Until young people are brought to the table, their investment in the future of agriculture is not being fully actualized. From October 15-19, I had the honour of attending the 45th session of the United Nations Committee on World Food Security (CFS 45). During CFS week, I represented 4-H Canada as part of the Private Sector Mechanism's (PSM) youth delegation. The event took place at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) headquarters in Rome, Italy.
The PSM brought forward a delegation of 65 youth champions in the form of young people and representatives of global youth organizations. This was a positive step forward for engaging young leaders in agriculture and making the field look more attractive to those entering the workforce. To see that the members of the private sector are not only interested in promoting the concept of youth, but are also willing to bring young people to the table and involve them in the pursuit of the sustainable development goal of zero hunger by 2030 was inspiring. This important action will hopefully open the eyes of the agricultural industry to the importance of youth participation.
Throughout CFS 45, events such as the youth caucus, side-events, bilateral meetings, the high-level dinner, and the youth debate sponsored by His Excellency Ambassador Hans Hoogeveen provided tangible moments for youth engagement. Pertinent topics surrounding agriculture, such as gender equality, value chain management, and high-tech innovations were brought up and discussed from a youth perspective. It was made clear that engaging and encouraging existing “agvocates" at the highest level of policy reinforces and complements existing grassroots movements, like the ones represented at CFS 45.
The career opportunities within agriculture exist far beyond being a farmer. In today’s world, the agricultural sphere encompasses the roles of multiple sectors. We need people with a passion for science, technology, engineering, business and so forth to realize that the agricultural industry is a worthwhile pursuit that allows you to follow your passion while supporting the future of food security. Therefore, CFS 45 should be viewed as an open invitation to agriculture. A request for all to take a stand and become aware of the issues surrounding global food security. This is why young people, like myself, who attended this event are now responsible for sharing our knowledge and engaging our peers. This is an incredibly powerful concept because agriculture is not a solitary business venture, but instead the efforts of like minded individuals working together to steward the land sustainably and efficiently. We shouldn’t expect the same results from different generations because we are facing different problems. My generation will be attempting to feed an expanding global population while meeting strict new emissions requirements, we will have to produce more food on fewer acres while minimizing the environmental footprint. Which is why it is so crucial that we start asking questions now, so we will be better equipped for the transition into stewardship.
Now the question may be asked, how do we find those people interested in agriculture, interested in policy making and the resultant hard work that it will take to achieve a sustainable and successful agricultural industry? I believe the answer can be found in the youth who attended CFS 45. Young people from all over the world represented through groups such as 4-H, Nuffield Scholars, Bayer's Youth Ag Summit, and the Climate Smart Agriculture Youth Network. These groups provide real evidence that when you engage young people in agriculture and provide them with leadership opportunities and support, time and again they will rise to the occasion. Ultimately, events like CFS 45 do not increase the pressure on young people to step up, that pressure exists already from the looming statistics that will very quickly become our reality, instead, it proves to young people that agriculture is an industry worth investing their time in.
By Sara Kate Smith, 4H Canada