20 What today’s young agricultural leaders need to meet tomorrow’s SDG challenges

Youth and Talent Development to end Hunger


  • Private Sector Mechanism
  • Nuffield International
  • ETG farmers Foundation


Food producers the world over face increasingly complex challenges that require uncommon partnerships in their efforts to sustain a growing world population and ensure agriculture is an active player in the achievement of the SDGs. This panel will explore the commonalities of these challenges across the global agriculture sector through a fast-paced, facilitated discussion focused on surfacing the needs - and actions - of young agricultural leaders from all continents. Combining the voices of the panelists with those in the room, this side event provides space for the agriculture industry to highlight what is required to provide the greatest contribution towards the SDGs as agricultural SMEs and multi-stakeholder actors.

Key speakers/presenters

  • Chair: Luis Fernando Ceciliano, Representative of the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica to the UN-Rome Agencies
  • co-moderator: Dr. David Bergvinson, Director General of the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT)
  • Wayne Dredge, commercial fisher and ambassador for Nuffield International (Australia)
  • Poorva Pandya, head of ETG Farmers Foundation (Zimbabwe)
  • Gloria Gusha, diversified farmer and agricultural extension officer (Zimbabwe)
  • Freddy Leonce Kweka, diversified farmer and agricultural extension officer (Tanzania)
  • Sarah Singla, no-till mixed crop farmer, 2011 Nuffield Scholar (France)
  • Willem Van Der Schans, livestock and dairy Farmer, 2017 Nuffield Scholar (Netherlands)
  • Thato Moagi, mixed crop and livestock farmer, 2017 Nuffield Scholar (South Africa)
  • Tsuyoshi Stuart Oda, investment banker turned urban farmer, Alesca Life (Japan, United States)
  • Tiare Boyes, commercial halibut fisher (Canada)
  • Robert Arvier, root vegetable and dairy farmer, 2017 Nuffield Scholar (Australia)


  • Agricultural finance in uncertain economic conditions
  • Market barriers for SMEs and start ups
  • The role that technology will play in agricultural progress in the developed and developing world
  • The challenge of recruiting, training and retaining high-impact young people in the field of agriculture
  • Emerging environmental issues facing the next generation of food producers
  • Consumer perceptions of agriculture and how these perceptions will shape what it means to feed the world

It goes without saying that agriculture is a dynamic industry with infinite new and exciting opportunities. Agriculture suffers, however, from a poor image. In too many contexts, farming is seen as a last-resort occupation for those not bright enough to excel in office-based jobs. We must demonstrate that agriculture is comparable to other professions in its economic viability, intellectual rigor, and social good. Achieving this mindset shift requires engaging with people in a hands-on fashion from a very young age.

Another important way to attract young talent to agriculture is to embrace the potential of technology to transform the field. Thoughtful technological developments can revolutionize the entire supply chain, from ordering seed to tracking products en route to market. It can also create entirely new agricultural opportunities, including innovative urban farming. Technology will play a critical role for any government initiative, non-profit, or SME that wishes to meaningfully impact the livelihoods of farmers.

Farmers are forced to absorb the cost of poor infrastructure (like inadequate roads, unreliable electrification, and so on) and the increasingly intense consumer demand for inexpensive food. Partnerships that include governments, the private sector, farm input providers, and retailers are critical in order to liberate farmers from cycles of debt and increasingly low prices.

In addition to adequate infrastructure, financial resources tailored to the needs of young farmers are key. If a young person does not inherit land, access to credit and farmer-appropriate financing becomes a major barrier to entry. As the perception of agriculture slowly changes and talented youth choose to move from cities to farms, we must give not impede them from doing so for financial reasons.  

Young farmers will be at the forefront of reducing food loss and waste, increasing yields, improving market access, developing healthy soils, and tackling every other great challenge in agriculture. However, this burden does not rest with them alone: we all need to work toward common goals.

Key outcomes/take away messages

  • It is essential to inspire youth to become involved in agriculture.
  • Agriculture will benefit from rebranding as a viable profession.
  • Private and public partnerships are essential at all levels, from connecting young farmers to resources to improving the infrastructure required to create an enabling environment.
  • Financial options that meet the unique needs of young farmers must be put into place.
  • We must encourage women to take ownership of agriculture and provide role models for future female ag leaders.
Side Event - 20 - What today’s young agricultural leaders need to meet tomorrow’s SDG challenges