An european young professionals' experience
Young professionals are motivated and willing to bring ideas to adapt to change. They enjoy working as inter-disciplinary teams which is crucial in designing solutions that answer inter-connected development issues. Through YPARD: the international network of young professionals for agricultural development, they gain the credibility to represent the youth around the world within agricultural stakeholders' discussions.
However, young professionals sometimes struggle in communicating effectively their ideas and achievements. They also have limited knowledge about their rights, in certain contexts, in order to take a legitimate active role into agricultural development. Language creates some additional barriers.
There are a lot of associations and young people's organizations involved in development processes and we need to take advantage of this by creating better collaborations between youth groups.
Meanwhile, we must carry on tackling top-down approaches, the youth's difficult access to finance and land, and pursuing efforts in integrating agricultural issues to education, health and other systems' developments.
Promoting agriculture among the youth
Bringing people together and sharing experience, through networking - social media and face to face meeting - such as linking with other youth development programs are means to promote agriculture.
Every each YPARD representative and member holds a potential to showcase the value of agriculture through their own story. Tell about your work and why it is interesting. Videos, particularly, are a powerful mean to change the image of agriculture and fight back the negative perception given by current media.
Particularly, they are many talks about food and the need for better food quality nowadays, in european societies. It is high time to get involved into these discussions in order to promote agriculture. Indeed, there si no quality food without (sustainable) agriculture.
"Food: that's what makes agriculture sexy!" Ivana, from Serbia, says.
"Don't wait for having a crisis to take action for sustainable solutions." Pavlos urges, from his experience as a young innovative professional from Greece - as a researcher, entrepreneur with "We deliver taste" and farmer in his country, producer of the calypso's olive oil.
"I love nature, I want to be useful to people and I love my country - that's why I am into agriculture." Hanna tells, explaining why she wants to be involved in organic agriculture in Kosovo. "Everybody was telling me: "Hanna, you are a good student; why do you want to study agriculture?" Agriculture is seen like the last resort sector; they don't understand the range of opportunities it offers when one wants to be active and creative."
Also, let's take advantage of those young people who live abroad to fight against "brain drain": "I'm talented in putting people together - that's my thing." says Ivana. "I'm more useful to my people by being outside my country than within: I make my people see how it works abroad, through field visits, and then they can replicate good practices in Serbia to make the best of our local products." When people realize the potential they have in their own country, they have no will to settle abroad; they prefer hundred times more to bring more value to their own culture, their own identity.
Connecting with YPARD is also a chance for young people to practice english, communicate with others, learn about entrepreneurship and combine other professional expertises to agriculture practices. These opportunities through YPARD are practical ways of making agriculture more interesting.
However, YPARD community must count more young farmers involved into the community. As a multi-stakeholders' platform of young professionals in agriculture, YPARD has the potential to create strong linkages betweent research, policy, and practice, particularly.
1st YPARD Europe meeting
"I have dreamed of this YPARD Europe meeting for two years", Martina Graf, YPARD Europe coordinator, says. There is nothing like face to face meetings to create synergies, build stronger plans and concrete activities on national level. We urgently need to go beyond having representatives in each country. Getting young people together within each country, creating national working groups, boosting membership and meeting with national stakeholders will lead to the implementation of concrete activites based on the the specific context's needs. We should join forces amoung countries meeting similar issues, as well.
The very first YPARD Europe meeting was sweating passion, enthusiam, dedication, drive, smartness and kindness. The 20 young participants were representing 16 countries. Also, YPARD Team has the particularity of counting more women than men in its management structure!
The first day of the meeting included the presentation of YPARD Global strategic plan, YPARD Europe directions, and the review of the strengths and weaknesses at national level, their challenges, what they strive for, the opportunities and threats.
Team work helped refining ideas, be more accurate and specific in defining challenges and opportunites, but also share experiences and good practices. Every minute was a chance to share ideas; every each coffee break, an excuse for carrying on exchanging thoughts. Silence was a rare thing. The power of exchanging and getting active together for better youth's involvement in agriculture is the essence of YPARD.
Keep in touch for more updates on the challenges, opportunities, solutions and further plans of YPARD Europe Team of country representatives.
YPARD Europe's 1st regional meeting was held prior to the Tropentag 2014, at University of Life Science of Prague, Czeck Republic.
Picture credit: Marina Cherbonnier