Food Security: Agricultural resilience depends on education of young farmers, says BIC
ROME — The Geneva Office of the Bahá’í International Community (BIC) recently hosted a panel discussion at the headquarters of the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to explore how the development of agricultural educational systems can address the challenges and realities of young small-scale farmers in rural areas.
The discussion was held as part of the BIC’s ongoing efforts to contribute to the discourse on food security, exploring the application of spiritual principles—such as the oneness of humanity, the harmony of science and religion, and justice—to building sustainable agricultural systems. The BIC event was timed to coincide with this year’s World Food Forum and brought together the representatives of FAO, the director of the European Council of Young Farmers (CEJA), and a researcher working with Bahá’í-inspired organizations.
In her opening remarks, Simin Fahandej of the BIC’s Geneva Office stated: “In many parts of the world, youth are leaving the agricultural sector at alarming rates as they face disproportionate challenges and vulnerabilities.”
Some of these challenges include lack of access to knowledge; perceptions that farming does not require skill and formal education; and certain university programs in agricultural sciences that focus on theory but leave young people struggling to apply that theory to the practical problems faced by their villages.
Sanem Kavrul, a researcher, explored insights emerging from a network of Bahá’í-inspired organizations in sub-Saharan Africa that aim to address some of these challenges through agricultural action-research programs.
These organizations strive to foster “a love for agricultural sciences and farming… and build the scientific, technological, and moral capabilities of youth to meaningfully contribute to the generation, application, and dissemination of agricultural knowledge applicable to their realities,” said Ms. Kavrul.
She added that these Bahá’í endeavors for social and economic development all operate on the principle that populations should be the protagonists of their own material, spiritual, and intellectual advancement, not just recipients of aid.
This underlying principle awakens a desire in participants of programs offered by Bahá’í-inspired organizations to stay in their communities and contribute to the development of agricultural systems suitable to their environmental, economic, social, and cultural reality.
Ms. Kavrul explained that this is the outcome of the organizations’ efforts to raise capacity in young people to draw knowledge from both science and religion.
The programs, she said, foster in participants a strong sense of purpose, helping them to develop their potentialities and to contribute to the transformation of society. “This enables young people to bear any difficulties that will naturally arise in the production process, including periods of economic uncertainty,” said Ms. Kavrul.
Other ideas highlighted at the gathering included the importance of a participatory approach in the design of educational systems. Cristina Petracchi, head of the FAO eLearning Academy said that such systems would strive to “integrate local practices and traditions” and respond to the needs and realities of young rural farmers.
The BIC will continue its exploration of creating sustainable food systems, among other themes, at the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference, known as COP27, which is currently under way in Egypt.