This article is written by Deepak Ghimire.
This article was originally published in the World Farmers’ Organization F@rmletter. Check the original article.
Feeding the world with rapidly growing population has already been a serious challenge for the communities and stakeholders involved in agricultural sector. With global populations rapidly increasing – especially in the developing world – providing food security increasingly requires innovative solutions and technologies. Also, climate change already affects agriculture and food security and, without urgent action, will put millions of people at risk of hunger and food insecurity.
According to FAO, “Food security means having, at all times, both physical and economic access to sufficient food to meet dietary needs for a productive and healthy life.” A family is food secure when its members do not live in hunger or fear of hunger. Food insecurity is often rooted in poverty and has long term impacts on the ability of families, communities, and countries to develop. Stunted growth, increased susceptibility to illness along with severe health related problems are resulted from prolonged undernourishment.
As per the projections from The United Nations, by 2050 global populations will increase by approximately 2.5 billion people, with the majority of this increase occurring in the developing world. Much of this growth will be among youth, who are expected to make up half of the 2050 population. These shifts in demography will push youth into extremely vulnerable condition to food insecurity. The vulnerability is further exacerbated by problems of rising food prices and crop loss from climate change related weather patterns. At the same time, youths hold a vital role in addressing the challenge of food security. This places the youths at the centre of food security and nutrition.
Youths, who should have been in the frontline to fight for food security and nutrition, are struck on their way by several barriers on agricultural production, income generation, etc. Youth’s ability to attain food security through production on land is reduced by the lack of availability of agricultural land, agricultural technologies and modern farming techniques and youth-friendly and unattractive agricultural policies. Similarly, the not migrating youth are chained by lack of education, training and market access necessary to generate enough income to maintain household food security while the youth who migrate to urban areas are unable to earn enough income to achieve food security.
At the same time, the majority of youth do not currently see agriculture as a viable career path given the low productivity rates and the difficulties they know previous generations have faced. However, it is important for smallholders to achieve a viable income through agricultural activities in order to continue the production cycle by their children and their children’s children. Developing the knowledge, skills, and talent of youth will also require investing in smallholder agriculture in order to provide successful examples and viable livelihoods for all future generations.
However, in order to effectively address the problem of food security a shift is needed from viewing challenges for youths as an hindrance, to viewing youth as an asset for development, for both the agricultural and economic growth of a country. Youth should be viewed as an integral part of the solution to food security. Unfortunately, there is limited research that looks at food security through the youth’s perspective.
Young professionals have fresh ideas, a strong grasp of emerging trends and are up for the challenge of trying new approaches to work with food security and nutrition. To mobilize greater innovation in the agricultural sector, insight from today’s youth is needed; young people must be instrumental in creating their own future. Realizing this significance of youth role, several organizations are prioritizing the youth empowerment and involvement in agriculture, might it be research, academic or extension. To mention, Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD) has been always fostering young professionals through mentoring and inclusion of youth’s views in policy making. Some initiatives carried forward by YPARD Nepal, a country branch of YPARD, such as online and on-site mentoring to connect academics with farmers, information stall at food fair to advocate on importance of nutrition, Student Research Symposium to encourage research activities on agriculture and nutrition, etc. are worth explaining the role of youth towards food security and nutrition.
Prioritized as an important issue on The Paris Rulebook (Paris Agreement adapted at 21st United Nations Conference on Climate Change) and identified as a goal for Sustainable Development by United Nations, food security and nutrition is an important issue for youths and rest of all. The underlying responsibility on youth to work collectively for achieving a food secure and well nourished world must be accompanied by address of the challenges being faced by the youth. The vision of youth and youth led initiatives on interwoving the advancements in technologies for higher production with the increased awareness on nutritional practices is a foremost requisite. Provided with handsome opportunities for development of knowledge, skills and capacity on agriculture related activities, youth have the power to turn the fate of food security and nutrition to a brighter side.