At YPARD, we believe in structures that renew themselves and leadership that evolves in accordance with the network governance.
In April 2019, the Steering Committee (SC) members met to choose the next SC team members. The only eligible members for renewal were Rahul Antao and Sithembile Mwamakamba. The outgoing SC unanimously voted them into the position of the chair and the vice-chair respectively.
I had a chat with both Rahul and Tembi to capture the energy and the enthusiasm they are seeking to bring to their respective roles. Enjoy reading the interview below;
Emmie Wachira: Congratulations on your appointment to the YPARD SC Chair and vice-chair positions. Could you briefly introduce yourself?
Rahul Antao: Thank you, Emmie. When I first joined YPARD, I did a bio and nothing much has changed then. In a nutshell, I have been working as a consultant at the IFAD rural youth desk for the last 3 years. Apart from my day to day work, I am interested in music, chess and gardening.
Sithembile Mwamakamba: Thank you, Emmie, and just like Rahul, you can read my YPARD bio here. I am currently a Programmes Manager at Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN). I coordinate FANRPAN’s Climate Smart Agriculture policy research and advocacy projects and is the GCRF-AFRICAP - Agricultural and Food-system Resilience: Increasing Capacity and Advising Policy Programme Regional Policy Officer. My work focuses on enhancing the research-to-policy interface between climate change, smallholder agriculture and poverty reduction by addressing the specific needs of vulnerable groups in Africa, including women, youth and small-scale farmers.
EW: You both have been with YPARD in the last couple of years. How do you describe your view of YPARD in terms of youth engagement over the years?
RA: I have been engaged with YPARD for the last 2 years 7 months and from my observation, YPARD is doing a great job when it comes to youth engagement advocacy along with the sustainable food systems sector. Needless to say, there is still a lot to be done and we aim to get there one young professional at a time.
SM: From the time I have been engaged with YPARD, I have observed the network growth from an organization clambering for space and working to get the views of young people heard to one that is now heard. The type of advocacy has changed as the network grows but it’s still evident. YPARD focus on involving and mainstreaming young people within the food systems is something that cannot be ignored.
EW: You both come from different organizations within the ARD sector. How would you describe the synergies between your organization and those of YPARD?
RA: One thing I am happy about the YPARD new strategic direction is the focus beyond agriculture to incorporate food systems. To me this opens up the horizon and territory of YPARD and hence these synergies can come by through a myriad of partners.
SM: To us, YPARD is a valuable partner especially with the linkages to creating a conducive environment for youth in policy. We are keep in seeking out more young people involvement and engagement at different levels be it through policy oriented workshops or trainings.
EW: What’s your take on youth engagement in food systems globally? What are the gaps and potential areas of engagement?
RA: YPARD as a movement is very multi-stakeholder and the linkage to the food systems opens the network to more youth within the sector. And there is so much happening in the sector from the Uber tractor that is gaining popularity as an innovation led by young people. There is a lot of positive disruption coming to place and technology could be one of the many ways of getting solutions to some of the existing problems.
We recently launched the Rural Development Report at IFAD that highlighted the issues young people face. These were mostly on Connectivity (markets, technology, extension, and markets), Productivity (increasing productivity) and agency (giving youth more agency to access financial institutions). We are not looking at youth at horse blinders but looking at the larger landscape around it.
SM: In the global food system engagement, the youth with the ICT and tech experience have made headways the market. Read more on my recent article with CTA on prioritizing youth engagement in technology and innovation. Youth are having a head way compared to other groups in the sector. Nevertheless, the challenges, especially for African youth still persists when it comes to cost of data, access to finance, gender (young women being twice marginalized) etc.
However, there exists potential areas of engagement especially in policy and programs for youth entrepreneurship and for them to be able to tap into the demographic dividend. We need to constantly ensure that the youth are players in all these areas so that their issues and challenges can be articulated. Additionally, there is need for not only more innovate financing options but also resources availability and access to information and inputs. AFDB is setting a fund for young people with excellent ideas to finance their work and this could be a great entry point for YPARD members too.
EW: What is your long term vision of YPARD and how will that be mainstreamed into your tasks as YPARD chair and Vice-chair?
RA: To me YPARD is an interesting network and one at an exciting time and phase. I would love to see the network taking on more solid and not one off programs in a bid to shaping itself and being sustainable in the long run.
I am also seeking ways to enrich the network and looking to bring more cross pollination of knowledge. Mainstreaming it more from an advocacy level; looking for support and the new strategic framework of YPARD on the linkage on the food systems and giving the guidance in the process.
SM: My day to day vision is to support the chair and long-term vision is too see the YPARD country representatives as youth leaders in the areas of the political discourse. YPARD has a great opportunity to unlock to solve the potential of youth unemployment be it as finding an office job or sharing an opportunity that exists with other network members.