Holy See: Young people are agents of change for sustainable agriculture
By Lisa Zengarini
Young people are beacons of hope for a more sustainable agriculture amidst increasing food shortages – primarily due to conflict, COVID-19 and climate change – speakers at a study seminar on the role of young people as agents of change in the agri-food sectors said on Monday.
Organizers and speakers
Titled the “Youth and Agriculture: Looking to the Future with Hope", the seminar was organized at the FAO headquarters in Romeby the Dicastery for Promoting Integral Human Development, the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to FAO, IFAD and WFP, the Vatican COVID-19 Commission, Economy of Francesco and the Rome Forum of Catholic-Inspired NGOs.
Speakers at the session included, amongst others, Sr Alessandra Smerilli, who represented the Dicastery for the Promotion of Service for Integral Human Development, the Vatican Commission COVID-19 and the Economy of Francis.
Role of young people in transforming food systems
The seminar was aimed at underlining the fundamental role of young people for a sustainable transformation of food systems and for the promotion of food security for everyone, as the world faces a bleak and uncertain future. Indeed, the 2022 Global Report on Food Crises prepared by the Global Network Against Food Crises (GNAFC), shows that food insecurity has reached its highest levels in half a decade.
Discussions highlighted the initiatives undertaken by youth groups to guarantee healthy food for all and promote a prosperous and peaceful future where no one is left behind, showing that, despite being amongst the greatest victims of the food crisis themselves, young people are very often resilient actors of change in agri-food sectors.
Adopting an innovative and youthful perspective
According to participants, we must, therefore, learn from them, adopting an innovative and youthful perspective, and proposing new paths forward, as suggested by Pope Francis.
The seminar also emphasized the importance of providing young people with practical training and knowledge in this field.
The importance of education
Wrapping up the event was Archbishop Fernando Chica Arellano, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to FAO IFAD and WFP , who summarized the conclusions, thanking panelists for their contributions.
In his address, the prelate reiterated the importance of providing an adequate educational path to young people, which allows them ”to acquire a mindset capable of analyzing the current challenges we are experiencing and find possible strategies for solving malnutrition and hunger in the world”.
Catholic associations actively promoting development projects
He also noted that the numerous testimonies of the Rome Forum of Catholic NGOs proved, once again, that “Catholic associations are still vital and promote development projects in numerous disadvantaged countries which concretely contribute to the integral human development of individuals, specifically of young people, and their communities”
Preserving young people's role and creativity
The Holy See, he said, believes that young people “play a fundamental role, which must be preserved , accompanied, and encouraged”.
It has to be be preserved, “because their freshness and creativity, their high ideals and the energy must be, first of all, protected from the wave of pessimism and alarmism generated by the numerous and persistent crises we are experiencing”.
Young people must also be accompanied so that they can unleash their full potential, continued the prelate.
Young people are the present of the world
Archbishop Arellano finally emphasized that young people must also be encouraged, also by promoting their participation in forms of active citizenship , because, as recalled by Pope Francis, in the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation ‘Christus Vivit’, "we cannot just say that young people are the future of our world. They are its present; even now, they are helping to enrich it”.
The prelate, therefore, insisted on the urgent need to promote an active involvement of young people in society to help overcome the present crises: “We cannot disappoint the new generations”, he said. “They have the intelligence to help us eliminate hunger from our planet. We cannot just consider them as people belonging to a distant and ideal future”.