To Help Achieve Millennium Development Goals, United Nations Proclaims a Year of Youth

Hoping to create more awareness worldwide about the importance of including today’s youth— the farmers, teachers, and activists of tomorrow—in the fight to alleviate global hunger and poverty, the United Nations declared an International Year of Youth earlier this month. The year was launched with the theme “Dialogue and Mutual Understanding,” to “generate much needed attention for youth participation and youth development at local, national, and global levels.”

"We should remember that these young women and men, with their hopes and dreams, hold our planet's future in their hands,” said IFAD President, Kanayo F. Nwanze. (Photo credit: Bernard Pollack)

“We should remember that these young women and men, with their hopes and dreams, hold our planet’s future in their hands,” said IFAD President, Kanayo F. Nwanze, in conjunction with the launch of the year’s events.  “Helping them gain access to investment and financial services means empowering them to start and expand businesses. It means giving them the confidence to take an active part in community life. And, most of all, it enables them to contribute their youthful energy and creativity to their countries and their continents.”

There are already countless organizations and farmers on the ground in sub-Saharan Africa—and around the world—working to empower young men and women. Many of these projects will be highlighted in State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet as important innovations in sustainable agriculture that deserve more attention from the funding and policy making community.

The Developing Innovations in School Cultivation (DISC) project in Uganda is partnering with local elementary and primary schools to incorporate lessons about growing, preparing, and eating food into the conventional school curriculum of reading and writing and arithmetic. With the help of on-site, school gardens, Project DISC is helping students develop more respect and excitement for the farming skills that will likely help them to feed their families and earn a decent income. Says Mary Naku, a student at Sirapollo Kaggwass Secondary School, “we have learned to grow fruits and vegetables to support our lives.” (See, How to Keep Kids “Down on the Farm.”)

All across sub-Saharan Africa, school feeding programs, like those run by the World Food Programme, improve students’ nutrition while also creating an incentive for both students and parents to keep up regular attendance. Earlier this year, Partnership for Child Development (PCD), in partnership with the WFP and with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, launched the Home Grown School Feeding (HGSF) program. By linking local farmers to schools, the project is creating a dependable market for farmers to sell their produce and creating a fresh and local source of food for schools. (See also, School Feeding Programs Improve livelihoods, Diets and Local Economies)

The Bridges to Understanding organization based in Seattle, Washington, uses digital technology to empower and connect children around the world. Students participating in the Bridges curriculum are taught to use cameras and editing software to develop stories about their community and culture. These videos, comprised of a photo slide show with a running narration, are then shared with the Bridges online community which is made up of schools in seven countries: Azerbaijan, Cambodia, Guatemala, India, Peru, South Africa, and the U.S.

When you show students what they can accomplish with just a camera and some editing software, says Elizabeth Sewell, Bridges to Understanding project coordinator in Andhra Pradesh, India, “you show them what they are capable of doing. And then they can start to approach other, larger and more institutional, problems the same way. Suddenly, in their own eyes, there are no limits to what they can achieve.” (See also, Using Digital Technology to Empower and Connect Young Farmers).

To read more about innovations that empower young farmers around the world see: Acting it Out for Advocacy, Discussing the School Garden with A DISC Student, Cultivating a Passion for Agriculture, Reigniting an Interest in Local Food, Turning the School Yard into a Classroom, and Girl Up: Helping Girls Around the Globe Help Each Other.

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