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Young people hold key to solving food crisis FAO says

Phylis Kanja a 25-year-old farmer busy on her farm in Njoro, Nakuru county. The world is facing a food crisis and the UN has noted that young people hold the keys to the food solution.

Young people are the change masters to propel the world towards food security, a UN boss has noted.

Speaking during a virtual press conference on the upcoming youth-led World Food Forum set for October 1 to 5 this year, Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO) Director-General Dr Qu Dongyu said young generations hold the key to the future food systems.

Dr Dongyu noted that climate change, ongoing conflicts, economic downturns, and the Covid-19 pandemic are among the leading causes of an increase in the number of hungry people, which last year exceeded 810 million.

The World Food Forum seeks to harness the energy and creativity of younger generations to transform food and agriculture. 

The younger generations are the ones that will be left having to deal with such challenges, but they are also the ones better placed to come up with the solutions.

Future belongs to the youth

"The future belongs to youth, and they have the fresh perspectives, forward-thinking mindsets, and digital fluency to incite widespread and sustainable change. They also have the numbers to get things done," observed Dr Dongyu.  

At the forum, young people from around the globe will be tasked with giving a key contribution to shape the future of agri-food systems and help achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The five-day event will be attended by young farmers, singers, innovators, researchers, scientists, youth leaders, celebrities, influencers, academic institutions, NGOs, business and civil society leaders, and participants from the private sector.

The WWF is the first major follow-up to the United Nations Food Systems Summit in New York. FAO and other Rome-based UN agencies will continue to implement ambitious and urgent efforts designed to make the world's agri-food systems more efficient, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable.

Dr Dongyu explained the youth-led World Food Forum is empowered by the Youth Committee of FAO. It was created as an independent network of partners tasked with forging a global movement to restore our agri-food systems.

Dr Dongyu said the world was facing a food crisis calling for the need to think outside the box on how to fight hunger, by engaging different channels and approaches.

“We need to enhance innovative solutions to transform our ecosystems and provide food for all. And to do so, we need to tap into a new source of energy to ignite the change,” he said.

Fabiana Dadone, Minister for Youth Policies of Italy pointed out the need to support young people through progressive national policies and organising such forums.

“We need political leadership, to end endless political debate, and discussions, and declarations, and move forward to action,” explained Yugratna Srivastava, Youth Leader, Major Group on Children and Youth, at the presser event.

She regretted that, for young people food transformation is a matter of intergenerational justice meaning though they have contributed least to the problems they have the least access to the decision-making organs.

Srivastava noted that time to act is already passed, and youths need to be at the heart of decision making especially on matters affecting them.

Innovative ways

The food forum will use innovative ways to discover and scale-up young people's most promising ideas. It's also providing young talents with tools and resources.

The Transformative Research Challenge, for example, provides young researchers with mentors and publicises their work to help translate their ideas into top-notch research papers, grant proposals, and policy suggestions.

The Startup Innovation Awards connects entrepreneurs with leaders in the investment, technology, and policy communities. The Masterclasses provide lessons such as The Success Mindset, Food Systems and Nutrition Education, and Blockchain 101.

The aim is to help young people build essential skills and foster dialogue among students, scientists, entrepreneurs, investors, UN experts, and parliamentarians.

Speakers at the forum include Pope Francis, Costa Rica President Carlos Alvarado Quesada, Queen Letizia of Spain, food entrepreneurs and philanthropists, as well as young global leaders.

The opening ceremony will end with FAO and the Government of Switzerland announcing the winners of the second edition of the International Innovation Award for Sustainable Food Systems.

Individuals, private companies, and institutions were invited to submit their proposals for two categories: excellence in digitization and innovation for sustainable food systems, and innovation that specifically empowers youth in sustainable food systems.

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