On 16 October 2018, the Private Sector Mechanism hosted its annual High Level Dinner during the 45th Plenary Session of the Committee on World Food Security. Attended by over 200 guests, of which about a third were Ambassadors and member state representatives, the theme of the Dinner was "Engaging, Recruiting, and Retaining Youth in Agriculture." Read on for the full report. 

Programme:

19:00 – 20:00: Cocktail hour

20.00 – 20.20 Introductions 

  • Chair of the International Agri-Food Network (IAFN), Mr. Donald Moore
  • Chair of CFS, H.E Mario Arvelo
  • Head of Agricultural Affairs and Sustainability, Crop Science division, Bayer, Mr. Jesus Madrazo
  • Youth Speaker, Ms. Cassie Hayward

20.20 – 21.20 Dinner Discussions

  • First course: Youth Champions provided examples of their personal engagement in the agriculture and food sectors and were asked questions by their fellow guests. 
  • Second course: Private sector participants described programmes and initiatives they are running to attract youth to food systems work, as well as the challenges they face in recruiting new talent to the sector.
  • Third course: Participants collectively discussed the challenges in attracting, engaging and retaining youth in agriculture. Guests also completed a puzzle, with each person writing their answer to the question “What do we need to do to attract more youth in agriculture?” Once the participants completed the puzzle, they took a picture of it and posted it to social media with the hashtags #Youth4Ag and #CFS45. 

21.20 – 21.30 Closing remarks 

  • Chair of the International Agri-Food Network (IAFN), Mr. Donald Moore

Key Themes and Discussion Points

During the evening, the 210 guests, including ambassadors, country representatives, NGO representatives, UN agency employees, and private sector delegation members, discussed means to more effectively attract, recruit, and retain young people in farming and agricultural professions as a key way to sustainably achieve SDG2. Each table was guided by a facilitator and rapporteur, and at least two youth champions were also seated at each table to contribute their personal experiences with their fellow guests. The discussion was lively, and attendees collaboratively identified concrete ways to engage more youth in agriculture. The following common themes emerged:

Competitive Compensation

  • Don’t frame agriculture as only farming: ag value chains are not just farms!
  • Think beyond production as a source of income: consider complementary income streams, such as agritourism.
  • Remove barriers to financing for young people; design systems that allow young ag professionals to access appropriate credit. 

Improved Awareness

  • Change the perception that agriculture always involves hard physical labor. 
  • Enhance the reputation of farming by reconnecting producers to consumers.
  • Use social media to improve the image of agriculture.
  • Change the mindset of developing countries being “behind” or “less than.”
  • Destigmatize agriculture, reforming the idea that farmers are lower on the social scale than other “professionals.”

Education

  • Include agriculture in the scientific curricula of school education to get children excited about it from a young age.
  • Tie agriculture to the moral sensibilities of younger generations (for example, climate change, gender equality, inclusion of persons with disabilities, and more). 
  • Develop mentorship programmes for youth – and especially young women. 
  • Establish career development paths linked to agriculture: mentorship, showcasing of different career options, entrepreneurship, enterprise, and business. 
  • Incorporate agriculture into STEM fields studies.
  • Support those for whom farming is an obligation, not a choice, through extension and other rural services. 

Inter-generational knowledge exchange

  • Facilitate inter-generational learning of the farmers, also the political dialogue between the young and the older farmers’ organisations.
  • Support security of tenure for young people, allowing parents to easily transition ownership of land to children.
  • Reconcile tradition and innovation.

Innovative Technology

  • Create digital technologies that address the specific needs of agricultural professionals.
  • Harness and strengthen opportunities for creating sense of community among young farmers, including digitally. 
  • Embrace technology and give young farmers familiarity with digital innovation.
  • Use technologies developed in high-value businesses for lower-value activities too. 
  • Make sure that statistical data is gathered and accurately interpreted by practitioners on the ground. 
  • Invest in infrastructure that is supported by technological innovations. 

Inclusive Policy-making

  • Ensure that youth have a seat at the table when making policy decisions about the future.
  • Create more policies that specifically accommodate start-up farming and agripreneurship.
  • Solicit bottom-up feedback and highlight peer examples
  • Engage youth in discussions to empower action, not just listening. 
  • Acknowledge that government regulations can either be a catalyst for youth involvement or a constraint. 

Main Conclusions

The primary takeaway from the 2018 High Level Dinner was that there is incredible appetite amongst CFS stakeholders to more meaningfully engage young people in agricultural professions and in international food policymaking fora, including CFS and beyond. The Youth Champions present at the Dinner contributed eloquent, relevant insights to the event, both inspiring and challenging their fellow guests to take action; in turn, the other attendees of the dinner contributed their own insights, challenges, and ideas to the collaborative discussion. A striking aspect of the youth engagement at the Dinner was the reminder that being involved in agriculture doesn’t always mean being a farmer: Youth Champions at the event were also engineers, marketing experts, climate change activists, aspiring chefs, tech entrepreneurs, startup founders, current students of political science, biology, and communication, and much more. It is imperative that future policies, investments, and programmes acknowledge and embrace the diversity of professions that young people are engaged in and that together contribute to a world free of hunger. 

We would like to thank the sponsor of this event, Bayer, for their generous support

 

Mark your calendars: Accelerating the End of Hunger and Malnutrition, a global event hosted by @IFPRI and @FAO in B… https://t.co/CqfspwRdqa
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