One of the main recommendations from the SIANI Annual meeting in January 2015 was to identify the ways to involve more youth in the discussion around agricultural development in general and in the SIANI network in particular. This lead to the launch of SIANI #YouthFocus– an initiative dedicated to creation and production of agriculture and food security related communication for the youngest members of the SIANI network.
Finding out what would interest young members of our network most was a natural step of the #YouthFocus development. And so, we designed a survey and conducted a series of in-depth interviews to find out what is on the youth’s mind when we talk about agriculture and food security. We are now glad to present some initial conclusions from this work.
It was decided to start the #YouthFocus from targeting the audience based in Sweden and expand the outreach with time. Despite the fact that almost half of the survey respondents are agronomy students at Swedish universities, 4 of 5 had never heard about SIANI before. This indicates that it is not the content of SIANI activities that need to change, but rather the outreach and marketing. Many respondents emphasised the importance of social media and e-mail contact and also noted that placing posters and flyers in universities may attract attention to the network. Another good idea for a more effective outreach is to increase SIANI presence at various student fairs as well as to collaborate more with youth based networks and organisations, such as the student unions.
The respondents highlighted sustainable food consumption, organic farming, food waste, rural development and fair trade as the most interesting topics in the area of food security and agricultural development. The respondents also showed interest in the Complex nature of food systems and the interrelations between different topics. Such topics as animal welfare, human rights, and sustainable livelihoods also created some curiosity among those who participated in the survey. Many of the Swedish respondents would like to include perspectives from agriculture in Sweden.
What are the plans ahead? During June 2015, SIANI will develop a set of concrete ideas for youth-focused activities and communication interventions. For example, during the Almedalen week – the most important forum for Swedish politics – there will probably be an informal hangout for youth to discuss their engagement in agri-food issues. Many Swedish students go abroad for Sida-financed Minor Field Studies and internships, and later this year SIANI is planning to create a series of events to enable the showcasing of these projects which, we believe, will steer networking and capacity development.
SIANI sees great importance and relevance in the #YouthFocus and is set to provide additional resources for this purpose. If you have ideas for future activities or would like to be involved in the process, please contact us at siani (at) sei-international.org.