There is a need to focus on issues around youth and agriculture in the UN climate talks.
Agriculture has an image problem. This is a global challenge: half of the farmers in the United States are 55 years or older and the average age of farmers in Sub-Saharan Africa is around 60 years old.
Agriculture in the 21st century means more than subsistence farming. Fortunately, youth across the world are already turning to farming and the food system as a career option. Young people can explore career options in information and communication technologies (ICTs), forecasting, marketing, value addition, transport and logistics, quality assurance, urban agriculture projects, food preparation, environmental sciences, and much more.
The Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture and youth
The COP23 decision on agriculture, also known as the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA), which took several years of discussions to reach, is a turning point in the agriculture discussions, especially for smallholders. During the just-concluded Bonn Climate Change Conference 2018, negotiators agreed on a concrete roadmap to take forward the implementation of the KJWA which puts emphasis on gender and youth integration.
The United Nations (UN) Subsidiary Body on Implementation (SBI) and the Subsidiary Body on Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) took note of the importance of issues, including but not limited to: farmers, gender, youth, local communities and indigenous peoples, the vulnerability of agriculture to climate change, and approaches to addressing food security. The SBSTA and SBI encouraged the Parties to take them into consideration when making submissions and during the KJWA workshops. The SBI also welcomed the submissions from Parties and observers on elements to be included in this work, and youth were not left behind.
YOUNGO, the official youth constituency at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), played an influential role in ensuring that the voice of young people was heard during SBSTA/SBI discussions. YOUNGO is made up of organizations and individuals who identify as youth from all over the world. Notably, members of YOUNGO have formed an Agriculture Working Group which has taken a keen interest in the development and effective implementation of the KJWA. Implementation of a realistic work programme on agriculture under the UNFCCC will serve as a breakthrough for sustainable agriculture production and food security.
As the youth constituency, the YOUNGO Agriculture Working Group would like to highlight the need for youth involvement in policymaking, workshops, expert meetings and, most importantly, consideration in the KJWA. This includes continuous involvement of youth at all stages including submissions that are part of the schedule of activities proposed by the G77 and China under KJWA during the just-concluded Bonn Climate Change Conference 2018.
The YOUNGO Agriculture Working Group also identified that it has become difficult for countries to integrate climate-smart agriculture (CSA) into their practices because different countries interpret CSA differently. Awareness creation would therefore help farmers, local governments and other stakeholders to develop and implement appropriate CSA technologies and practices.
During a press conference held on 5 May 2018 at the Bonn Climate Change Conference, members of YOUNGO emphasized that the implementation of climate action in agriculture is going to need a stand-alone finance mechanism. At the same time, young farmers, and farmer organizations in general, need capacity building to access climate finance.
YOUNGO also emphasized the need for capacity building on the use of technology. In particular, the youth pointed out that their technology literacy should be specifically targeted and built upon to facilitate technology transfer. This targeting would, in addition, allow for an increase in youth involvement in agriculture. Modalities for capacity building and engagement with stakeholders should create a conducive environment to link youth with enabling institutions in the transfer of technology, such as the Climate Technology Centre and Network (CTCN). In this regard, the Agriculture Working Group fully supports the general YOUNGO decision to request that the CTCN Advisory membership board develop capacity and create an enabling environment in the matters relating to the transfer of technology. Notably, the KJWA creates an opportunity to collaborate with other parties and constituencies within the UNFCCC. The need to engage young people in the discussions and implementation is critical from the outset.