Cultivating the Next Generation of Food System Leaders

Cultivating the Next Generation of Food System Leaders
From foodtank.com, by Sarah Small

Food Tank and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) are excited to announce a new collaboration using communications to help cultivate the next generation of agricultural leaders. To that end, the organizations will jointly produce research, articles, opinion editorials, columns, newsletters, social media campaigns, and webinars during the rest of this year.

With an aging population of farmers, it’s clear that agriculture needs to attract more young people. This is a global challenge: Half the farmers in the United States are 55 years of age or older, while in sub-Saharan Africa, the average age of farmers is around 60. Food Tank and IFAD will collaborate to raise awareness about issues faced by youth in agriculture, as well as engage the global community in dialogue around challenges such as access to markets, education, and resources for beginning farmers.

Changing youth perceptions of agriculture can potentially create lasting impact in the agricultural sector, which offers huge potential for job creation. Through their joint communications, IFAD and Food Tank aim to help educate, motivate, prepare, and support the world’s next generation of agricultural leaders and farmers.

“As a global community, we can increase awareness of opportunities for youth in agriculture," said Cassandra Waldon, Director of Communications at IFAD. "The future of global food security depends on the next generation of agricultural leaders. With the right resources and support, we can help youth become an integral part of the solution.”

Young people are the farmers and food system leaders of tomorrow. But according to IFAD, they are increasingly abandoning agriculture and rural areas in search of better livelihoods in cities or abroad. There is a pressing need to create opportunities for youth to contribute to their agricultural communities.

Today, young people can explore career options in permaculture design, biodynamic farming, communication technologies, forecasting, marketing, logistics, quality assurance, urban agriculture projects, food preparation, environmental sciences, advanced technologies, and more.

“For so long, youth have viewed agriculture as a burden and something they feel forced to do, not something they want to do," said Danielle Nierenberg, President of Food Tank. "We have an opportunity to encourage young farmers, scientists, agronomists, business leaders, development workers, and funders to view the food system as an opportunity to improve health and nutrition, raise incomes, and protect the environment.”

Globally, there are more than 1.2 billion young people aged 15 to 24, according to the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs. A resurgence of interest in agriculture among young people is necessary to support farms of the future and help feed the world’s growing population. With their new joint communications initiative, Food Tank and IFAD will work during 2015 to showcase the role of youth in agriculture worldwide.

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