As an example of a project based on Youth engagement, I would like to introduce the activity that we have been working on currently underway in Cambodia.
‘’Empowering Youth for Food Systems Improvement and Healthy Diets ‘’
The activity is an initiative of the EU-FAO FIRST Programme in Cambodia and builds upon work by the Council for Agriculture and Rural Development, Hellen Keller International and WHO to conduct a series of Youth Forums in 2019 on the topic of healthy diets. The topic of healthy diets was chosen as one of the priority actions for multi-sectoral cooperation under the National Strategy for Food Security and Nutrition 2019-2023, This successful series of youth forums generated a fresh enthusiasm and a new approach for the agencies involved in food security and nutrition in Cambodia, extending into further efforts to support the engagement of youth in 2020.
To address the general lack of understanding of food systems and to promote healthy diets amongst young people, the EU-FAO First Programme has reached out to key partners to conduct an Adventure Camp event for 2020 to empower and engage youth around sustainable food systems and healthy diets. The objectives of this camp are aligned with the Joint Priorities for Healthy Diets and Food Value Chains and Food Safety of the National Strategy for Food Security and Nutrition 2019 – 2023 in Cambodia and the mainstreaming of the cross-cutting issue Gender and Youth.
The objective of the Adventure Camp is to engage a group of Cambodian students in activities related to improving food security and nutrition. Fifty university students from different backgrounds will participate in a three-day event in Kep Province which will combine field visits with exploratory learning activities centered on food systems and healthy diets. Other activities in the field are designed to promote a healthy lifestyle.
The students are selected through a social media campaign designed to foster wider interest and awareness of the issues amongst their peers. The training of facilitators for the Adventure Camp is a preliminary activity and the Youth Champions developed by Hellen Keller International provide the nucleus for the event facilitators. These Youth Champions are all young persons who have demonstrated interest and commitment to working in the field of food security and nutrition.
This initiative is about giving the keys to the young generation to have a real impact on their food environment by raising their awareness and giving them voice. The training is focused on the potential of the young generation as future leaders contributing to national objectives for food security and nutrition and the achievement of SDG2. The event has also been designed in recognition of the changing nature of nutritional problems in Cambodia and the need for double duty actions to combat malnutrition in all forms. Overweight and obesity are increasingly evident in Cambodia, particularly for women of reproductive age. Knowing that young people are increasingly independent in making food choices, it is vital that the education system takes account of this independence and that young people are recognized as decision makers. The Adventure Camp is designed to recognize that independence and support healthy choices based upon a more comprehensive understanding of the food system,
It is to ensure that the participating students who are future leaders and agents of change, are aware of the basic issues and have an understanding of how food systems impact their lives and the social and economic development of the country. This could lead to increase their effectiveness in professional roles, now and in the future and to provide insights into prospective avenues for employment.
Our key messages are :
Food systems have a critical role in influencing nutrition and healthy diets
Agriculture and food systems impact nutrition by influencing the quantity, quality and diversity of food produced, prices and purchasing power of producers, as well as consumer habits and diets.
In order to for young people to understand how the food system serves healthy diets, we have to unpack the linkages between nutrition and food system:
We need to introduce all the stakeholders of the food system: food production (farmers, fisher-folks); food processing and storage; food trade (cooperative, retail shops and markets); consumer habits and food preparation (cooking activities).
Participants should also consider the food system from the perspective of the consumer’s nutritional needs for healthy diets and to learn how the elements of the food system can impact directly on their health.
A sustainable food system depends on a productive farming systems and stewardship of the natural resource base
Agriculture and food systems also have an impact on water, health environment and caring practices, which are important drivers of nutrition. They have to understand the environment stakes of supporting small farmers/producers instead of big productions. They should have an overview of the natural resource base (water, soil, air, climate, biodiversity) and which impact it could have on livelihoods, farmers and sustainable food security and nutrition for all. We will give them a comprehensive context about food resources, agro-ecology, seasonality of production and income, access to productive resources, market opportunities and infrastructure, health and care environment.
Gender impacts on the roles in food systems and on the impacts of the food system
Women play a key role in household care and nutrition. Many nutritional challenges are also linked to gender issues. We have to teach them that agriculture and food systems can significantly impact women’s time use, decision-making power, income, inequity. They have to understand that women are the cornerstone of household care and nutrition and by privileging food produced by women they support them.
Young people have the power to have a real impact on food environments
Education around healthy diets and sustainable food systems aims to increase the awareness of urban youth on the nutritional value of foods, how to read labels and why it is important to limit salts, sugar and fats in the diet. This information will help them to make informed consumption choices and also to support smaller producers for a sustainable food system.
The Adventure Camp is launched in partnership with Helen Keller International and the involve the Council of Agriculture and Rural Development (CARD) and other line ministries as well as World Food Program and UNICEF. It is also the opportunity to reinforce cooperation between UN organizations and civil society in supporting the achievement of the objectives of the National Strategy for Food Security and Nutrition hand in hand with the government.
I wish to recommend also a useful reference for the purposes of the consultation as attached.