When I first embarked on my career, I felt that many of the agricultural challenges facing mankind would have a far-reaching impact on not just my generation but also on future ones. Like most young professionals at that time, I also had many ideas, boundless energy and a desire to make a difference that would leave a mark well into the future.
Unfortunately, like most of my peers, I didn’t have a voice. Or at least I did not have a space to express my voice. But I was one of the lucky ones; I found a mentor, someone more senior than me who believed in me and gave me the necessary space to express myself.
Today, as much as ever, I feel it is important that we involve youth in efforts to ensure the sustainability of our natural resources, correct climate change, alleviate poverty, etc. It is vital that we listen to their voices, realize their ability to contribute to agricultural development, and engage them in activities that will help determine their future.
In short, we need to give youth the space they need and deserve to express themselves.
I think most people who have devoted their careers to agricultural research for development (ARD) have a story to tell about the frustrations they felt during their early working years. My own experience tells me that many agricultural organizations subscribe to a hierarchy that has resulted in young professionals being sidelined without a channel for their ideas and opinions to be heard. As a result, when the ICT-KM Program was taking shape in 2002, I felt strongly that there had to be a place at the table for youth. While there is no substitute for the experience, knowledge and wisdom that comes with age, young people can add a different perspective and offer fresh ideas. They can also benefit tremendously from mentoring programs.
Almost all of my team members at the ICT-KM Program, current and past, are below forty years old, and it has given me great pleasure to watch them thrive – when enthusiasm meets opportunity, there’s no telling what you can achieve. At the same time, I also feel duty bound to encourage other youth outside the Program – giving them a platform and the support they need to explore innovative ICTs and knowledge sharing methods and techniques to enhance their work in ARD.
Through the Program’s various collaborative efforts with youth, my team and I have interacted with many enthusiastic and hugely talented individuals; young people who have the ability to make a difference in the ARD arena. As such, with the launch of the United Nations’ International Year of Youth on 12th August, we felt it was appropriate and timely to recognize the achievements of some of the youth we have been fortunate enough to encounter through our work.
Through a series of interviews, we hope to put a face to the youth in ARD, hear their voices, and obtain an insight into their roles, perspectives, experiences and aspirations … We will talk to them as they work in labs, on farms, in offices, and as they study. We will also talk to those who believe in and have supported youth.
Our series will be organized into a number of chapters, all looking at different angles, different perspectives:
- Youth and ARD: the good, the bad and the ugly – a closer look at opportunities, challenges, and issues
- A ‘green’ dream: Why youth are still interested in agriculture
- Making agricultural knowledge travel
- Carrying on the fight for gender equality: How we can break that ugly glass ceiling
- Behind the scenes: Youth in laboratories
- Mapping for the future: Youth and spatial information for ARD
- Youth and Innovation
- Getting their hands dirty: Youth in the field
- Concerned with climate change
- Learning together: Youth doing training and capacity building
We will also be turning the floor over to others by inviting guest bloggers to write about their experiences, and share videos and photos. We would like to hear from as many young people as possible, so if you have a story to tell about your work – the tears and triumphs, hopes and aspirations – come forward and let your voice be heard.
This is your space: a place where you can connect with people who are passionate about ensuring that the work we do in agriculture and knowledge sharing finds applications and benefit. All you have to do is write to us with your ideas and suggestions, either by using the box below or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org
Our first interview …
A couple of years back I was invited to join the Senior Advisory Group of the Young Professionals’ Platform for Agricultural Research (YPARD), a global platform that enables young professionals to express their ideas, exchange information, access resources and take advantage of capacity building opportunities. It’s heartening to know that YPARD is coordinated by a young woman who was previously involved in one of the Program’s earlier projects.
The first voice to be heard in our Growing Talents: Young Voices in Agriculture series belongs to Courtney Paisley, YPARD’s newly appointed Coordinator.
We hope you enjoy the series!