Recently, I had an opportunity to join over 500 delegates at the Third Global Conference of Agricultural Research and Development (GCARD3) in Johannesburg, South Africa. I was one of 75 youth delegates and social reporters, who had come together from different corners of the world to learn social media tools and join deliberations with researchers on the future of agricultural development.
I was part of the six-day social media bootcamp, which included three days of intense 12 hours/day classroom training and three days of live reporting from the global event. It was a great opportunity to learn new social media tools, the art of telling stories through the social media and exchange ideas with delegates from diverse backgrounds – researchers, farmers, students, women leaders, politicians and communication specialists.
The conference focused on five major themes and agreed to collective action on:
- Scaling up: from research to impact
- Showcasing results and demonstrating impact
- Keeping science relevant and future-focused
- Sustaining the business of farming
- Ensuring better rural futures.
I was part of the theme Ensuring better rural futures, which identified to establish foresight platforms that bring together farmers (via farmer organizations in Africa, Asia Pacific, Central Asia/Caucasus, Latin America, Europe, the Mediterranean basin and the NENA regions) with research and innovation actors from around the world to develop and select preferred future scenarios.
As part of this, we had discussions on identifying the need for a collective plan, design and implementation of initiatives to change the present to shape the future. The theme also had a separate session on youth planning rural futures.
In line with the conference theme No One Left Behind: Agri-food Innovation and Research for a Sustainable World, GCARD3 was a unique global event in that youth were given a huge platform to make their point and join the conversation.
Frankly, I was overwhelmed by the importance youth could be for the future of agricultural development. I was forced to change my past notions about agriculture being unattractive. I realized that one of the main reasons for youth not being drawn to agriculture was a lack of awareness. That is where we as communicators need to devise foolproof strategies to reach out to youth.
I would suggest that rural youth too be involved in discussions like GCARD, so that they become aware of the importance of the agricultural sector and food security.
How often do we see a young farmer these days? A majority of them are either ageing or old. If we don’t take steps to engage more youth in agriculture, the moot question is, who is going to feed the world’s ever-growing population, which is expected to reach 8.5 billion by 2030, 9.7 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100? Certainly an alarming thought that underlines the need to act now!
Apart from engaging with youth at global events like GCARD, we need to catch them young— in the labs and in the fields! Agriculture in that sense, needs an image makeover, making it more attractive. And above all, increased investments in it will lead to greater innovation and make it more lucrative to the youth.
About the author:
Showkat Rather is the Senior Officer Communication based in ICRISAT-Asia