Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD) is a global network of young agriculture and development professionals who are coming together to create innovative and sustainable agricultural development. YPARD enables its young members to share knowledge and information, participate in meetings and debates, promote agriculture among young people, and organize workshops.
Food Tank interviewed Rebeca Souza, a YPARD representative in Brazil, to discover what YPARD members have been accomplishing.
Food Tank (FT): How did you become a representative for YPARD?
Rebeca Souza (RS): Last year, I was doing an internship at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). Three other interns and I decided to organize an event calling on young professionals to share innovative ideas to overcome world hunger and malnutrition. YPARD was one of our partners, and Courtney Paisley, the director, was attending our event. I came to her asking if I could be a country representative in Brazil since no one was appointed to this position yet. She said yes!
FT: How many people joined YPARD in Brazil? What interactions do you have with one another?
RS: There are 41 members so far. This is because YPARD Brazil has only been around for one year. In comparison, Nigeria and India, the biggest YPARD chapters, have 661 and 734 members, respectively. They are the biggest YPARD communities. In Brazil, we are a team of four people to animate the network and we work mainly with social media. We use Facebook, for example, to promote YPARD among young people. We also encourage our members to write blog posts or to represent YPARD during events in Brazil.
FT: What trends can you identify regarding agricultural development in Brazil?
RS: What I see is that a lot of people migrating from rural to urban areas. Brazil has become mainly an urban country, with almost 85 percent of the population living in urban areas according to the 2010 National Census. As a result, young people tend not to be interested in agriculture.
Women are becoming more involved in agriculture. There is good progress in gender equality, but the gap between men and women remains high. There is also a big division in agricultural models: an economically-dominant, high tech form of agriculture that relies on heavy uses of pesticides, and another based on family farming. We have to work to lead the first one towards more sustainable practices and scale up the holistic approach of the second one.
Also, the trend I see is more use of genetically engineered crops. But at the same time, we see more farmers growing organic and more consumers wanting to buy organic and buy local.
FT: This year is the International Year of Family Farming. How important is family farming in Brazil?
RS: José Graziano da Silva, current director general of the FAO, used to be Special Minister of Food Security and the Fight against Hunger in Brazil. In this role, he did a lot to promote family farming. In 2013, family farming represented 84 percent of the rural settlements in Brazil and around 38 percent of the gross agricultural production.
FT: Can you tell us an example of a success story you have witnessed when working with YPARD?
RS: Our first success story was meeting Jefferson Magalhaes, the founder of a start-up that develops innovative technologies to achieve the market of precision agriculture. We both believe that new technologies can help keep rural young adults connected to family farming by making agriculture more attractive, modern and sustainable. He is now a valuable member of YPARD!
I am also very proud of my team. We represent many different approaches to agricultural development; we have experts in agronomy, veterinary medicine, agribusiness, economics, and nutrition. My colleagues are really engaged, helpful, and supportive.
FT: What do you think can help engage more young Brazilian people in agriculture?
RS: I think young Brazilians avoid careers in agriculture careers because they don’t know how great of an impact they can make with this work. I think we need to talk about agriculture in a language they can relate to in order to engage them. If we show them the technology and innovation it requires, what is at stake behind agriculture — development, jobs, health, nutrition, and poverty — I think it will make a difference. They often think of agriculture as a poor economic sector; our job is to portray a more positive aspect of agriculture.
FT: A message for the young people reading this article?
RS: Food and agriculture is not only about nutrition and environment; it’s also about life. If you don’t know much about food and agriculture, try to find out what agriculture offers you. You will learn more about your own culture, your health, and where you come from. As young people, we are developing our identities, and knowing our food and agricultural system is key to understanding who we are.