On December 3-4, 2018, the World Bank Group hosted its annual World Bank Youth Summit in Washington, DC. This event, attended by over 400 young people (age 18-35) from across the world, focused this year on the theme “Unleashing the Power of Human Capital.” Within this theme, the two-day event elaborated on two sub-themes: how do young people expand their own personal capital; and then, how can they work to enhance the human capital of others throughout their entire lifespan?
On the morning of December 3rd, the Private Sector Mechanism (PSM) hosted a workshop at the Summit on the topic of “Opportunities for Young People to Engage in Food and Nutrition Policymaking.” The workshop, which was attended by 75+ Summit participants, started out with a foundation definition of food security, defined by the Food and Agriculture of the United Nations to exist when “All people, at all times, have physical, social and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food which meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.”
We then briefly explored the nature of working in policy, explaining that policies, as distinguished from laws, do not mandate or police actions, but rather guide actions toward those who are most likely to achieve a desired outcome. Importantly, policy work and programmatic, or “on-the-ground,” work don’t have to be mutually exclusive; there are many opportunities for young people to incorporate policy participation in work and study of all kinds, even if policy isn’t their primary focus. Six speakers at the workshop demonstrated this point by sharing concrete opportunities for young people to engage with policymaking:
The Mickey Leland International Hunger Fellows Program, a two-year fellowship that trains and inspires emerging leaders in the field of international food and nutrition security. This program recruits and selects fellows who spend one year working in the field office of an organization working in the hunger and nutrition space, followed by a second year in a headquarters office to focus on organizational policy work. This fellowship is open to U.S. nationals and permanent residents and welcomes applicants from diverse educational and personal backgrounds.
Nuffield International Farming Scholars program, which provides farmers and professionals in agricultural careers with scholarships to pursue international travel related to a research question relevant to their work. Nuffield proudly supports 50-75 scholars per year from all over the world, exploring topics ranging from how best to market fresh eggs to best-practice techniques to introduce agricultural curricula into primary schools.
The World Food Prize, which offers multiple opportunities for young people to experience impactful policymaking hands-on, through platforms such as the Global Youth Institute, the Borlaug-Ruan International Scholarship, the USDA Wallace-Carver Fellowship, and the George Washington Carver Internship.
4H International, which is the world’s largest youth organization, reaching over 10 million young people in over 70 countries. 4H believes that young people are the drivers of change—and today there are more than one billion people between 12 and 24. The young people of today are the farmers who will feed the world in 2050. 4H has opportunities through its global network and also through national 4H offices, which independently organize scholarships, opportunities, and leadership roles to 4H members.
HarvestPlus, a non-profit that works to reduce hidden hunger and provide micronutrients to billions of people directly through the staple foods that they eat. HarvestPlus uses a process called biofortification to breed higher levels of micronutrients directly into key staple foods. HarvestPlus has contributed its expertise in biofortification to multiple United Nations events, including side events at the 2018 Plenary session of the Committee on World Food Security.
The Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) Coordination Unit housed at the World Bank, the mission of which is to improve food and nutrition security through effective partnerships, strategic development, and targeted use of funds. GAFSP pools development assistance resources and uses a common framework to selectively allocate them to where they are most needed, effective, and catalytic, in line with country priorities and private sector opportunities. GAFSP has regularly partnered with the Private Sector Mechanism on events and initiatives, many of which proactively engage young people.
These concrete, practical opportunities for young people represent only a sliver of the ways in which young people can get involved in food security policymaking at any age and no matter their level of education or number of years of experience in the workforce. Attendees agreed during the workshop’s discussion section that major obstacles to engagement still exist, with these obstacles falling into the following trends:
- Structural barriers to including youth in important policy discussions (such as the difficulty of traveling to attend meetings, visa limitations, and competing responsibilities)
- Funding shortages (for travel, accommodation, and opportunity costs)
- Insufficient incentives & rewards for new ideas & innovative processes
- Too little use of data to measure and evaluate the impact of policy proceedings
While immense, these challenges certainly can be overcome. As the workshop came to a close, the attendees committed to 1-2 action points that they wished to implement in their current work or studies related to policies. These commitments ranged from signing up for a daily agriculture policy e-mail digest to deciding to apply to a scholarship, internship, or other opportunity they had learned about over the course of the session.
It is clear that more young people must be involved in agriculture if we hope to feed a world of over 9 billion people by 2050. By that same logic, we believe that more young people must be proactively engaged in the policymaking work that will impact agriculture over the coming decades.