“The international community must continue to work together to expand the horizons of opportunity for these young women and men and answer their legitimate demands for dignity, development and decent work. Failing to invest in our youth is a false economy. Investments in young people will pay great dividends in a better future for all.”
Such reads the UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message for International Youth Day 2011, words that are never more relevant for Pacific youth in agriculture – and applies not just to the international community but to regional organisations such as SPC as well as Pacific Island Countries.
The editor of the LRD Economics blog has a confession to make: a couple of years before my current work as economist for LRD I was privileged to work as a leading student campaigner, organiser and awareness-raiser in the UK on and off for 5 years aged 18-23 (focusing on Rwanda and Darfur) so I witnessed and worked with people with a huge amount of energy and youthful idealism. As such promoting the cause of youth, and getting older people to take youth seriously is a topic that is close to my heart; not only that, at 26 I still consider myself a young person (just).
Thus I am disappointed to have just missed International Youth Day on August 12th 2011 but it is surely not too late to use it as a means to focus on youth. The 2010/2011 theme was “Change Our World”. The first International Youth Day was on August 12th 2000 in response to UN General Assembly resolution 54/120. Not only this but the time between IYD 2010 and IYD 2011 was designated the International Year of Youth: Mutual Dialogue and Understanding, which is 25 years after the initial International Year of Youth. Stories of how people marked International Youth Day can be found most notably here from the Pacific Youth Council, here from Youth Coalition Fiji and also here in Fiji, here from the Asia Pacific Youth Network, and in many other locations in the world including here from the Pan Commonwealth Youth Caucus.
So, getting practical, where should all this energy lead? I will quote from the “A Call for Stronger Support for Youth Involvement in Agriculture and ICT” which contains some useful policy recommendations put forward by young people from Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific regions, who met in Accra, Ghana in March 2011, in an event run by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA).
- Recommendation 1 on agricultural studies: “A thorough revision of the curricula used across the ACP group of countries” to include agriculture as well as IT skills and business skills.
- Recommendation 2 on support for educational opportunity and research: “The Provision of a mixture of favourable scholarships, tuition grants and concessionary education and research loans to those under age 35 who are keen to pursue studies in critical areas of agricultural and rural development, such as agronomy, agricultural extension biotechnology, food science and technology, agricultural engineering, agricultural chemistry and water management”, subjects that are more suited to the needs and economies of ACP countries than the existing university degree programs which are oriented towards social sciences and the arts.
- Recommendation 3 on capacity building: “Fund and pilot a robust peer-extension, localized training on good agricultural practices, agro-processing and an ICT officer program to aid young and emerging farmers master their trade and boost capacity ” – with capacity building seen to be crucial given the challenges of food security and benefits to ACP countries to be gained from reducing food imports.
- Recommendation 4 on financial aid: generate a “collateral free micro-credit environment that offers incentives tailored to the financial needs of young farmers, and ICT software developers who are focused on rural development and agriculture”. There is an increasing need for young people to be entrepreneurial but they frequently have absolutely zero collateral to borrow against so this is key, if done well. Here is an article on Fiji microfinance.
- Recommendation 5 on ICT proliferation: “The establishment of regional ICT incubators over the next five years to develop contextual and efficient technological responses to agricultural problems.” Also a focus on cultivating “highly proficient” ICT extension officers, assisted by better communication and transport infrastructure.
- Recommendation 6 on Law, Gender and Marginalized Youth: This recommendation is mainly focused on access to resources, which tends to be skewed away from women and marginalised youth. It is recommended that “the provision of legal structures to facilitate enhanced participation of the youth in ICT, particularly women, physically challenged youth and marginalized youth with the required skills and interest is vital.” The statement gives special mention to prioritising youth access to land in land reform programs.
Finally: a USP Agriculture Scholarship funded by ACIAR
I am aware that this post is at risk of being a complete melange of youth-related points but in spite of this I am going to finish by asking: if there are any young people reading, you may be interested in this scholarship opportunity: here on the USP web site or for the updated 2011/12 version see here on facebook.
Jacque Koroi, a member of Pacific Youth Council
Credits: First two photos – Tim Wilson (people in photos unknown), third photo: ABC