There is no question the current global food system is under ever-growing pressure which means meeting the foundation SDGs - SDG 1 and 2 on poverty and hunger - are challenged. YPARD and GFRAS believe that combining efforts can yield better results.
Pressure in the global food systems can be linked to a multitude of factors: the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, increasing strains on water and land use, loss of biodiversity, accelerating changing climate, rapidly spreading pests and more, have made farmers’ lives increasingly insecure and challenging.
We can’t fix it with research alone as there is a wide gap between agricultural research produced and what reaches the end-user. The missing link is not so much ‘lack of technologies’ as it is the ‘lack of ability to get knowledge technologies to the users in a useful and affordable format’. Increased investment in innovations in extension and rural advisory services seems to be an appropriate answer to this challenge.
Today, around 85% of youth live in developing countries, places where agriculture is still the backbone of the economy, the largest employer and the main source of income for a majority of poor people. The picture is changing, rapid urbanisation leads to a decline in the rural population, especially with young people moving to cities in order to seek jobs and better livelihood opportunities.
While most young people in a developing country desire to find occupation outside farming, there are still significant numbers of highly dedicated young people that need support in their pursuit for an agriculture-based livelihood, with its many, often unseen avenues.
The challenges are almost overwhelming and call for new approaches and strategies. To expand their capacity and expertise, the two networks Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS) and Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD) have decided to combine efforts in their operations at the global level. While both organizations will continue to serve their constituencies - respectively extensionists in rural advisory services (RAS), and young professionals in all areas of agriculture - combining efforts at the global level will enhance their ability to address global food security issues and work towards the SDGs.
The first concrete step is the draft of a joint Operational Plan for the 2021-2025 period. The process of developing such a document facilitated the creation of a shared vision where synergies are optimised without compromising the uniqueness of any of the networks. In order to fulfil their respective mandates, individual activities will continue to be carried out, but with cross-learning and support.
Starting in 2021, GFRAS and YPARD will operate a joint secretariat in Frick, Switzerland. GFRAS will capitalize on YPARD’s youth-related focus, experience, and legitimacy, and ensure that it is well-taken into consideration in RAS. With its vast network of young professionals around the world, the various GFRAS networks get valuable additional resources to draw on, and further expand their commitments towards more sustainable and future-oriented food systems.
YPARD will benefit from GFRAS’ more formalised structures and profound experience in handling large projects, but also by gaining access to new spheres in agriculture, as well as a stronger donor and mentoring portfolio that is expected to translate into professionalised fundraising.
Indeed, it is the dawn of a strategic alliance for global impact.