International Youth Day takes place on Wednesday, August 12th to celebrate youth and their ability to help create a better world. The theme of this year’s event is youth civic engagement to encourage young women and men to engage politically, economically, and socially in their communities. At Food Tank, we recognize young people as the next generation of food system leaders.
Young people are the future of food security. By 2050, youth (ages 15-24) are expected to reach 1.4 billion or 14 percent of the population. But despite the burgeoning global population of young people, the average farmer is about 60 years old. That’s why many organizations around the world are working to engage youth in agriculture and making farming an attractive and viable career path.
However, young people often lack access to food education and opportunities to engage with their communities. According to the U.N. International Labor Organization (ILO), young people are three times as likely to be unemployed as adults, and nearly 73 million young women and men around the world are looking for work and unable to find it. Four times as many young people earn less than US$2 a day, leading to high levels of social and economic uncertainty.
We can do better. When given the opportunity, young people can make powerful impacts in their communities and around the world. In 2011, Alexandra Iljadica co-founded Youth Food Movement Australia (YFM), an organization that implements food education projects for young people to build the skills and knowledge to create a better food system. Through to peer-to-peer learning and social media, YFM engages young people and provides opportunities to participate in public forums and community halls. And in Costa Rica, Anauim Valerín Pérez founded Colectivo Boreal to organize art events that promote environmental awareness and support farmers and seed exchanges.
Young people are not only the food leaders of tomorrow—they are making tangible, impactful changes today in their communities.
In honor of International Youth Day, Food Tank presents 20 organizations that go beyond education to foster civic engagement and empower young people to drive positive change in the global food system.
Art 4 Agriculture
A network to connect young rural Australians, Art 4 Agriculture is dedicated to raising awareness of the importance of Australian farmers in the food system. Art 4 Agriculture works to improve the image of farming and encourage other young Australians to consider agricultural careers. Through art, community, and career events, the organization engages students in issues related to the environment, natural resources, and farming.
Barilla Center for Food & Nutrition’s Young Earth Solutions (BCFN YES!)
BCFN YES! is a laboratory for the innovative solutions of young people to the problems of hunger, food sustainability, nutrition, and fairness. Ten finalists from the 2015 competition will participate in the 7th International Forum on Food and Nutrition at the Milan EXPO 2015 to engage with international leaders on food sustainability topics. This year’s finalists include Oluwafemi Ajayi, who is using traditional snack foods to fight protein-energy malnutrition in Nigeria, and Achmad Solikhin, who is implementing sustainable agroforestry in Indonesia.
Centre for Environment Education (CEE)
The CEE implements regional projects throughout India to support sustainable rural development and involve young people in ecological agriculture and conservation activities. Projects include rainwater harvesting, sustainable livestock management, and village-level management of agroecological zones. Young people are involved as stakeholders in many projects and are afforded educational opportunities through CEE’s programming.
EARTH University is an educational institution focused in Latin America and the Caribbean that has been preparing young leaders for the last 25 years for careers in sustainable development. The students that graduate from EARTH’s programs in agricultural science and natural resources management go on to serve as entrepreneurs in their communities, alleviating hunger, promoting social justice and sustainable development.
Foodways Consulting GmbH
Foodways Consulting is a Swiss consulting company that works to create and implement food system solutions. MyFood30, a recent project created in collaboration with the Swiss National Food and Agriculture Organization Committee, is working to engage youth with the Sustainable Development Goals. The campaign will provide young people with the education, training, and networking needed to cultivate a better food system.
Global Youth Innovation Network (GYIN)
GYIN develops young farmers and rural entrepreneurship to through training, knowledge management, and direct support for resilient rural enterprises that reduce poverty by creating work opportunities for young people. A three-year project called the Youth Entrepreneurship and Agribusiness Program (YEAP) will serve more than 80 countries in the GYIN network, especially in West and Central Africa.
Global Youth Leadership Institute (GYLI)
GYLI is a nonprofit organization created by educators to empower young people to become agents of positive change in many areas, including the food system. Through a three-year sequence of international experiential education programs for high school students, GYLI trains students to become civically engaged as environmental stewards and champions of multiculturalism. GYLI not only offers truly unique and transformative experiences for young people but also provides them with skills to become leaders in their communities through post-curricular activities and alumni networking.
Green Shoots Foundation
The Green Shoots Foundation helps people in need around the world provide for their families through economic empowerment. Green Shoot’s Education Loans and Social Entrepreneurship (ELSE) Program works to ensure that every child has access to education. The ELSE Program in Mumbai provides loans to families to help fund girl’s education.
The Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative
Many young American Indians are increasingly employed by agriculture and are interested in reversing negative health trends within their communities. Located at the University of Arkansas, the Indigenous Food and Agriculture Initiative is the nation’s first law school initiative focusing on tribal food systems, agriculture, and community sustainability. The project aims to increase enrollment in food-related disciplines at land grant universities by supporting existing students and creating pipeline programs for youth.
International Association of Students in Agriculture related Sciences (IAAS)
IAAS brings together students all over the world through a shared passion for agriculture and related sciences. With committees in over 30 countries, the organization enables students to learn about agriculture in different countries and to share experiences, knowledge, and ideas.
International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
Across the globe, IFAD’s programs work to reflect the needs and views of young rural people, to address the challenges that they face, and to create incentives to make rural life an attractive and viable livelihood option. Targeted activities help young people transition into rural employment and agriculture, creating a supportive environment for agricultural entrepreneurs and improving access to key resources such as land and water.
Mkulima Young, an initiative that works to encourage youth participation in agriculture and provide services for rural entrepreneurs, offers online support to young Kenyans. The project addresses problems affecting young farmers’ productivity and marketing, including middlemen offering meager prices for their produce, delays with payments, and expensive farm inputs. Young farmers often sell their products online by posting pictures, and can connect with one another via online forums.
National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC)
The National Young Farmers Coalition (NYFC) is an organization for start-up farmers with 10 years or fewer of farming experience in the United States. NYFC works to transfer the energy and momentum of global and national youth movements into the agricultural sector and drive policy change to support new farmers. Through shared experiences, start-up farmers address issues of revitalizing American agriculture and family farms.
Real Food Challenge (RFC)
RFC is a national movement of young people in the U.S. to shift college and university dining budgets to more local, fair, ecologically sound, and humane foods. To date, RFC has worked with more than 4,000 students at over 400 schools to achieve US$80 million in purchasing commitments that nourish land, labor, communities, and consumers. The University of Utah and the University of Oklahoma were among the colleges who signed the Real Food Campus Commitment in 2015.
Rural Youth Europe
Founded in 1957, Rural Youth Europe now involves 21 member organizations from 18 countries and more than 500,000 young people. Through leadership training, courses, seminars, exchanges, and other practical activities, youth across Europe are united to promote rural development, environmentalism, youth participation, human rights, and intercultural diversity.
Slow Food Youth Network (SFYN)
SFYN is an international youth network working to shift food production and consumption toward sustainable and fair food. From October 3-6, 2015, the SFYN will host a discussion in conjunction with the Milan EXPO 2015, entitled “Terra Madre Giovani – We Feed The Planet.” The event will include thousands of young people focusing on solutions for small-scale farmers and food producers.
Toronto Youth Food Policy Council
Young people all over the world are increasingly involved in food policy, advocating for change and contributing their voices to local food policy councils. In Toronto, young people have formed their own food policy council to engage youth to create change through an online network, at bi-monthly community meetings, through youth council members, and through facilitation of committee work.
Water Resources Action Project, Inc. (WRAP)
WRAP is a non-profit organization working to improve public health in Israel, Palestine, the U.S. and Jordan through water stewardship and rainwater harvesting. Through environmental education that connects Arab, Jewish, and Christian students in underserved communities, the project works to combat dire water shortages and develop youth capacity for peacebuilding. The project is a member of the Alliance for Middle East Peace (ALLMEP).
Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD)
YPARD is a global network of young agriculture and development professionals creating solutions for 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.
Youthaiti is a nonprofit organization working to improve the lives of rural young people through sustainable agriculture and reforestation. Centered in the village of Duchity, Haiti, home to the last indigenous forest in the country, the youth-led project focuses on developing organic gardens, using recycled waste as fertilizer, and making charcoal from garden byproducts to prevent further deforestation.
What other organizations are giving youth powerful opportunities to impact their communities?
(Danielle Nierenberg, President, Food Tank, foodtank.com)