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YPARD: The secret to my youthful spirit

YPARD co-founders at the official launch of YPARD at the GFAR Triannual conference in New Delhi, November 2006 (Alessandra and Markus Buerli)

At the occasion of YPARD 10 years, Alessandra Giuliani one of the YPARD Co-founders, current Advisory Group Member and restless supporting member reflects on the growth of the network as well as on how YPARD inspired and influenced her continuing support to the youth throughout her career..

Only one month to go and YPARD officially turns ten after the official launch at the GFAR Biannual Meeting in Delhi 2006.

Looking at the first ten years of YPARD, as a co-founder, I am glad and proud to celebrate its achievements. In 2006 we yearned for the youth’s voice to be heard in Agricultural Research for Development (AR4D) global debates and envisioned the start of a global youth network with activities involving youth from different stakeholder groups and beyond agricultural research for development.

YPARD has grown in numbers, from a bunch of motivated co-founders (as described by Bala in a place for young amidst grey haired!) to more than thirteen thousand official members worldwide, coordinated by four Regional Coordination Units and 60 Country representatives. It has grown as a virtual platform to link and share from a simple bulletin of information to a full featured, well organised and updated website. This website is now providing interested youth with not only the opportunity to read and harness relevant information and existing openings, but also to share their experiences with their peers. It has brought our initial idea of the mentoring programme into actions and added many more activities including social reporting at global conferences, developing videos and reports from youth’s perspective among others. Above all, its recognition has vastly grown in the agricultural development notably from sitting outside the CGIAR Annual General Assembly in Marrakesh 2005, getting a youth voice on agricultural development at GCARD2, to getting a full seat at CGARD3 Global event. 

Additionally, YPARD has become a valuable inspiration and contributor in championing recognition of the particular needs of the youth. Take for instance the CGIAR’s dryland systems research program that is pioneering youth support among the consortium by released their 1st youth strategy in 2015, in collaboration with YPARD among other partners.

But, it is not only YPARD that we celebrate today! 

In retrospection, I realise how much YPARD has accompanied me in the last ten years of my profession in agricultural research for development and what it meant to me. On whichever field I worked in, I tried to tie my work, whenever possible, with YPARD. This helped a great deal in championing youth inclusion and engagement in the research I have conducted and the networks I have been involved in.

I played a variety of roles in YPARD starting with that of a co-founder believing in and building on the idea of this network with other peer young professionals sharing the same vision. Then, I became the vice-chair in the first Steering Committee and helped develop together with the team the YPARD objectives. Later I supported the establishment of  the first European Coordination Unit for YPARD, at HAFL Switzerland with my HAFL colleagues before taking on the role of an advisory group member. 

But essentially, the role I feel closer to is still of a YPARDian. Even though my age came over the limit and grey hairs have already appeared, I still believe in and work to defend the role of youth and their priorities as key stakeholders towards sustainable agricultural development - one that provides a fair and satisfying livelihood through a viable use of natural resources. I am very grateful for my most recent assignment with YPARD and a great research team on the project of youth and agriculture in drylands.

Beyond the 10 years Celebrations

To keep our spirit young, we have to continue to work with and for the youth, as they are the key to a sustainable agricultural development. As a lecturer, I constantly urge and recommend my HAFL graduate students to link to the YPARD network and benefit from the numerous opportunities it offers. Through YPARD, they are able to participate in relevant events, enlarge their professional connections and develop some activities like research, social reporting in their country and abroad that contribute to YPARD’s overall goal.

Additionally, I relocated to Yangon one month ago and I am already in contact with enthusiastic young professionals in Myanmar to support, together with other YPARDians based here, the establishment of YPARD Myanmar as the 61st Country Unit. In a fast growing and evolving country like the ex-Burma where most people rely on agriculture to sustain their livelihoods, YPARD network is more than needed.  

Parting shot

Over and above, YPARD has grown and in the right direction. But there is always room to do more especially when it comes to making agriculture more attractive to the youth. This objective was from the very beginning the most difficult and critical one. YPARD should continue working on different activities aiming at identifying interventions (public and private) specifically addressing the needs, realities and aspirations of youth in agriculture.

I owe a lot to YPARD for my professional AR4D network which I built in the last ten years. Thanks to YPARD I participated in some noteworthy AR4D global conferences and networks. And today, I thank you all YPARDians for the continuous provision of inspiration and opportunities in my job. You, enthusiastic and dedicated young professionals in agriculture, keep my spirit young!

Special Thanks to YPARD’s 1st Coordinator (Balasubramanian Ramani ), the 1st Steering Committee, the current Director (Courtney Paisley) and the communication and knowledge manager (Marina Cherbonnier); to the senior colleagues who believed in YPARD from the beginning and gave me space to be part of their networks (Katrin Jenni and Willi Graf in SFIAR, Ann Waters-Bayer in EFARD, Didier Pillot in AGRINATURA) and of course my bosses who let me dedicate worktime to YPARD as part of my assignments, Pablo Eyzaguirre at Bioversity International and Urs Scheidegger at HAFL.

And last but not least, to some of the co-founders, first and ever-lasting YPARDians like me, and above all close friends: Oliver Oliveros, Markus Buerli, Mariana Wongtchowski, Andres Tschannen! 

Celebrate YPARD 10 years with us; stay tuned at www.ypard.net/10years

Photo 2 courtesy of Pixelant