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Conversation on “’Empowering Youth Leaders and Entrepreneurs in Agriculture Engagement and Innovation” - World Food Prize 2011

Summary by YPARD - World Food Prize 2011 session, Friday 14 October This conversation was promising to address YPARD’s main focus: Youth , through the lens of leadership and entrepreneurship skills enhancement for innovation in Agriculture. A panel of very inspiring young people and youth supporters took part:
  • A bright young Indian entrepreneur, CEO of Digital Green: Rikin Gandhi
  • A passionate youth leader from 4-H Kenya: Millicent Akinyi Obare
  • A senior partner/Rwanda Country Director/Co-founder of One Acre Fund: Eric Pohlman
  • The President of  EARTH University: José Zaglul
We need new ways of thinking, particularly for addressing a key issue: how to engage Young People in (the future of) agriculture? 75 nations were represented during the World Food Prize week with stakeholders from different sectors (public, private, research etc), from different regions of the world and contexts. They therefore tend to look at agriculture through different lens. It is from the combination of these different approaches that we can bring discussions to further levels and come to more integrated solutions. One Acre fund One Acre fund provides packages tailored to farmers according to their context. Pohlman insisted on this key aspect: the new leaders need to think of the cross-section between agriculture, environment, social aspects, economy, financing aspect, etc, in order to be able to apply solutions to the context.   “How do we prepare these Leaders?” , asks Eric Pohlman. EARTH University José Zaglul emphasized the need of preparing new leaders with strong ethical values, capable and willing to incorporate social and environmental responsibilities in their leadership. Technical and scientific knowledge are fundamental, but it is also about giving to the youth in agriculture a strong entrepreneurial spirit. This latter is a critical aspect in making agriculture attractive to young people, because related to the idea of success. Digital Green Digital Green deals with technologies and green economy. R. Gandhi expressed the importance of changing the image of agriculture for it to not be seen as a last resort but as a vocation the youth would like to follow. Integration of Technologies would help this. Social Media and the usage of video as a mean for sharing best practices enable to embrace the emotional and human factor related to the importance of agriculture and would get people inspired from others. While the speaker said that in the cities he rarely meets young people who want to  be farmers when they grow up, in the rural areas he meets many young people who say that they want to become ‘better farmers’. 4-H Kenya Millicent is a primary school teacher. She knows what she talks about when she affirms that the Youth is an asset and can be a force for agricultural sustainability. We need to get them work together and we need to get them look at agriculture positively and as capable of changing their life, and be a career path. Agriculture is however not embraced at any age in the education programme and is therefore not seen by the youth as a possible path for the future in Africa. Agriculture sector nevertheless directly serves the MDG goals; youth can solve communities’ problems through agriculture.   What are the obstacles in empowering Youth Leaders and Entrepreneurs? There is no space for the Youth to think by themselves. Adults tailor and guide on how they want things done. Youth, instead, need to be free and get confidence from others to generate ideas and initiate projects and actions. They are able and they are willing! It is indeed more about motivating than about teaching the youth. Give them motivation, tools, peer groups for them to dialogue, respect, support each other, and collaborate. Provide hope to the Youth but also to their family, for them to be supportive. Give them opportunities! How do we give them opportunities? That is the question. Rickin also expressed that the expectations of the parents have strong influence and determine the choices of the Youth. The lack of confidence to face uncertainty and today’s risks (  climate change, for example) leads the people to hopelessness on the inability to address these issues, disillusionment on the benefit they can get from the support of organizations and from the strong faith on God as the only factor of success and failure. There is also a strong need in developing larger curiosity to learn and propose their own ideas. This is a big challenge.   Youth and Value Chain There is a way to be innovative and benefit both the environment and the society. Zaglul gave the example of the reuse of banana waste. Let’s make the effort to be innovative! Real Business can be made for waste management. To be innovative, one needs to think outside the box. Not that people didn’t do it before, but it is becoming more pressing than ever, says Pohlman. Ricking also emphasized that what is most of all needed is to facilitate the connections between the stakeholders, between the different steps of the value chain and between the researchers and the farmers. How can we localize and socialize research outcomes and get the feedback of the farmers? Indeed, the farmers can contribute to research by giving their opinion. We need interaction. Outcomes could be shared in a way that people who are not related to agriculture could be interested in the issues. They developed a game called: One World Village, on rural development, which is meant to engage more interaction between rural and urban youth. The objective is to engage youth from urban areas as well and make the urban and rural youth socially and emotionally connected.   Challenges for the room
  • “Invest in the Youth; they have a lot to give! Start Today!” Millicent
  • Put emphasize on motivation. Make sure Youth internalize, so that agriculture becomes a sustainable vocation. Technologies integration can be a long lasting factor in their life and in agriculture.
  • “I have a tremendous faith in the Youth” and education is the best mean for Development. It does require a lot of resources but it is needed. Zaglul
  • “If we would build bridges instead of walls, the world would be different”
  The keynote addresses :
  • by the World Food Prize 2011 Laureates: H.E. Luiz Inació Lula da Silva, former president, Brazil and H.E. John Agyekum Kufuor, former president, Ghana;  
  • “Farming, Philanthropy and Failure: Lessons about Small Farmers and Feeding the World” by Howard Buffet – President, Howard G. Buffet Foundation;
  • “The Phosphate Challenge” by Steen Riisgaard, President and CEO, Novozymes
  • “Ending Hunger and Malnutrition” by Josette Sheeran, Executive Director, UN World Food Program
  • Key note by Ellen Kullman, Chairman and CEO, Dupont
  • African Voices for New Science and Technology
  • Agree, transforming Food and Ag Policy
The Secretary Roundtable: “Sharing Agricultural Knowledge to Drive Sustainable Growth” The African Presidential Leadership Roundtable The Conversation : “Innovative Solutions to Maximize the Potential of Women and Girls in Agricultural Development”