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Youth as change agents in transforming food systems

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Photo/Facebook/Atiku Abubakar

International Youth Day is commemorated every year on August 12 to raise awareness about the challenges and problems faced by the youth, and to endorse ways of engaging the youth to more actively participate in affirmative contributions to development. 

This year, the theme is, “Transforming Food Systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health,” and the aim is to highlight the indisputable fact that the success of such a global effort is not achievable without the significant contributions of the youth.

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As world’s population (currently at 7.7 billion people) has been estimated to increase by 2 billion people in 2050; as young people have continued to play a key role in the management of, and recovery from, the pandemic; as the world suffers other crucial challenges like biodiversity conservation and mitigation of climate change; and with over half of the world’s population under age 30; experts and stakeholders are of the opinion that to ensure ‘human and planetary wellbeing, there is an urgent need to move away from simply producing a larger volume of healthier food more sustainably, to exploring other options of transforming foods systems for the benefit of humans and the planet.

According to the World Economic Forum, a third of all food produced and the natural resources involved in its production are wasted. “We produce enough food but nearly 1 in 10 people still don’t have sufficient to eat and 3 billion cannot afford a healthy diet. At the same time, we waste one-third of all food produced along with the natural resources that went into its production.”

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The World Economic Forum provides five ways to transform our food system for the benefit of humans and the planet: 1) to harness the regenerative power of our Earth (for a healthy soil that can produce high quality, nutrient-dense food and improve the land); 2) to build stronger local and circular food systems (to keep valuable natural resources, minerals, and nutrients in the loop); 3) to give farmers a voice and support their planet-positive choices (by making them an integral part of policy discussions); 4) to move from low cost to true cost (through greater consumer awareness and public policies that value nutritious diets, and a healthy environment); and, 5) to foster radical collaboration (between farmers, consumers, donors, governments, businesses, and NGOs)

[FILES] Paul Chinedu poses for a portrait in his shop in a market at Illaje Bariga, Lagos on June 29, 2021. – Since the start of the pandemic in 2019, food prices have risen by an average of more than 22%, according to official statistics, and feeding a family properly has become a daily challenge. (Photo by Benson Ibeabuchi / AFP)


Hence, to effectively harness the power of young people and galvanize them into meaningful contributions to the subject of food system transformation and COVID-19 recovery within the framework of the Sustainable Development Goals, the pertinent questions all stakeholders must provide answers to include: how can young people be empowered to participate and lead in this drive? How can they be meaningfully engaged and what inclusive support systems are available for them to deliver on creating solutions to address the food systems challenges? The United Nations advocates “inclusive support mechanisms that ensure youth continue to amplify efforts collectively and individually to restore the planet and protect lives, while integrating biodiversity in the transformation of food systems.” 

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In order words, to change the trajectory, there is a need to unlock the power of young people who have been aptly described as agents of change – by building their capacities to be able to make their own decisions and contribute their quota towards more equitable food systems.

In Nigeria, the youth represent more than half of the population and with the support of its funders and partners, DDI has continuously provided sustainable technical and programmatic support to youth and youth-led enterprises particularly in agriculture, agro-based businesses, off-grid energy solutions, etc. who are innovating and contributing to transforming food systems for human and planetary health. DDI believes in the slogan; “when #YouthLead, anything is possible”, and as we commemorate Youth Day, DDI remains resolute in its support for the youth, and in its commitment towards a food system that feeds us and also preserves and celebrates life; a system that guarantees a future for ourselves on planet Earth.

Ihanza, a Communications Specialist, writes from Abuja

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