November 17, 2013

Are Youth our Path to a Climate Resilient Agricultural Future?

Youth: The Future of Sustainable Landscapes - photo courtesy of Neil Palmer/IWMI

Whitney Houston once sang ‘I believe the children are our future.” But when so many places are experiencing the effects of climate change right now, do we really have time to focus on the future?

During the first session of the Global Landscapes Forum on youth as the future of sustainable landscapes, Tan Copsey of BBC Media Action noted that young people are already changing their livelihoods and working together within their communities, in response to climate change. As cliche as it sounds, the future is now.

At the same time, youth in rural agricultural communities often lack the training, legal backing, and income to adapt to climate change. Essentially, we are still not resilient enough.

Four young people started off the youth session, sharing their experiences in enabling and invigorating youth participation in agriculture. In the wake of Taiphoon Haiyan in the Philippines, Karen Tuason’s story was especially powerful. She began by emphasizing that although natural catastrophes may strike randomly, they don’t have random effects, disproportionately impacting the poor and landless. And for young farmers in the Philippines, landlessness is one the most serious barriers to a climate-resilient future.

Without secure land tenure or the ability to acquire and own land, no other opportunities exist for youth besides migration to urban areas or seasonal employment on plantations. Tuason’s example in the Philippines of a group working to address this challenge, Task Force Mapaland, is providing capacity training, paralegal services, and support in setting up cooperatives and producer enterprises. Her point? Until the underlying institutional and enabling environment is addressed, farmers will not be able to manage the biophysical challenges they face in the agricultural landscape.

Nadia Manning-Thomas concluded the session by stressing that in a climate-changing world, the key is adaptation, and not just shifting crop varieties or improving water and nutrient use efficiency; but rather adaptation of our whole way of thinking about agriculture. “We have a whole value chain around agriculture, with many different parts,” she noted, and we can broaden the view of what it means to be involved in agriculture, from growing things all the way to value-addition and marketing. Manning-Thomas implored the audience and the agriculture and development community as a whole to consider how we think about adaptation across a whole landscape in a warming world.

“Beyond one farmer and one plot.” After hearing this series of experiences from young people in agriculture, it was clear that more integrated and landscape-scale approaches are necessary for building resilience. And, that youth and that “next generation” are an integral piece to moving this forward.

Photo courtesy of Neil Palmer/IWMI
More In in Staying Current

1 Comment

  • Peta Jones
    November 17, 2013 at 4:31am

    What worries me is that, even when they are living in rural areas, the youth of almost every society is now urbanized. All entertainment and communications is urban-based and there is little or no acknowledgement of the role of farming, the environment or even wildlife in the present, let alone the future. What was the last pop song you heard, the last sitcom or soapie you saw, that gave any mind to the role of farming in our lives, even urban lives ?