Feeding the planet in the hands of rural youth

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Feeding the planet in the hands of rural youth

©IFAD/Lana Slezic

In Jordan, young men carry and stack the day's tomato pickings. This IFAD-supported project works with rural youth to improve upon food and water security in addition to raising income levels in communities.

23 May 2016 – Making farming attractive for young people is crucial if we are to stem the growing number of young migrants who are fleeing lives of desperation, IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze told students today at the University of Gastronomic Sciences (UNISG) in Pollenzo, Italy.

"People migrate to escape conflict, certainly, but hunger, poverty and inequality also drive people to flee their homes. So does poor governance, persistent indignity and lack of opportunity," said Nwanze.

"To feed the planet, we need young people to be the farmers of today and of tomorrow; and to provide those jobs for young people we need farms to offer a dignified living, a reasonable income and plenty of opportunity," he continued.

IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze speaks with students at the University of Gastronomic Sciences (UNISG) in Pollenzo, Italy. ©UNISG

Nwanze delivered the keynote lecture to a packed hall of students and members of the public. During his talk, which focused on youth and the future of agriculture, Nwanze outlined the reality of life for small-scale farmers in the developing world.

“We tend to romanticize the life of the artisanal farmer, in tune with the beauty of nature,” he told the audience. “The truth for most of the world’s small-scale farmers is far more prosaic. Small-scale farming, as it is practiced in most of the developing world, is backbreaking. This is the reason why so many young people migrate from the farm to the city – believing that their future will be brighter, but too often ending up unemployed and living on the streets or in slums.”

Nwanze added: “At IFAD, we see time and time again that when rural areas offer young people good options for employment and an outlet for their energy and creativity, young people are more willing to stay on the farm, and to revive and sustain their communities.”

Bringing rural youth back into farming

Nwanze also noted that these investments need to be backed by policies that support smallholder-led agriculture, offer poor farmers access to finance and technology, and protect rural people’s rights to water and land.During the lecture, Nwanze outlined some key investments that need to be made by world leaders to bring youth back to farming. These included investment in infrastructure, energy, clean water, ICT connectivity, and financial as well as social services such as schools and clinics.

IFAD President Kanayo F. Nwanze told the students that "to feed the planet, we need young people to be the farmers of today and of tomorrow; and to provide those jobs for young people we need farms to offer a dignified living, a reasonable income and plenty of opportunity." ©UNISG

Nwanze’s lecture results from a Slow Food/IFAD collaboration which began in 2009 and has continued to grow over the past six years. The collaboration focuses on small-scale agriculture as a crucial source of income and nutrition for many poor rural households, and as a driver of rural economic growth.

Today, Slow Food has 10 Presidia projects supported by IFAD funding in Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Sao Tome and Principe, and Uganda. The Presidia projects are ensuring that neglected foods produced by smallholders are promoted and reach wider markets.

IFAD’s partnership with Slow Food also includes advocating for indigenous peoples’ issues. Indigenous Terra Madre, whose second edition was held in November 2015 in Shillong in North-East India, was attended by 600 delegates representing indigenous communities from around the world.

The event was supported by IFAD and jointly organized by Slow Food, the Indigenous Partnership for Agrobiodiversity and Food Sovereignty (Indigenous Partnership), and the North East Slow Food and Agrobiodiversity Society (NESFAS).

“Promoting food biodiversity and family farming are crucial actions in the realization of a sustainable food system," said Carlo Petrini, President of Slow Food at the Turin event. "We are very glad to see that the long collaboration between Slow Food and IFAD has led to concrete results in the effort to improve the livelihood of rural communities.”

Why investing in agriculture is criticalIn addition to its partnership with Slow Food, IFAD is engaged in a number of rural youth initiatives. These include Creating Opportunities for Rural Youth in West and Central Africa (CORY), a network which works to create incentives for young women and men to stay and thrive in rural areas.

IFAD also established the Global Youth Innovation Network (GYIN) to help young people share, learn and exchange information among themselves. Today there are national chapters around the world, and a GYIN meeting IFAD co-hosted in Senegal earlier this year attracted more than 300 youth participants.

In concluding his lecture, Nwanze noted that Agenda 2030 aims to eliminate poverty, inequality, hunger and under-nutrition at the same time as reducing greenhouse gas emissions and tackling the impact of climate change.

He said that investing in agriculture is critical, as achieving the SDGS will depend largely on transforming rural areas through investing in small-scale agriculture.

The future of the world's food security, Nwanze said, is in the hands of young people.

"It is clear that we need to change the world. But it is you, the up-and-coming generation, who will need to lead the charge! You have fresh eyes and fresh ideas, and the energy to make them a reality."