Roundtable reflections: Youth will play key role in future of food security

posted on June 3, 2016 9:18am

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Feed the Future recently convened a series of roundtables to explore emerging issues such as urbanization, youth and employment, and financing for food security efforts. These roundtables gathered a diverse set of expert participants for focused, small-group discussions about a potential path forward for a sustainable global food system.

The event took place May 16-20 at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., and included Beth Dunford (USAID – Bureau of Food Security);  Jim Oehmke (USAID, BFS); Kimberly Flowers (CSIS Global Food Security Project); Julius Gatune (African Center for Economic Transformation); John Holtzman and Thomas Jayne (Michigan State University); Fiona Macaulay (Making Cents); Morgan Mercer (ACDI/VOCA - Agriculture Cooperative Development Institute, Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance); Alan de Braw (International Food Policy Research Institute).

BHEARD scholar Princess Adjei-Frimpong was the only student on the Youth and Employment roundtable. She and her colleagues discussed issues such as demographic trends and migration patterns, skills required by youth in emerging agri-food systems and the role of agriculture in improving livelihoods of youth. The takeaway messages were:

  • We need to capitalize on the growing youth populations to achieve food security and energize economies, as youth are willing to experiment and innovate.
  • The face of agriculture must include expanded access to finance in order to make it more attractive to the youth. For example, expanding access to finance can be achieved through creation of farmer cooperatives to access bank loans, enabling input dealers to extend credit to smallholder farmers. Agriculture for the youth in developing countries is a means of survival and not a profit-making venture.
  • The voices of the youth must be heard in dialogues on their role in agri-food systems development strategies.

“Participating in this discussion brings to light the important role young scientists have in this fight for a food secure future,” Princess said. “This was a great opportunity for networking and sharing of the BHEARD program, and I am very thankful of the support from both USAID and BHEARD. Over the past few years I have benefited greatly from attending the World Food Prize event, as well as professional conferences in Minneapolis and Zambia (supported by BHEARD), in addition to serving as an expert for the Michigan World Food Prize Youth Institute.

“The FTF program stood out because of the caliber of people I met, and the fact that I was the only student and youth on the table makes me confident I can speak at any program when the opportunity is presented to me.”