One of the most important ways of achieving ‘Zero Hunger’ by the year 2030 – one of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDG#2) – is by making agriculture attractive and profitable to the youth around the world. To try and understand the needs of young agricultural leaders from across the globe, a panel discussion was conducted by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome, Italy, as a side event of the CFS 44 (44th Session of the Committee on World Food Security).
The event – What today’s young agricultural leaders need to meet tomorrow’s SDG challenges – highlighted the views and challenges of a younger generation of farmers. The panel was chaired by Luis Fernando Ceciliano, Representative of the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica to the UN-Rome Agencies and Dr David Bergvinson, Director General, ICRISAT, co-moderated the panel discussion.
Thato Moagi, a mixed crop and livestock farmer from South Africa, spoke up about the need to integrate agriculture into the education system right from preschool onwards. This would go a long way in developing interest in agriculture in children. She also believed that new initiatives to link young people to established farmers would be beneficial to the youth in understanding the vocation of farming.
Appealing for more support, Gloria Gusha, a mixed farmer and agricultural extension officer from Zimbabwe, said that the lack of resources and backstopping was a roadblock in creating any new initiatives.
A Tanzanian farmer and agricultural extension officer, Freddy Leonce Kweka, rued the slow adoption of new technologies by farmers. He believed that more farmers could be convinced to adopt new technology if they could see firsthand, the impact of technology with the help of pilots and demonstrations.
Dr Bergvinson proposed that agriculture had to be rebranded and made ‘cool’ so as to attract more youth to it, by thinking out of the box. One such out-of-the-box idea was linking agriculture with unlikely partners such as the fashion industry, suggested Tsuyoshi Stuart Oda, a Japanese investment banker-turned-urban farmer.
“Making agriculture attractive is the key to a more professional attitude towards farming,” stated Willem van der Schans, a Dutch livestock and dairy farmer. While most of the panelists agreed that farming was no longer seen as a desirable career option, Sarah Singla, a no-till mixed crop farmer from France, claimed that in France many urban professionals were giving up city life to turn to farming.
From the gender perspective, an important statement was made by Tiare Boyes, a commercial Halibut fisher from Canada. Stating that she had been told numerous times that she could not be in the business of fishing, she demanded creation of space in this area for women.
This panel discussion was a significant step towards shining a spotlight on young agriculture leaders in the developing as well as developed world. It highlighted the requirements of food producers, agricultural SMEs and multi-stakeholders so that they could contribute to the complex challenge of sustaining a growing population.
The discussion, held on 9 October 2017 at FAO, Rome, Italy, was organized by Nuffield International and the ETG Farmers Foundation.