Rural youth from the Americas and Africa speak out – calling for more sustainable agriculture and community development opportunities

San Jose, 9 December 2021 (IICA). Rural youth from the Americas and Africa led a discussion and knowledge and experience sharing session, appealing for the creation of opportunities for collective and individual development to foster rural retention.

The conference was attended by rural youth from both regions and members of civil society organizations, who made their voices heard and spoke of their daily actions to produce food in a way that benefits community welfare and that is more economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.

The International Rural Youth Forum was organized by Climate Smart Agriculture Youth Network Global (CSAYN) and the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), with the support of the Semear International program. IICA Agribusiness Specialist, Rodolfo Daldegan, and Gabriel Delgado, the Representative in Brazil, were involved in organizing the conference on behalf of the Institute.

The forum, which was convened under the principles of gender, inclusion and interculturalism, enjoyed the active participation of youth, aged 18 to 35, from the Americas and Africa.

“In a context in which climate change has imposed the need for a more sustainable agriculture sector, meetings like these are tremendously important, both for us and for future generations. We must transform agricultural practices in Africa and Latin America’, warned Ntiokam Divine, CSAYN Founder and Managing Director.

CSAYN is headquartered in Cameroon and brings together volunteers based in Africa, Asia, the United States and Europe, who are seeking to build awareness among youth and vulnerable groups about the importance of an agriculture sector that can be part of the solution to combat climate change.

Fabiana Viterbo, Coordinator of Semear International, called for the empowerment of youth through knowledge creation, remarking that, “We must strengthen the work of youth, who have so much to share and contribute to community development in all rural areas”.

Semear International is a program aimed at generating knowledge in the semi-arid regions of northeast Brazil, seeking to facilitate the rural population’s access to best practices, as well as to improve their standard of living and to promote sustainable and equitable development in the region.

Gender and youth is one of the key issues that cuts across all of IICA’s hemispheric programs, in the Institute’s mission to promote rural development and well-being in the Americas.

Federico Villareal, the Institute’s Director of Technical Cooperation maintained that, “Youth matter a great deal to IICA, to the countries and to the development of agriculture and rurality. We are attempting to place young people at the fore of policies and actions. In our view, youth do not represent just the future, but also the present.

He argued that, “The Americas and Africa have many very important issues in common”, while explaining that the exchange between youth from various countries is designed to stimulate learning and foster dialogue on issues that are of interest to new generations, placing them at the forefront of discussions and creating opportunities to promote their development in rural areas.

The debate was divided into three modules: climate change and its impact on rural youth; youth as agents of change; and how to promote the talent of youth through training.

María Isabel Quintero-Ramírez, a lawyer specializing in environmental issues and a researcher studying life in rural communities in Colombia, indicated that the end of the longstanding armed conflict in her country was developed in rural areas and led to significant displacement to urban areas.

Quintero-Ramírez, who works in IICA’s Climate Change, Natural Resources and Management of Production Risks program, argued that, “Young people still do not see the opportunities in rural areas and this contributes to migration. Added to that are environmental and climate change challenges that make the rural population particularly vulnerable. A paradigm shift in public policies is urgently needed, to ensure the availability of technical and financial assistance and to create linkages between the consumer and producer, thus eliminating the inequality between the rural and urban sectors”.

On the other hand, Juliet Ejezie of CSAYN, stated that youth are the major drivers of innovation in rural areas.

 “We ask ourselves how can we achieve better practices to provide a better outlook for future generations. We must improve the well-being of animals and take better care of ecosystems, because we know that human activity damages the environment”, she said.

Josilma Bertino, a young agroecological producer and Biological Sciences student in the Brazilian state of Pernambuco, shared her experiences in dealing with the water shortages that are characteristic of the region. She said that, “We work to produce food and are also trying to contribute to the ecosystem. We want to create a transformation and the best way is through knowledge transfer”.

Kwe Julliete Ngwankfu, an Agricultural Engineering student in Cameroon and member of a rural youth organization, insisted that, “For youth to remain in rural areas and to work in agriculture, we must introduce policies to motivate them”.

Finally, Clécio Cleiton da Silva Morais, a young environmentalist from northeast Brazil, expressed her firm belief that associative relationships and collective work among new generations must be promoted. “This is the only way that we will be able to ensure that projects materialize and become a reality” she said, “so that young people can excel in agriculture and contribute to protecting our natural resources”.

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