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YPARD members at the Science Forum 2011, Beijing

Youth and Agriculture: Fresh Approach for a New Paradigm The CGIAR Science Forum 2011 held from 17th-19th October  2011 in Beijing, China under the theme “The Agriculture-Environment Nexus was organized by the Independent Science and Partnership Council (ISPC) of the CGIAR in cooperation  with  the Consortium  Board  of  the  CGIAR,  the  Global  Forum  on Agricultural  Research  (GFAR)  and the Chinese Academy  of Agricultural  Sciences  (CAAS). The uniqueness of this year’s Forum was the presence and participation of young scientists and YPARD members, and this aspect was duly acknowledged by the chair of ISPC, Kenneth Cassman.   As YPARD participants in the forum, we herewith assemble wide-ranging perspectives on Youth and Agriculture. The need for youth participation in agriculture was deliberated during conference with concerns over the ageing farming community as young generation of agriculturists do not consider the field of agriculture very lucrative. It was commonly agreed that sensitizing the youth to get involved in agricultural production and environmental conservation is vital.The active involvement of youth in agriculture would require new approaches to address increased productivity and profitability of farming through policy and institutional support, technology application, improved market links and capacity building. It was reasoned that in order to gain attractive financial returns from the agriculture, the new generation of agriculturists needs connection to technology and institutional/ policy backing to optimize operations for all points of the agricultural value chain. In many developing countries general population of poor farmers including marginal number of young farmers involved in agriculture use inefficient means of production, thereby not gaining much return from their investments. It calls for sensitization, capacity building and active participation of youth in agriculture and environment value chain management. Diverse perspectives for effective involvement of youth in agriculture were discussed by the Young Professionals among themselves and with the experts. Some key points are listed.
  • Emphasis on research on profitability of agriculture or to re-establish the reputation of agriculture as a profitable venture is pertinent in order to align with the broad objectives of food security, environmental management and livelihoods improvement.
  • Capacity strengthening on practical skills in agriculture for increased productivity, enterprise diversification and knowledge  building on technology transfer looks as an indispensable investment
  • Monitoring and evaluation of youth participation in agriculture and their access to agricultural production resources and services  seems essential  for  their active involvement
  • Need of agricultural policies to assist rural youth in context of capacity building both at national and local levels is a pre-requested  support structure  for this goal
  • Integrate agriculture courses at the primary and secondary education system can play an effective role in enhancing the interest and attention of young minds. While this is already in action in some regions , emphasises should be laid  for its  scaling this initiative in wider geographical domains
From the perspective of young professionals, it is evident that they have an important role to play both as researchers and entrepreneurs in the agricultural sector. This close association will provide a foresight for young professionals (foreseen future decision makers) to address issues at grassroots level in conjunction with policy decision at macro level.  Discussions pointed to the suggestion that young researcher’s needs to be proactive, to undertake demand-driven and results-oriented research that will address the questions raised during the discussions. For example while envisioning broader objectives such as ‘What mechanisms are to be put in place to improve livelihoods of smallholder farmers in next 20 years?’   local level goals such as  ‘Adequate security for smallholder farmers in terms of their social and economic livelihoods so that agriculture becomes a lucrative business rather than the perceived poor man’s venture?’are also factored. While leveraging from the existing platforms relationship and extension activities set by the current and older generation of agricultural researchers, the young researchers and agriculturalists should inculcate the ability and capacity to change the status quo in order to suit emerging global trends in agriculture. In summary, participation of the YPARD members at CGIAR Science Forum 2011 provided a space for young scientists to express themselves, challenge long held traditions and contribute towards global research priority setting. This trend is however expected to change with the strong and important contributions that YPARD members made. Indeed, such initiatives can go a long way to stimulate youth’s participation in global discourse and play an active role in priority setting. You can read the full report of the sessions attended by YPARD Young Scientists. This highlights key points discussed, gaps detected and suggestions on the role of the youth and how to get them involved. Contribution by : Maxwell Mkondiwa,  Stephen Mailu, Nidhi Nagabhatla, Nabafu Erina, Pepijn Schreinemachers, Veronica Crespo-Pérez, Mohammed Yaro,  Kenneth Fafa Egbadzor, Ernest Nti Acheampong and Atul Dogra Picture: YPARDians at CGIAR Science Forum 2011, Beijing