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In 1999, General Assembly resolution 54/120 endorsed the recommendation made by the World Conference of Ministers of Youth (Lisbon, 8-12 August 1998) that 12 August be declared International Youth Day (IYD). The Day provides an opportunity to celebrate young peoples’ views and initiatives on a global scale. Today, youth hold a crucial role in working towards the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals and in fighting the impact of climate change, unemployment, poverty, gender inequality, conflict, and migration. The Decade of Action announced by the Secretary-General in September 2019 requires people to act, inclusive of youth, to generate an unstoppable movement for transformation.


During the 2021 ECOSOC Youth Forum (EYF), the issues and priorities highlighted by young participants included the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly related to its effect on human health, the environment, and food systems. As part of the official EYF outcome recommendations, the participants stressed the importance of working towards more equitable food systems.


Today, global agriculture is facing major challenges, including feeding a growing world population, the need to address rural property, and the management of ecosystem goods and services in light of global environmental changes, evident through climate change. Youth engagement is key to the transformation of food systems.


The International Cooperative Alliance Asia and Pacific Committee on Youth Cooperation (ICYC) organized a closed roundtable conference on August 12 to celebrate the IYD 2021 with the theme, “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health”, to highlight the importance of youth participation in the agricultural sector.


Mr. Ahsan Ali Thakur, Chairperson, ICYC and Mr. Cecile Jay L. Masanegra, Member, ICYC were the guest speakers and spoke about the rice and fish farming methods in Pakistan and the agriculture value chain in Philippines, respectively.  Ms. Gelizabeth Cabuhar, representative of 1 Cooperative Insurance system of the Philippines life and General Insurance (1CISP) and a member of ICYC moderated the discussions.


Mr. Thakur shared an interesting presentation on cultivating rice and fish together without wasting water resources. Youth in Pakistan are eager to explore new methods of agriculture and according to BA Khabar Kissa, a few agriculturists have even started adopting new methods to increase their revenue within existing resources. The method of cultivating rice and fish together emerged when farmers realized that the water gets wasted after harvesting the rice crops. Utilising the wastewater, farmers decided to cultivate fish in the same area. The benefits of rice and fish farming include - symbiotic relations in agriculture, two commodities as output, less concern for destruction by insects, higher revenue, fewer expenses, less usage of chemicals, and provision of natural fish manure for the rice crops to grow.


This method is also being practised by farmer cooperatives in Indonesia. To provide a better and healthier output for farmers and consumers, youth in agriculture cooperatives can revamp the sector with their new-age innovations.


Mr. Masanegra from AIMCoop presented a case of youth inclusion in agriculture in the Philippines.  AIMCooP has initiated a training programme for youth to learn the agriculture value chain from sowing to harvesting. He noted that AIMCooP is readying youth for their future and to be part of the social responsibility in ensuring food for future generations. Taking inspiration from ICYC’s Go Green Campaign, AMCooP started  AIMCooP Go Green Plus, through which youth are motivated to plant vegetable seeds (five different kinds) and nurture them until they bear fruit. 267 youth across the country took part in the programme and are required to take a daily diary showing the growth of their seeds. The top 10 participants who meet the criteria will receive a college scholarship and will even get employment opportunities at AIMCoop after graduating.


Mr. Alireza Banaeifar, Vice-Chairperson, ICYC shared his closing remarks and the recording of the webinar can be accessed here.