An opportunity presented itself for young people to contribute to the recently launched 2019 Rural Development Report on rural development by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
The focus of the report was on creating opportunities for rural youth and was launched at FAO headquarters in Rome, Italy. It goes without saying that the importance of young people owning dialogues and contributing to topics on development can no longer be overlooked.
As a member of YPARD Kenya, currently doing an MSc in international land and water management at Wageningen University and Research, it was a great opportunity to sit with policymakers and other young professionals to share my experiences as an agronomist and my work in rural advisory services. A particular significance for me in this event is highlighted on how young professionals in higher education can leverage in the policymaking process.
According to the IFAD report, there are about 500 million young people (15-24 years) living in rural areas, especially in developing countries, where the average population age is on a continuous decrease. This trend is accompanied by several challenges and has been highlighted in global development policies including the Sustainable development goals.
As part of this report, attention was paid to the ever-important but more so contemporarily pertinent questions of how to secure futures (of the earth and societies) and ensure continuous improvement in the quality of lives via rural transformation. The report by IFAD highlighted three defining points that are important to create opportunities for rural youth in shaping these discourses; the need to be productive, to be connected and to be in charge of their own future.
In attendance were H.E. Indar Weir, the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security in Barbados; Gouri Mirpuri, co-founder, The Learning Farm; Olivier Mapoure, an agro-economist engineer and the owner of Mapore Agribusiness from Cameroon; Paul Winters Associate, Vice-President IFAD and myself. Interesting experiences and informative insights were shared from amongst the rich array of backgrounds and expertise on the panel.
The discussions included important topics such as the role of governments in creating opportunities for rural youth, international organizations and private sector interventions, ICT development and adaptability, youth constraints and the triple challenge of rural women and opportunities for rural youth beyond agriculture.
As a young person who has actively been involved in youth advocacy, I was glad to be a part of this discussion and to have lent my voice in shaping the course for future engagements.
During this discussion, I used the opportunity to charge young people to continue seeking those avenues to not just participate in shaping the future but also to share our experiences. In this age of ICT, these three action points - productivity, connectivity and taking charge - have an avenue that can be leveraged through social media to create more visibility for young people. Maximizing on this creates an opportunity for active participation in processes and could be the next step in co-learning and mentorship.
Picture credit: Emily Ongus