Innovations and fresh ideas are crucial for achieving #ZeroHunger and #NoPoverty by 2030. But the rural population is ageing around the world and youth oftentimes show little interest in agriculture and food.
This is a summary of the event “AgTalks: Whassup with Agriculture? Young innovators tell their stories”, hosted by International Fund for Agricultural Development IFAD, on 29th November 2016.
Whassup with youth in agriculture?
There is a negative image around agriculture, an image which, according to Josine Macaspac, a Philippine innovator, is almost the same around the whole world. In this conception, a job within agriculture means being a farmer and a farmer is an elderly male looking poorly, wearing dirty clothes and seeming a bit dumb. Agriculture is perceived as a profession without a future.
Changing this negative connotation is the first step to attract more youth to agriculture. Nawsheen Hosenally and Alpha Sennon, two young innovators, have each found creative ways of readjusting this image. Nawsheen’s web-based Agribusiness TV features young men and women working with different parts of the agricultural value chain, not just farming. Alpha’s NGO WHYFARM has created an agricultural superhero comic to highlight the life-saving work that agriculturalists do to ensure food security. Both work with creating awareness of the importance and multitude of agricultural careers.
Except of the image, infrastructure is a major obstacle for involving youth in agriculture. Many young people want to be part of the progress, they want a modern life, as Rahul Antao, a consultant with IFAD, points out. Consequently, infrastructure such as electricity and Internet needs to be improved in agricultural communities. Especially for Nawsheen’s Agribusiness TV this has been of key concern as their network faces many difficulties because of slow and unreliable Internet connections.
“We don’t need programmes for youth, we need programmes that are created with youth!” – Alpha Sennon
There are a number of efforts by national and international agencies to promote agriculture to youth. Two of the invited innovators managed to realize their ideas because they won specific competitions on youth in agriculture. But overall, there are only few opportunities for young innovative agriculturists.
That’s why it’s important that development programmes aiming at involving young people should be created in collaboration with them. Only the youth knows what the youth wants, stated Alpha and admitted that at 32, he was too old to create new characters for his comic. Instead, he invited young fans to get creative and decide over new personas for the series.
There is a high level of creativity among young people. Harnessing this creativity is a challenge but also a great opportunity, as Rahul’s field work shows. In North-East India he has engaged rural youth in creating recipes for new culinary dishes. His work combined traditional climate-smart crop varieties with the innovative and creative thinking of the younger generation.