IFAD partnered with the Climate Smart Agriculture Youth Network (CSAYN) to come to UNFCCC COP23 in Bonn this November. IFAD and CSAYN have a shared passion for raising awareness of climate change impacts and actions amongst young people in rural communities.
Today’s generation of youth is the largest the world has ever known: 1.2 billion young people are between the age of 15 and 24. People under the age of 24 account for the largest share of the population in almost all countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, but also in many countries in South Asia, East Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East and North Africa.
Youth are two or three times more likely than adults to be unemployed. The majority of working youth are poor and employed in vulnerable low-quality jobs in the informal sector.
Today saw the joint side event: Youth Engagement in Climate: Climate Smart Agriculture and Smart Education. Speakers came from CSAYN, the Research Programme for Climate Change and Food Security (CCAFS), IFAD and the African Union
Ajayi Olu from the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA asked why should we focus on youth?
“Over the next ten years, one in six youths will be unemployed," said Olu. "The only option for youth in developing countries seems to be migrate to Europe and the hope of a better life. This is a problem for both developed and developing countries.”
“We don’t want to talk just about the problems though, we want to talk about the solutions.”
Amanda Namayi from CSAYN explained how it is presently in 30 countries and expanding working with farmers on the ground to achieve results.
“How many people here had breakfast? How many people want lunch? Agriculture will never go out of fashion, it can’t, because everyone needs to eat,” said Namayi.
“We need to empower young people with access to land, training, and capacity building," said CCAFS's Catherine Mungai. "First and foremost we must change the youth perception of farming and make it cool again.”
“There are many opportunities to engage with youth, and one way is to not solely focus on production, but all areas of the value chain.”
But all these ideas cost money
The question still remains - how will we pay for this?
Ayalneh Bogale from the African Union Commission talked about how, according to the UN’s FAO, the world will need to increase food production by 50 per cent by 2050. But population predictions for Africa have its population doubling by 2050, which means its food production will need to increase by 100 per cent not just 50.
"With this challenge, and in the hopes of achieving SDG1 and SDG2 (no poverty or hunger), we cannot afford to neglect the role agriculture will play,” said Bogale. "Agriculture is responsible for employing over one billion people worldwide and generates US$2.4 trillion for the global economy."
“The youth are the innovators. The older generation are risk averse and stick to the status quo. If we want true agricultural transformation it can only be done by the youth. Youth want more wealth than their parents. They will look elsewhere if agriculture cannot provide a different life. One simple way of doing this is to ensure agriculture is a year-round job. Six months work and dependency on seasons is not attractive. High value and high yield crops, paired with effective irrigation systems can provide year-round employment and income – this is key."
He also mentioned how this idea can be boosted with the inclusion of other income diversifying tactics (some that IFAD is already using), such as bee keeping and land regeneration with perennial crops.
IFAD’s Amath Pathe Sene then gave insight into IFADs work and the struggle developing countries are facing.
“Opportunity is key, opportunity for land rights, opportunity for access and loans, finance training," said Sene. "These limits on success need to themselves be limited.”
Representatives of Ibn Zohr University in Morocco promoted two of their programmes: The Butterfly Effect and Eureka. Both work extensively with young people to increase capacity for more productive and secure farms of the future. They currently cover 52 per cent of Morocco and have over 125,000 student members and focus on learning, research and development, expertise and capacity and skill building.
The audience of over 70 people then had the chance to give their own insights and ask questions of the panellists. Many sought a future partnership with youth networks such as CSAYN and all agreed by the closing that the most important message of the day was:
“It is always better to plan with than for youth”.