travel and sojourn in foreign lands for trade, leisure or pleasure and other forms of experiences that “more and varieties” can afford us. For youth, in particular, we travel also for educational reasons.  What we learn and experience in this process change us in many different ways. 

For African youth taking their MSc and PhD program in the University of Wageningen, one of the important questions, which have been shaped by their increasingly globalized experiences, is how to best contribute to the fast-changing agricultural sector in Africa. This is a guiding question that underpins the organization of a one-day seminar. The seminar was organized by the United Community of African Students (UCAS) as part of the One World Week celebration at the University of Wageningen

Emily Ongus, a YPARD member, who is a beneficiary of the YPARD mentorship program that commenced in 2015, and presently the Vice President of the UCAS in Wageningen played an active role in organizing the seminar. Similarly, Ingrid Flink, YPARD Netherland representative attended the seminar. Together, we met with a representative from the Wageningen Centre for Development Innovation (WCDI) regarding potentials for YPARD-WCDI synergies. 

The seminar focused on how African youth studying at Wageningen University and Research (WUR) can leverage their education and research in agriculture for a viable socio-economic transformation of Africa. The expectation was that the seminar will help to expand the contribution of youth agricultural researchers to policy, encourage youth involvement in agriculture and the entire value chain and promote EU-African sustainable partnership.

The seminar featured keynote speeches delivered by representatives of invited organizations including CTA, WCDI, African in Motion, WUR International Cooperation Africa and YPARD. A cross-cutting theme of the keynotes is the identification of essential factors needed to bridge interactions between African students in WUR and the African continent. These factors include opportunities for increased integration, ways to expand the contribution of African graduate students to ongoing developmental work in Africa with an emphasis on promoting EU-African partnership, information exchange and open dialogue. 

Two parallel workshops were facilitated by CTA and YPARD. Digitization in the food system by CTA and leadership workshop by YPARD. The former enthused discussion about the digital revolution in the agricultural sector and the roles of youth. The latter addressed tools and skills for leading a fast-changing continent and how to building networks and collaboration as youth in the diaspora to lead and facilitate desired change.

Other activities during the event include PhD research presentations, dialogues and the event was closed with a panel discussion at Impulse Wageningen. The panellist shared experiences about their engagement or the engagement of their organization in Africa agricultural sector, and the opportunities for youth to get involved. Other issues that were covered include approaches to increasing the integration of African students within Wageningen University and Research through dialogue and exchange; promoting EU-African sustainable partnership through agriculture.

For most of the young agro-professionals I met in Wageningen, we mostly agree that:

  • Desired changes in the Africa agro-sectors will not just happen. It must be facilitated. It must be led.
  • Facilitating and leading desired changes is inherently a learning process, not linear but cyclical. It is not (and will not be) an event.
  • Considering that Change is not one-way. Your understanding based on research and engagements should be open to being challenged. 

With the above points in mind, only then can we – the young professionals in the diaspora, engage with “home”, to participate, drive and shape desired changes.

Photo credit: UCAS, Wageningen