It was the 14th of October, 2018 when I touched down in Rome for the very first time. I was extremely excited to have been nominated to participate in the 45th Committee on World Food Security (CFS45). I was nominated as a youth representative to give a better, in-depth perspective on youth engagement in agriculture. Who else should speak for youth other than youth ourselves?
I got to my hotel and, after freshening up from the long journey, I went through the reading material in preparation for the CFS45 meetings that were to commence the next day.
In the PSM delegation, I was pleased to find a rich blend of delegates from across the world, with people of different age groups, areas of work, and nationalities, and I immediately felt at home. It is noteworthy that young people had outstanding representation within the Private Sector Mechanism. I would like to commend the Private Sector Mechanism for getting the youth on board as it was a great sign of confidence in us and belief in our work.
Over the course of CFS, I loved the networking sessions and the bilateral meetings, where we got to interact directly with member states and organizations on a one-on-one level. I was so awed by the amazing work that my peers are doing in the agri-space. I interacted with the wonderful Agrikua team and I found out that their project is actually based in Kenya, my home country – how remarkable!
My most memorable event was the youth debate that was hosted by His Excellency Hans Hoogeveen of the Netherlands.
The theme of the debate was identifying the most impactful way of engaging youth in agriculture and the discussion was on whether low-tech or high-tech innovations were best suited for the initiative. Each team had to prove their point as to why their respective solution was the most effective. I was in the team defending the high-tech solutions but at the end of the debate, I learnt that high-tech solutions cannot be implemented independently; rather, it is prudent to mesh high-tech and low-tech solutions in order to have a more meaningful and widespread outreach.
Inasmuch as my focus at CFS this year was on youth involvement, I learnt that the role of the older generation should be underscored as well. The older ones have gone ahead of us, they have learnt the ropes, and they have made mistakes. As young people, we should be able to ride on their shoulders and work together while complementing each other and not competing with each other. Our predecessors make great mentors; at times, we young people in agriculture may not understand our true potential until someone else believes in us. I was really moved by the speech that my peer Cassie Hayward gave during the High Level Dinner, as she attributed her success to those who believed in her even when she could not believe in herself.
I also got to learn that it is extremely important to work together towards the same goal, which is Food Security and Nutrition for all, and that our efforts should be convergent. Participating in CFS was such an eye opener for me and I shared my experiences via social media as it was my greatest tool in disseminating the information that I gathered during Plenary week. Upon my return, I wrote my back-to-office report and it was published in the Agricultural Finance Corporation’s newsletter, allowing my colleagues to learn what went on during the eventful week at CFS. Additionally, I have approached a few friends who have agri-related blogs and requested to write a feature article on my CFS experience, hence spreading this knowledge through even more channels.
Finally, I believe that the momentum for youth participation in CFS should be carried forward, as CFS is an avenue for young people involved in the ag sphere to have discussions with stakeholders that they may not have an opportunity to meet under ordinary circumstances. Involving youth also motivates us to work better and smarter in tackling #ZeroHunger as we know that our efforts are not only recognized but appreciated and celebrated.
I will conclude with a quote from Franklin Delano Roosevelt; “We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”
By Amanda Namayi, Regional Coordinator-CSAYN East Africa, Country Coordinator-CSAYN Kenya. Learn more about CSAYN here.