“Young scientists need to take part in policy debates and discussions about agricultural research for development!” So claimed a group of young agriculture professionals in 2005. They wanted to create a global network through which young professionals could be given a voice and contribute towards agricultural development. 10 years later YPARD has become a worldwide collective platform with over 10 000 members from 168 countries.
Karolin presenting YPARD at a SIANI Youth/SLU Global career event April 2016.
I came in contact with YPARD when I presented my master thesis during the Tropentag conference in Berlin 2015. After a meeting with the YPARD Europe coordinator I thought of applying to become the national representative of YPARD Sweden. As a fresh graduate looking for job opportunities, I considered YPARD to be a useful and original source of information, resources, events and contacts. So far, I’ve got lots of inspiration and tips from other young professionals in the network about, for example, jobs and internships to apply for. And what I like is that they are really true to what they stand for: ‘A network for and by youth in agricultural development’. Now, as a country representative, my role is to coordinate Swedish members and activities relevant to youth in agricultural research and development.
A platform for innovative and sustainable agricultural development
YPARD was founded in 2006 by a group of young scientists in Switzerland with support from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), Bioversity International and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). YPARD is an international movement made by and for young professionals under the age of 40 who are active in agricultural research and development. YPARD is about enabling young professionals around the globe to realize their full potential and contribute proactively to innovative and sustainable agricultural development. Initially, the network was formed as a response to the lack of youth representation in the public discussion and strategic policy debates about agriculture.
The challenge of attracting more young people in agricultural development remains; it is even more crucial to solve it in the face of a changing climate, ageing farmers and a general low-image of agriculture as a way of making a living. Involving youth is crucial for generating innovative solutions and applying new technologies as well as for succession of food production. However, today we see an upsurge in interest in farming in many places and the new concept ‘agripreneurship’ is trendier than ever. Many young farmers or people involved in food businesses state themselves being agripreneurs where they are striving to add value not only in terms of profit but also in the quality of food and in the way of living. In this context, networks such as YPARD are essential to facilitate these types of initiatives.
Photo credit: YPARD via Flickr.
Seeking to connect and strengthen youth across sectors and regions
YPARD has four core strategic objectives for guiding activities and initiatives. The first is to serve as a tool for young professionals to exchange information and knowledge across disciplines, professions, age and regions. Second, YPARD should expand opportunities for young professionals to contribute to strategic policy debates about agricultural research and development. YPARD also seeks to promote agriculture among young people and facilitate resource and capacity-building opportunities.
YPARD is a decentralized organization. Its global unit is located in Rome in Italy, and there are regional sections in other parts of Europe, in Latin America and the Caribbean, Africa and Asia. Many countries also have national sections, and the activities in each country vary depending on the needs and wishes of the country’s members. YPARD globally is hosted by GFAR which in turn is hosted by the FAO. However, it is very clear, that members are at the heart of YPARD. The members are encouraged to be active in the area of agricultural development, spread the word about YPARD and share their views and ideas with other young professionals. Every year, there are also a number of international conferences and forums where YPARD members can participate and contribute to strategic debates and discussions.
A wide range of activities and ways to engage
An important part of YPARD activities relates to exchanging information and connecting people across regions, age, disciplines and professions. For example there are many webinars and e-courses on various topics that members can join. Members can also enjoy monthly newsletters as well as listings of job and funding opportunities and information regarding upcoming events and other news for and about young professionals in agricultural development. YPARD also has a fairly new mentorship program through which young agriculturalists are paired with senior agricultural professionals in business, research, extension services and ICT (Information and communications technology) to create new connections and to support a new generation of professionals in agriculture.
YPARD and its members take part in key events related to agricultural development to give a voice to the youth and bring specific youth issues to the discussion table. Key events include, for example, the CGIAR Science Forum, the Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development, the Global Landscape Forum, the AfricaAdapt conference, the European Forum on Rural Development and the conference on Tropical and Subtropical Agricultural and Natural Resource Management (Tropentag). YPARD also organizes online events such as special series of blog posts by members, e-discussions and photo and video contests.
It is important to strengthen and organize the local networks of YPARD. Therefore, YPARD is organizing a number of workshops and trainings. For instance, trainings on grant writing were held in India and Kenya, and workshops about youth, ICT and agricultural innovation were arranged in Kenya as well.
Photo credit: YPARD via Flickr.
On the national level – YPARD Sweden
YPARD in Sweden currently has 38 members, which makes it the Scandinavian country node with the most members. In September 2015, YPARD Sweden was presented during the Agricultural Research for Development Conference (Agri4D) at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Uppsala, and during a career day for students and graduates at SLU held in April 2016, YPARD Sweden was one of the organizations discussing international career paths in the agriculture sector. YPARD can play an important role for students and graduates who would like to pursue their career in agricultural development, as it provides a platform for discussion and networking opportunities and it facilitates access to jobs, internships and funding opportunities worldwide. There is great potential to shape the Swedish branch of YPARD, so if you are a young professional willing to contribute to this initiative you are warmly welcome to get involved with activities that you might find useful and important in your university or work place.
Karolin Andersson is a food agronomist with a master’s degree in agricultural development and she has experience of agricultural research in East Africa and South Asia.
Get in touch with YPARD: firstname.lastname@example.org