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I agree with Professor Kleijn that for ecological intensification to be successful farmers need to be involved from the beginning of the research and development phase through participatory research practices. A top down approach with recommendations coming from policymakers and researchers in laboratories will simply not be as effective--farmers need to be in the driver's seat at the beginning. This will also help farmers see the wide range of benefits--environmental, economic, and social--that ecological intensification practices can provide. And, as a result, this can help these practices spread more widely and quickly.
Thanks again for all of the great comments! Please keep them coming!
Welcome to the disccussion on Harnessing the Benefits of Ecosystem Services for Effective Ecological Intensification! Thank you for the comments so far--please keep them coming!
I wanted to share with you some links to Food Tank's Harvesting the Research series. Food Tank is partnering with the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization to highlight original scientific research about Project LIBERATION. The LIBERATION project aims to provide the evidence-base for the potential of ecological intensification to sustainably enhance food security with minimal negative impacts on the environment.
Regarding the policies needed for farmers to adopt ecological intensification, we interviewed Dr. Brian Petersen http://foodtank.com/news/2015/08/harvesting-the-research-ecological-inte...and he discusses how the shift to ecological intensification would require political and economic support. According to Petersen "It would have to! In order for this to change, there would need to be a complete paradigm shift in how agriculture is viewed and funded. Many stakeholders would end up losing if there were a shift away from business-as-usual agriculture, which is a major barrier to implementation of ecological intensification. Many of the experts believe that a complete shift in paradigm will require a tremendous amount of public support, not only from the populations of different countries, but also from governments. They believe that subsidies and tax incentives currently benefit wealthy corporations profiting off of sustainable intensification or conventional agriculture. If we don’t shift public support toward more ecological agriculture, it’s going to have catastrophic consequences, in my view and in the view of the scientists we interviewed."
Thanks again for your comments and feedback. We look forward to the discussion!
Thank you all for your insightful contributions to this discussion. We’ve received dozens of new comments from participants around the world, who are sharing innovative ways to connect women and youth with the resources they need to be engaged in the food system—as farmers, as scientists, as agronomists, as food business leaders, and a whole range of other professions in agriculture.
Several points were reiterated by commentators, including the need to include men in community gender trainings, the need for university programs to promote agricultural workforce development, and the importance of teaching women and youth how to create value-added food products.
Chelsea Graham shared the success of the World Food Programme’s Purchase for Progress (P4P) initiative, which has created training networks to teach women about food production techniques, farm business management, and financial planning.
But Ken Davies, also of P4P, warns that due to the immense variation between cultures, strategies to assist women farmers cannot be ‘one-size-fits-all’. Implementation must be informed by country, context, and culturally-specific assessments that determine the needs of women farmers and tailor approaches to address underlying causes of inequality.
Many commentators, including Lalita Bhattacharjee, pointed out that women tend to spend income on addressing their family’s needs for nutrition, education, and health care. This means that providing women with inputs and financial training creates benefits for everyone.
And commentators had numerous suggestions for engaging youth in productive farming. Writing from India, Dr. RB Tiwari points out that, due to urbanization, many young girls and boys are not at all even aware where food is produced. Schools can engage this demographic by organizing agricultural excursions for urban youth.
Cordelia Adamu writes that in Nigeria, most young people view agriculture as a subsistence poverty reduction tool because of the way it is practiced in rural areas; “the farmer suffers to produce, sells at a loss to the urban marketer, who adds value to it and makes all the cash.” If universities were to create demonstration farms, perform agricultural laboratory research, and teach value-added food production, then many students would begin viewing agricultural as a viable professional path, she says.
Juan Antonio Garcia Pineda expressed the need for governments adopt laws mandating that universities provide agricultural training. In Venezuela, he shared, the Simón Bolívar University created the Cocoa Industry Management Diploma aimed at professionals and entrepreneurs who want to specialize in cocoa and its derivatives.
Nyla Coelho asserts that universities must not only emphasize agricultural education, but should emphasize appropriate, ecological agricultural education. Agricultural textbooks mostly address industrial style chemical farming. Given this, the urban learner has lost out on the farming reality and the rural learner from a farming family is learning the wrong things about farming.
According to Dr. Lisa Kitinoja, improving post-harvest storage is essential to reducing food losses and capturing more agricultural income. Training women and youth in proper crop storage and food processing methods will contribute to their success as farmers.
Finally, Kjell Havnevik tied the discussion back to larger issues that smallholder farmers -- including women, youth, and men -- face in light of the development of modern industrial agricultural. He writes that large-scale agricultural production now dominates most economies, but creates competition with family farmers over access to vital resources.
This conversation doesn’t end here! We’ll be continuing the discussion at the International Year of Family Farming Global Dialogue in Rome October 27th and 28th. Please stay tuned for more information!
All the Best,
Thank you all for your comments and suggestions, and for maintaining such a lively discussion! Commentators have offered great suggestions for legal, policy, economic, educational, and grass roots measures to increase the resources available women and young farmers.
Dr. Santosh Kumar Mishra shared strengthening the technical and entrepreneurial skills of young people is of paramount importance in rural areas, where literacy and training rates are often lower than elsewhere. Farmer field schools are platforms for training and experience-sharing between farmers and have proven effective in knowledge, technology and innovation dissemination.
Jim Currie acknowledges the age-old desire to provide “something better” for one’s children, but disagrees that this means a non-agricultural occupation. He shares that it may be possible to adapt the 4H model to serve and encourage youth in developing countries to stick with agricultural vocations. And moreover, the education system needs to produce more trainers to address the interests and needs of rural youth.
John Weatherhogg suggested finding opportunities for rural youth through hired agricultural services. For example, youth can hire a piece of machinery and charge as a contractor to till the fields of other community members, providing not only a valuable service but also creating a prestigious career for themselves.
And governments can help to make rural life appealing by connecting rural youth to technology that improves agriculture yields and also digitally connects them to the outside world. Improving infrastructure for cell phone coverage and internet accessibility is paramount to making this happen.
Simple innovations like raised beds can relieve many of the physical hardships associated with agricultural labor, making fieldwork for women and youth less draining.
Readers shared that gender sensitivity trainings are important to highlight the contributions of female community members to men. But in some contexts, women-only groups can provide enabling spaces where marginalized women can gain self-esteem, confidence, and skills by creating a space for them to identify their needs, understand their rights, and begin to articulate their demands.
Luis Sáez Tonacca described the experiences of a group of women in central Chile who, apart from doing the housekeeping, looking after their children, and caring for the sick, also cultivate the land and add value to their products. These are directly sold by themselves and constituting a source of income for their families. If government initiatives granted these groups access to the institutional public or private market and guaranteed a fair price for the sale of their products, they would reap huge profits.
Maria Antip believes that in order to make farming a viable and economically attractive profession for women and rural youth, farmers must have access to productive resources such as financing to purchase inputs, quality seeds, fertilizers, irrigation, and crop insurance. This is particularly true in Sub-Saharan Africa, where a wide yield gap means that not only farmers are unable to become commercial, but they often face hunger and malnutrition themselves.
Subhash Mehta disagrees, stating that governments and donors need to invest in climate friendly, low cost, agro ecological technologies and innovations. These are can be adapted successfully by farmers in the midst changing climates, as opposed to the high cost conventional green revolution technologies based industrial production. This will reduce barriers to entry for youth pursuing agriculture.
Nicolas Ross believes family farming will remain unattractive to women and youth so long as the labor conditions remain as bleak as they are. The promotion of decent rural employment should therefore be an integral part of broader efforts to enhance productivity, incomes, and food security among family farmers.
Several readers expressed that governments should design educational curriculums that clearly demonstrate that all food products are derived from farming activities and that agriculture is the heart of development and food provision. By creating a food culture, agricultural appreciation may rise.
Thank you for your comments--keep them coming! I appreciate your contributions and thank you again for engaging in the discussion!
All the best,
Thanks to participants for your comments about the involvement of women and youth in agriculture. The discussion has been lively and enlightening to all!
Commentators shared that women in industrialized countries largely face the same discrimination that women in developing countries face in agriculture. In Canada, one participant explained, women often have little control over decisions made about farming and finances, and share concerns over the disconnectedness of rural life. However in the United Kingdom, many women are now heading large agricultural organizations, which give females in farming a more prominent face. Organizations in the U.K., such as the Ladies in Agriculture Club, help to connect female farmers to one another. And in Jamaica, the Network of Rural Women Producers is hosting weekly dinners where female farmers can cook and confer together.
Women’s attitudes towards rural agriculture can influence the attitudes of young people. One participant pointed out, “until women see a better life for their children at home in rural areas they will still give the message – go where the grass is greener.” In countries like Uganda where agriculture is dominated by subsistence farming, youth would rather make quick money than wait for marginal returns on hard labor. Similarly, a participant shared that youth in Mexico get low paying jobs in cities instead of staying on farms because cities are associated with progress. Commentators agreed that work must be done to provide agricultural role models to youth, incorporate agriculture into school curriculums, allow better access to credit, and create special interest farmers organizations that appeal to youth. Moreover, a participant mentioned that since organic agriculture and healthy eating is increasingly trendy among the young urban set, more projects could aim to bring together young consumers with young producers.
Both women and youth often lack access to family decision-making, financial credit, or agricultural training, yet, as one commentator shared, “there is no one-size-fits-all solution” to incorporating these demographics into agriculture. Still, participants highlighted regional organizations like the U.K. Young Farmers Club, The World Farmers Organisation, The Cambodian Farmers Association Federation of Agricultural Producers, and the Future Farmers Network of Australia that are all working to encourage participation in farming.
I appreciate your contributions and thank you again for engaging in the discussion!
Thanks to participants for their comments about innovations to increase the involvement of women and youth in agriculture.
In Japan a large majority of farmers practice family farming and many innovative practices are encouraging a small-scale approach. Japanese agriculture cooperatives own farmers markets where farmers can set their own prices, ensuring higher incomes for young and female farmers by allowing them to set their own prices. Youth participation in agriculture is also encouraged by JA-Youth, an agricultural cooperative of 60,000 young farmers who advocate for policy directives to support agriculture.
A commentator from South America shared several ideas about how to better engage and support youth and women in agriculture. Universities, for example, can incorporate more agricultural programs to encourage youth to participate in farming. And for those programs that exist, applying agricultural and business knowledge to family farming, instead of industrial agriculture, should to be emphasized and encouraged. Governments can also promote youth access to information technologies so they may better adapt them to farming pursuits.
According to the commentator, South American women can better achieve food security and sovereignty by incorporating traditional knowledge and domestic skills to create value added products to sell for a higher prices. Strengthening the role of women in ecological conservation, conserving biodiversity, and sharing intergenerational farming knowledge are also important.
Thanks again for your comments!
Many thanks to all those who participated in last week’s forum The Future of Family Farming: Empowerment and Equal Rights for Women and Youth. We received some interesting and innovative commentary and intriguing suggestions on how to promote greater participation in the food system among women and youth.
Commentators agreed that youth and women face many barriers to entry and success in the agricultural sector. One of the major obstacles is lack of access to arable land as well as credit. Diminishing fertile land areas and discrimination against youth and women when applying for loans can discourage these groups from wanting to be involved in agriculture. Commentators also pointed out that lack of education and extension services, inability to access to technology, and lack of access to inputs such as seeds and fertilizer are big barriers to sustainable farming.
Several programs working to promote youth and female participation in agriculture were mentioned in the comments including the European Council of Young Farmers’ (CEJA) Mentoring Women in Entrepreneurship Program (MWE), which provides training courses and cultivates social networks for young women to start their own agribusinesses. And in Malaysia, the Ministry of Agriculture and Agro-based Industry (MOA) has developed a program promoting agropreneurs—young people engaging in agriculture, agribusiness, and agrotourism—through extension training and financing incentives.
Participants also offered suggestions for ways that development organizations and governments can better engage women and youth in agriculture. Commentators agreed that educating society as a whole about the value of agriculture is key to increasing participation. Government-sponsored PSAs, for example, can teach youth and women that farming is an economically sustainable profession.
In addition, comments focused on the need to build good soils to ensure the future productivity of agriculture, and the responsibility of governments to bring infrastructure and technology to rural areas to discourage urban migration. Commentators emphasized that increasing agricultural extension training is vital to ensuring productivity and financial success for women and youth in agriculture. CEJA wrote, “For young farmers… it is essential that the attractiveness of the agricultural sector is promoted to them and that vocational education and training in agriculture is widely available, accessible, attractive and affordable.”
Thank you again for your comments--keep them coming!