About 3 billion ha. of land (equivalent to near to 41% of the earth's land) are dry, says an article by the CGIAR Dryland Systems research program CRP 1.1. Furthermore the program states that within a population close to 2.5 billion in dry areas, 16 percent of the population is extremely poor. The CRP1.1 focuses on populations of the dry areas who are particularly made vulnerable by climate change phenomena, as climate change directly impacts their livelihoods and economy. The program has determined five target regions facing challenges in agriculture in dryland areas: (i) West African Sahel and dry Savannas, (ii) East and Southern Africa, (iii) North Africa and West Asia, (iv) Central Asia and (v) South Asia, as identified in its initiation phase.
On 27-28 August 2013, researchers, development partners and policy makers came together for the CRP1.1 Regional Work Plan Meeting for the South-Asia chapter, in Kathmandu, Nepal. It involved the youth through the participation of a YPARD representative, three women and a predominance of researchers. While we appreciate the efforts made to involve youth and women representatives, the participation is not sufficient to give comprehensive ideas about youth and gender aspects in the scenario for South Asia and it was assured that collecting wide-ranging perspectives of youth would be fostered in order to increase their partaking.
Through the CRP 1.1, we are working on i) reducing rural poverty ii) improving food security, iii) improving nutrition and iv) health and sustainable management of natural resources. For each Intermediate Development Outcomes (IDOs), we discussed its main activity, where ongoing activities were fitting in, CG members responsible for each milestone and national partners to be involved.
There were five working groups; Rajasthan, Southern India, Chakwal, the Monitoring and Evaluation group and a mobile group focusing on the “cross cutting themes”. Indeed this last group had for mission to move in every other group and tuning in their discussions to ensure clear-cut inclusion of youths aspects and gender facets for each IDO. I was part of this group as a youth representative under my YPARD cap. I must say, it was a challenging task but a very interesting one! Being engaged in ensuring youths and gender aspects to be discussed in each and every process of work plans was great opportunity of learning while bringing my own youth perspective through mutual exchange.
Initiation of the implementation of the CRP on Dryland Systems in South Asia is an ambitious plan aiming to increasing sustainable productions and making livelihoods more resilient towards climate risks. Through the involvement of youth it is easier to make these successful at the ground level as young people actually work in the fields. It is obvious that the definition of the youth varies from country to country. It made the discussion quite difficult and finally the Chakwal group acknowledged my view which was to take some global references applicable for the region.
Malika martini, a Gender-Analysis Specialist’s contribution helped making it clearer about the ways of empowering women. Data from FAO report that women in the developing countries represent 43 percent of the agricultural labor force, and with good access to productive resources they could increase farm yield by 20-30 percent. However, women do not have control over their own time and I stressed the same points to the various groups which seemed to stay quite indifferent to this. They eventually agreed on the importance of including gender and youth related organizations in discussing the matter. Some felt awkward to include the matters of youth and gender directly in their discussion as they saw the matters as trivial.
Farming requires multi-facetted resource base; land, capital, irrigation, climate, seed, fertilizers. So there are more risks. Mainly the challenges due to climate, such as rainfall intensity, humidity, temperature, distribution of sunny days, wind, pathology etc make farming difficult. Because of these challenges, it is a global problem to attract youths in agriculture and keep them engaged in it.
In this regard, I focused my presentation on (women friendly) mechanization and ICTs, provision of microfinance and microcredit, crop insurance, value adding trainings, management of markets, skills transfer mechanisms.
- Mechanization helps farming to be easier and faster. Furthermore women-friendly machines enable them to be independent and more familiar with new technologies.
- ICTs help farmers to connect with the global world. It keeps farmers updated and upgraded. Farmers can identify their problems and know the possible solutions right in their farm.
- Microfinance and microcredit facility encourages youth in agricultural entrepreneurship reducing capital constraints and in turn enabling farmers to develop their own working capital.
- Capacity building attract them more in advanced farming. Knowledge on crop insurance practices and value addition of products helps more returns from the same amount of initial production. It has also possibility to encourage youth in micro-agro enterprises.
Use of Bottom Up approaches and policy dialogues among scientists, policy makers and youths, should be integral part of any global action. Migration (rural to urban and emigration) is posing great threats in agriculture production which needs more political conviction to lower it. Chakwal group agreed with my insight and dealt with this in their work plan.
YPARD’s participation in the regional meetings of the CRP1.1 through regional focal points enables to get youth aspects addressed at a policy level but also in the concrete work plans, for full involvement of the youth on the implementation phase, with addressing very specific youth challenges. Both the CRP1.1 program as a whole and young professionals as individuals would gain from this work together towards better and sustainable livelihoods.
Some more background about youth's involvement in the CRP1.1: Youth’s stake in the CGIAR Dryland Systems CRP 1.1 !