SIANI’s input to the e-consultation for the report promoting youth engagement and employment in agriculture and food systems
This document outlines the Swedish International Agriculture Initiative’s (SIANI) input to the e-consultation for the V.0 draft of the HLPE report Promoting youth engagement and
employment in agriculture and food systems.
SIANI’s input is based on discussions at the SIANI Annual Meeting and the session Promoting youth in food systems – today and tomorrow held Friday 29 January 2021. Approximately 400 people watched the session live through Zoom and Facebook Live. The purpose of the session was two-fold, firstly, to engage the SIANI network in the issue of youth and food systems ahead of the CFS and the Food Systems Summit in 2021. Secondly, the session was structured to be able to provide input to the e-consultation of the HLPE report promoting youth engagement and employment in agriculture and food systems. We hope the discussion and questions raised during the session at SIANI’s annual meeting will be of benefit in the report process and look forward to further engage on the topic of youth and food systems.
The full recording of the event at SIANI’s Annual Meeting can be watched here: https://vimeo.com/507851930
- Amanda Wood, MPH PhD, Researcher, Stockholm Resilience Centre
- Maureen Muketha, Founder of TuleVyema (a Kenyan NGO working with nutrition and food security) and Fellow, Young African Leaders Initiative
- Sanna Vannar, Chair of Sáminourra (A Sámi youth organisation in Sweden)
- Thomas Rosswall, Member of the Steering Committee of the High Level Panel of Experts on Food Security and Nutrition (HLPE)
Moderator: Jonathan Eng, Network Coordinator, SIANI/ Stockholm Environment Institute
Mind mapping exercise
Through a mind-mapping exercise SIANI invited its network to give suggestions for how to ensure youth’s future role in food systems. A presentation of the full results from the mind mapping exercise can be found through this link. Some key aspects that were raised include:
- Bottom-up processes where youth are included all the way and where capacity building is ensured
- Learning opportunities, including using elders as mentors
- Enabling a news mind-set around work in food systems, make work in food systems attractive
- Encouraging youth from a young age to participate and engage in food systems, as well as ensuring that youth have agency and a high level of participation, not only representation
Part 1. How do we ensure youth’s future role in food systems?
Question 1: During the pandemic we have moved all events and meetings online. Do you think this has enabled youth to be more active in these dialogues? Might these forums even be a more democratic way of enabling voices from youth? What issues do you see? And what role could SIANI play as a multi-sector network?
Answers from the panel:
Panellist 2: More youth can get involved now, but I am also very concerned about
those not having internet – how can they be involved in the conversation?
Panellist 1: It is a mix of good and bad, new tools are coming all the time to facilitate
these kinds of discussions. However, at the same time, it is an issue if you don’t
already have the network to be involved. Especially in the research space it is really
narrowed down. We need to think about how to engage younger people, how should
we make these connections that otherwise might have happened at a conference?
Panellist 3: It is a lot easier to join meetings and events now. We still have problems;
we have the technology, but we do not always have access. We are not invited to the
table. A lot of youth also do not have access to the modern technology, there is a
Panellist 4: SIANI brings stakeholders together. We need these kinds of platforms.
We need to engage youth in these platforms as well and ensure that there are mentors
Question 2: In most countries, no matter if in Sweden or in Kenya, farms are shifting hands from parents to youth. And in that shift, also the “how to” trickles down. However, no matter if in Sweden or Kenya, this “how to” is often built on methods that worked in the past, but not geared for building sustainable food systems for future generations. So – what is needed to excel competence, courage and commitment for youth in agriculture, to challenge the current “how to”?
Answer from panellist 2: First thing for youth is to show interest, to try to align
themselves, try to find people to work with, find inputs and subsidies for trade.
Question 3: We talk about the transformation of food systems and future scenarios. But how should we get there?
Answer from panellist 1: There is no blueprint and no clear answer for this, but we
know the general direction where we need to go. Any solution needs to be contextspecific and needs to involve everyone in the food systems. We need to enable people to do that and not except it to happen by itself, we need to provide for those people to engage. We need a more hands on and local approach. We have to make sure that we do not only talk about problems and solutions – we need to get to the middle bit. If we do not actually talk about values, interest and barriers, we will get a long list of issues and disconnected solutions.
Question 4. How is the situation for the Sámis’ collaborating with the regional governments in Sweden concerning the pastures and reindeer herding? I could imagine land rights must be central to Sami youth.
Answer from panellist 3: There are many problems and I do not have time to go into each one. On paper the Sámi don’t own the land, it is the Swedish state, but they say
they own the land. The forest companies need to consult with the Sámi villages when
starting a project, but the forestry only looks at maps, the Sámi villages have to
consider much more than that (roads, hydroelectric power, land for their reindeers
etc.). The Sámi can stall the investments but five years later the companies say that
they have waited long enough now, and the Sámi people do not have the real power to
say no and fully decide over the land.
Question 5: I am a researcher and I want to know to what extent you think early career
researchers (young researchers) can contribute to sustainable food systems? And how can they become involved in the journey?
Answer from panellist 4: Early career scientists are important, there’s a lot of
enthusiasts there and that is where a lot of the engagement is. I have been involved
with Sida, building cooperation & capacity with engaged youth from academia. But
after they get their PhD, will they develop an academic career? There’s too much
teaching, administration and too little time to focus on building their own scientific
career. Support is needed to help provide the right conditions for youth to stay in this
Part 2. How can we ensure that youth are central in the transformation towards more sustainable and resilient food systems?
Question 6: I have myself been thinking about that we know that we want to include youth, but how can we formulate what youth can bring to the table? We also have a question in the audience that connects to this, that person wonders if there is any data on youth engagement – or do we assume that they do not have access and are engaged?
Answers from the panel:
Panellist 2: The number of youth representatives are growing, but we’re not there yet.
There’s a lot of youth migration from rural to urban areas, if youth was included and
knew better than to migrate, they would not go away. There’s no enabling
environment for youth to stay in rural areas, the knowledge about the possibilities food
systems bring about is lacking.
Panellist 4: 80% of the work force in low-income countries are involved in farming.
But how can we make that sector attractive, make it innovative, and attract youth to
engage? It is not so much about ensuring that they are present in food systems but that
they take over their farms with innovative approaches. That’s where the future lies.
The young people can lead the change.
Question 7: Can we identify a few key aspects on how to do this. How can we make work in agriculture and food systems more attractive?
Answers from the panel:
Panellist 2: Improve mechanization, technology that can facilitate work and
knowledge exchange. Distribution has to be improved, with trucks enabling a cold
chain for fragile foods for example.
Panellist 4: Solutions need to be context-specific and it varies from country to
country. But there are constraints in large parts of Africa the lack of roads, fertilizers
etc. are issues. The use of mobile phones is one way to solve some of these issues. But
we need to modernize infrastructure.
Panellist 3: We need to value the people who produce food higher, today they are
lower in the rank. They are knowledgeable and their knowledge is valuable, you do
not need to go to university to have a say.
Panellist 1: Young people should not need to have the courage to engage in food
systems and being a producer. We have to have support mechanisms and de-risk, land
access, technology access and real financial support mechanisms. These are aspects
that public sector could help with.
Part 3. What are the challenges that youth engaged in food systems experience today?
Question 8: We are talking about food systems, and often we refer to COVID-19 and how we should build back better after this pandemic. But we also have an elephant in the room that I think we need to talk more about and that is climate change. We have seen youth taking the streets all over the world demanding action on climate change. I wanted to hear your thoughts on climate change and food systems, and the challenges for youth there.
Panellist 3: Climate change is nothing we will have in the future; it is already
happening now. We see how Reindeers go through the ice, the lakes they usually walk
on have not frozen because the temperature is so high. Instead of walking on ice, the
reindeers fall in and die. The weather is also changing, and it is shifting more rapidly
than before. The temperature changes result in reindeers not finding food. However, it
is not only affecting reindeers, but it affects our culture. We have hundred words for
snow, but when we do not have snow anymore, we will lose this language.
Question 9: How important is the transfer of knowledge between generations?
Panellist 3: Traditional knowledge is very important to handle climate change and
food systems problems. It has become harder for youth to get that knowledge; you
need to be outside to learn. Youth today have their phones, social media and very little
time to be outside and learn from elders. Children and youth can learn a lot from
elders that you cannot learn from school. Science is praised as the highest-ranking
knowledge, but indigenous knowledge is also needed, a combination of both is needed
for the future.
Question 10: Is the transformation of food systems more of a bottom-up movement or a topdown one?
Answer from panellist 1: It will be a mix of both: policy makers need to be pressured
by people demanding a change. Policy makers hold a lot of power in the current
system, and you can include businesses in this as well, they need to take a lot of
responsibility and structurally change the system that is demanded. It will need to be
both bottom-up and top-down and everything else coming in in the middle.