Young people are truly the best example for other young people to follow. Many people would refute this statement, but it holds true once the young leaders of today remain dedicated to their work, share their experiences, and guide the way for others.
At the Global Landscapes Forum (GLF) ongoing at the University of Warsaw, Poland, November 16–17, eight youth speakers were voted to share their experiences in agricultural, environmental, and climate change activities.
Organized by the Young Professionals’ Platform for Agricultural Research and Development (YPARD) and the Center for International Forestry Research (CIFOR) and partners, each story highlights the various circumstances under which these youth have overcome challenges—some of them truly extreme in nature!—and made a difference in their lives and the lives of others.
The first presenter, Nadia Manning-Thomas (@Bajan_Nads), a youth with multiple fields of study, expertise, and experience, explained what sort of attitude youth should hold toward their personal development. She reiterated that adaptability is a key factor in making progress toward success: “Opportunities may come your way, but you also have to create the right conditions to be able to follow your dreams.”
Many describe opportunity as the situation where chance meets preparedness. In this sense, it is imperative for agriyouth to be prepared. They must always be on the lookout for opportunities to learn and expand their skill set.
From the ashes of war…
Although sometimes it may be a question of “the right conditions,” other youth speakers at the GLF held a different point of view. Otim Joseph (@joseph_otim) of Uganda faced a completely destroyed landscape after the long civil war of Uganda. However, he understood the importance of food, agriculture, and the environment as the cornerstone of his community’s livelihood.
The youth from Otim’s part of the world did not seek payment, but they had a natural curiosity to learn about agriscience and the environment. This curiosity flourished despite the lack of a formal education, as a result of the devastating war.
Otim and his team continuously battled ignorance; many did not understand the concept of a sustainable livelihood. He lobbied for support from churches via radio and other organizations.
Referred to as “the second war”—a fight for the local ecosystem—Ugandan youth began learning about the consequences of the degradation of the environment in the field. Seeing the effects of environmental degradation firsthand, they were further motivated to use strategies such as school competitions to plant 2 million trees in two years. Their efforts continue to this day.
…To the salt of the earth
The story then shifts from Uganda to the rural Philippines, where development worker Karen Tuason spoke of her work with Task Force Mapalad. Task Force Mapalad is a peasant organization of multiple sub-groups of small stakeholders seeking to empower themselves through ensuring land ownership.
The situation of land tenure in the Philippines is dire, especially for young rural farmers. Many of them do not have an education and depend on available land for their livelihood. Some take on seasonal agricultural work, while others migrate to the service sector of large cities, where they are often exploited.
However, this has not deterred Karen or her organization.
“Task Force Mapalad supports claims for land through para-legal, negotiator, and speaker’s trainings,” she explained. “With these trainings, farmers-to-be are empowered to deal with the government and other sectors and bring forth the issues encountered in the communities. They also seek to build the farmers’ business and entrepreneurial skills, creating high levels of capacity.”
She emphasized that the transformation of socio-economic roles—from mere landless farm workers to new land owners and managers—has enabled young farmers to collectively address and improve food security of their communities, raise their household income, and gain access to education and healthcare.
The change is in everyone
Each of these stories is inspirational in their own way. They are diverse and unique, each dealing with a different situation. Some of these are severe and phenomenological in nature—this means that their situation is so significant that it causes an immediate and sustained change in the behavior of the affected communities, namely youth.
But is a phenomenological rupture needed to encourage youth to take charge of the future of their landscape in other parts of the world? Must each micro community or individual situation be as extreme or staggering as the aforementioned in order for change to take place?
After all, “change begins with me and you.” In order to better ourselves, the environment, and the landscape, we must take up the challenge, make a change, stay dedicated, and then reap the reward.
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