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Good-bye from YPARD Nepal: Creating a space for young leaders

Reminiscing, seven years ago, I got to know about YPARD through Farming Matters magazine. 

I was reading an article –  “Youth, Farming and Research” – written by YPARD Director, Courtney Paisley which motivated me to see the reason why young professionals need to be engaged in shaping the future of agriculture. In the same magazine, I also got an opportunity to publish a short featured article where I was telling a story that how young people can contribute enormously to farming and agricultural production. Till the date, I feel so lucky to be a part of the YPARD community. 

Through GCARD2 in 2012 where I met YPARD colleagues including Courtney, Marina, Bi, and many others. After that, I immediately decided to join YPARD as Nepal representative with my efforts to link young agricultural professionals from Nepal together, provide information, show the many opportunities existing in agricultural development, share the success stories of young role models, and encourage young people to become more involved in agriculture.

In 2012 and 2013, I organized series of YPARD awareness campaign and workshop at different agricultural universities in Nepal. Later in June 2013, I formed the YPARD Nepal working team including eight local representatives (LRs). We organized our first formal meeting in August 2013 to make significant decisions for the year-round activities and setting up strategies for the future work. 

In 2014, we expanded our team with 20 volunteers. The same year, we started mushroom cultivation project in an agricultural campus in Chitwan- a source to attract youth and upheaval the economic condition of smallholder farmers (video: YPARD Nepal mushroom project- the most viewed item on YPARD’s YouTube channel).

After having a team, it encouraged me to plan and execute national level activities in every year such as;

Early in 2016, we expanded our team again with 44 LRs. All those LRs were mentored through EduMala Mentoring Program- a blended online/offline mentoring program to build the interpersonal skills of Nepalese young agricultural professionals. During that whole year, I was providing online/ onsite training and learning opportunities to our team members. 

The remarkable note is that EduMala Mentoring Program was not only limited to YPARD Nepal LRs. There were 99 mentees (female: 35 & male: 64) who benefited from three different mentoring sessions. Mentees enhanced their skills in effective communication, networking, writing research proposals, government policies in youth entrepreneurship, food preservation techniques, and livestock management. 

In 2017, we reformed our team size into 13 LRs after carefully evaluating individual’s performance based on his/her contribution and interest to continue in a team. Those LRs were provided with specific roles such as Communication focal point, Grant officer, Knowledge Management officer, Program officer, Regional coordinator, and so on. 

I found that the division of work in a team helped me a lot than our previously followed structure. Around mid of 2017, to strengthen farmers’ involvement in the mentoring program, we brought some modification in EduMala mentoring program and converted it into an on-site mentoring program, called Student-Farmer Interaction: Mobile Approach for On-site Mentorship, which is still our ongoing program

By the end of January 2018, there is 860+ web registered YPARD members from Nepal or those who (non-Nepalese) are working in Nepal. Earlier this number was 83 (in 2012), 238 (in 2013), 404 (in 2014), 574 (in 2015), 714 (2016), and 802 (in 2017) - more than three consecutive years, YPARD Nepal is holding top fourth position for the number of web-registered members at YPARD global. 

The last five years while working as YPARD Nepal representative, I spent most of my time in building YPARD Nepal networks, developing our LRs into team leaders (for all the national level activities, there used to be an Event Coordinator other than myself), and encouraging young people in agriculture. Likewise, I tried to provide international exposure to our LRs directly/ indirectly through my tenures such as Italy, Thailand, India, Bangladesh, Morocco, China, and the Czech Republic (March 2018). 

However, I believe in that I might also have some drawbacks as a team leader like, time management (I spent most of the time abroad for my graduate and post-graduate programs), stable team (yet YPARD Nepal is not registered in Nepal, nor do we have any secretariat), and funding (there is no regular source of funding for YPARD Nepal activities). But again, we are the most active national chapter at YPARD regional and global level. 

Now I am looking forward to supporting Abhishek Khadka as newly appointed YPARD Nepal country representative. Mr. Khadka was working as Grant officer at YPARD Nepal and one of the mentors at EduMala Mentoring Program during my tenure. My wish is to transfer my enthusiasm for networking and connecting young professionals to Mr. Khadka and his team so that they can contribute to the growth of YPARD Nepal

Last but not a least to all the helping hands from YPARD team, non-YPARD team, friends/ seniors/ juniors from Nepal, and many others. Your support, encouragement, critics, and collaboration were key aspects of my successful tenure. I am highly thankful to you all!

Dinesh is a Doctoral Graduate Research Assistant (2016-2019) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, United States and is focusing his research on soil fertility and nitrogen management- find him on Twitter

Photo credit: Dinesh Panday