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International ARD, local development and the youth, in Romania

YPARD was invited by the Young Professionals in Local Development (YPLD) to talk about international ARD and local development at “Raise the stake”, 18th February, Siret Romania. YPARD presented the importance of international ARD for local development, most importantly to assert the role of the youth in these mechanisms, and how YPARD can help the youth take and get their stake. The young people invited to the event were a bit below YPARD’s target group average age. However, we think it is fundamental to address our message - sensitizing to agriculture as a career path - to the youth at the age of high school: a cutting edge where young people make a number of choices influencing which path they will take in life. There were 26 young students: 16 girls and 10 boys. I first was surprised to see a higher number of girls until I get informed that they were not (yet) involved in agricultural education. Despite all the efforts and discussions around the matter, gaps between the sphere of international (agricultural) research and the sphere of local realities are still huge, and at different steps of the research process: from investigations (research identification, design, collect of data) to delivery of outputs for effective outcomes. YPARD particularly focuses on building bridges for young professionals who face, in addition, a number of issues related to lack of recognition, credibility, and capacity, among others, while showing a number of undeniable assets: knowledge, energy, creativity, innovation etc. Support of a delegation of YPARD Young scientists at the Science Forum in Beijing in November 2011, or e-discussions on extension, in preparation of the international extension and advisory services conference in Nairobi were presented as concrete actions illustrating how YPARD gives a voice to the youth. Discussions are an intrinsic component of YPARD as a platform for communication, networking and joining people together to gain from each other and from getting a voice as a group. It wouldn’t have made much sense to attend this event without soliciting the feedback from the youth themselves. It is without mentioning that YPARD has limited network in Romania and it was a great opportunity to get to know the specific needs, aspirations and limitations of the youth involved in agriculture in Romania. It is very timely as YPARD Europe is building up from January 2012. It was amazing to listen at this very shy and silent audience at the beginning, starting to express their views. I have been particularly impressed by their level in English and their maturity. Their participations showed genuine reflexion, consideration and energy. Young people and agriculture - Young people feedback The first boy to intervene expressed his doubts in the effective impact of sharing experiences with people from other countries: “how can it be interesting to me, concretely, to know more about your own experience in France where the context is so different (policies, land, market etc etc)?” We ended up with the idea that we often generate more ideas from sharing differences than from common experiences. “Food for thought” for more creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship is the key idea here. It goes beyond the illusion of applying directly a model that works perfectly in another context; realities are much more complex. This echoes the testimony of a young Romanian consultant in sustainable and social initiatives for enterprises: “young people are not aware that they need to initiate and work hard to get things happening; it seems like they think that things shall come by themselves”. From these discussions, it is still unclear if the majority of people who get involved in agriculture do it by necessity: (1)because they carry on the initiative of their family – under more or less pressure of the parents, (2) because they just follow the life standard they always have known in their village, or if they choose this way of life by very personal interest. Secondly, we discussed how sometimes, agriculture can be a choice while still necessiting compromises. I gave the example of a friend raising chickens in order to generate more regular revenue to compensate income from beef livestock. A young Romanian boy who has a farm is willing to develop a bio-project in order to reach a more open market. One of the main aspects brought up during the discussion was also that agricultural “business” seems more difficult today than twenty years ago. The boy explained that technological advances generate more productivity hence more competition – notably at international level - and also a high difficulty to get your business started because of the cost of this technology to invest on if one doesn’t want to be off the game from the very beginning. An expert in rural dynamics in Romania expressed that agricultural curricula still focus on productivity while this is not the only option when it comes to agricultural activities. Perspectives might need to be shifted and agriculture embraced as an activity which is not meant for making much money.  Meanwhile, we need to find solutions for small farms to overcome the challenge of feeding two generations sometimes. Curricula might also need to cover entrepreneurial skills: it has been observed that entrepreneurial activities fail when not built upon a familial initiative. The reason might be the lack of skills on how to build an affair and the competition face to experienced people. On a positive tone: it has been said easy in Romania to get land. At the very end, I was very glad to see a girl’s hand raise and the girl express heart fully: “you say that agricultural field presents a range of jobs at different levels, but in fact, for example, if I want to become veterinarian, people will discourage me. They will tell me that I have too much ambition.” I wish I had more time to understand what the cause of such lack of support was: don’t parents believe in the skills of their children or in the education delivered at school – would that be justified? Is it related to financial limitations/cost? Are they scared to see their children leave? What do they want for their children and for themselves?  This confirms that different categories of people are stakeholders in supporting youth in ARD; we can’t work in supporting the youth without mobilizing a range of external stakeholders. “Raise the stake!” was not the focus of 18-19 February only; it is a long process and it is only beginning. You have been attending this conference and you would like to emphasize some aspects I have not discussed here, or you simply would like to add on? Please, do comment below! You haven’t been attending the conference but you are interested in knowing more about the youth in ARD in Romania, or you would like to share about your own experience on that matter? Please, your comments or questions are very welcome!