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Rural youth of the Americas share requirements for becoming involved in building the new post-covid-19 agriculture

Los jóvenes intercambiaron ideas en el inicio de una serie de foros virtuales organizados por el Instituto Interamericano de Cooperación para la Agricultura (IICA), que busca darles voz y contribuir a derribar las barreras que frenan su desarrollo en la ruralidad.
Rural youth exchanged ideas during the first of a series of virtual forums organized by IICA to raise the voices of this population and contribute to tearing down the barriers that hinder their development in rural areas. 

San Jose, 17 June 2020 (IICA). Rural youth from different regions in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC) discussed needs, challenges and outlooks for effectively participating in public policymaking and building the new post-COVID-19 agriculture.

Youth and leaders involved in various business undertakings, coffee farming, environmental issues and the academic sector shared their ideas during the first of a series of virtual forums organized by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA). The forums seek to raise the voices of rural youth and assist in tearing down the barriers that hinder their development in rural areas.

“As part of our work and priorities, we seek to raise the voices of rural youth and bring them to the forefront of policies and actions that involve them. They are today’s generation, which is why we want to strengthen their leadership in building the new agriculture, which is currently emerging with great force”, explained Federico Villarreal, IICA’s Director of Technical Cooperation.

The participants underscored the importance of political will; being included in public policymaking; having real access to technology and digitalization as well as funding opportunities for their business undertakings; fostering networking; and bolstering the crucial role of family farming for food security.

“The opinions, knowledge and experience of youth must be taken into account. We must participate in the development of strategies and ensure that any policies implemented are well-targeted, based on our knowledge of limitations and opportunities within the sector, as well as our vision for agriculture”, stated Andrea Paredes, a Guatemalan coffee farmer and the representative for Central America in the forum.

María Alejandra Mata, an entrepreneur from the Andean region, described some of the realities that rural youth face every day and which have been aggravated by the pandemic, including poverty and the lack of access to health services, education, information and connectivity, which affects their retention in rural areas.

“Here in Venezuela, things have been very difficult. We face issues associated with public services on a daily basis; more recently, we have been inconvenienced by the lack of fuel. Continuing to focus on our business undertakings or on agriculture is problematic. As a result of Covid-19, many have lost their crops, but we are always looking for solutions”, she remarked.

In light of these scenarios, the representative of the northern region, Aztatl Anzaldo, who holds a degree in Political Science and Public Administration, noted that one of the main challenges facing agriculture is “is succeeding in keeping rural youth in the countryside, and ensuring that they possess the necessary conditions, knowledge and tools to produce and make a decent living”.

“Governments, non-governmental organizations, business sectors and organized civil society must work together to develop public policies that can generate a real, significant impact with respect to these issues”, added Anzaldo, who serves as an advisor to organizations that promote initiatives and projects related to environmental conservation, biodiversity and bio-resilient farming, among other topics.

During the forum, participants engaged in an in-depth discussion of what post-pandemic agriculture will look like, the opportunities the sector will provide them with, how they should organize themselves to address the realities they are currently facing, as well as strategies to shed more light on the issues they face in their respective countries.

“This is a great opportunity to train ourselves, to work together and to assign greater value to agriculture. It is crucial that we develop networks and strengthen them at the local and international levels, in order to foster synergies between different disciplines. We must also capitalize on various media that have become more widespread during the pandemic to further digitalize rural areas, as well as begin to combine traditional extension services with digital media to better assist producers and youth”, stated the representative of the southern region, Noelia Kelly, who holds a degree in Agricultural Management.

Johanan Dujon, representative of the Caribbean region and founder of Algas Organics, added that the ideas proposed will not be attainable without the political will and support of key sectors, such as the private sector.

“In sharing these scenarios, we are dreaming out loud. A lot of what we as youth want and expect is out of our control; policymaking takes time and depends on politicians. We also require access to funding, which the agriculture sector has not traditionally received. If that doesn't change, nothing will change after Covid-19”, he noted.

During the hemispheric forum, entitled “Rural youth build the new post-Covid-19 agriculture”, Ernesto Rodríguez, Director of the Latin American Center for Youth (CELAJU), described what those public policies should look like and the requirements to effectively involve rural youth in the political, economic and production realms.

“We must go beyond simply creating platforms for youth, and focus on adopting a generational perspective. Youth play a leading role in rural areas and development in general, because they are better trained than previous generations, have a more dynamic relationship with new technologies, and are prepared to take on the challenges of the 21st century. It is important that we empower youth; that we acknowledge and value them”, concluded Rodríguez.

The next virtual event, which will take place on 30 June, will be geared towards gathering the experiences, perspectives and recommendations of rural youth in the Caribbean and Northern regions. It will be broadcast on IICA’s Virtual Conference RoomFacebook Live and IICA’s YouTube channel. 

More information:
Federico Villarreal, Director of Technical Cooperation at IICA.