The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Dhaka observed this year's International Youth Day 2021 with the theme of "Transforming food systems: Youth innovation for human and planetary health."
More than 50 students from seven different universities of the country joined in a discussion with six young entrepreneurs and professionals to emphasise the role of youth in transforming food systems.
This event was organised by FAO's Dhaka Food System project, an initiative funded by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. The discussion highlighted the concerns of young people about the existing food systems that are no longer fit to purpose.
The current generation has not given the next generation the sustainable means of feeding a larger population. Young people are to inherit a planet that will be four degrees warmer, threatening the availability of nutritious, quality food, speakers said during the event.
From farm to palate, food systems account for about one-third of all global greenhouse gases. The value chains of food are becoming increasingly complex, with foods travelling longer and passing through multiple stages.
Food loss and waste has become a major challenge in food systems and more than 1.3 billion tons of food is lost or wasted each year, speakers added.
Professor Dr Lutful Hassan, vice-chancellor of Bangladesh Agricultural University (BAU) was at the event as chief guest, and Paula Schindeler, deputy head of mission, Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands, was the special guest.
"This year's International Youth Day theme is timely and promising. It is now well recognised that simply producing food will not ensure human and planetary wellbeing. Social, economic, and environmental aspects of food systems are equally important for a healthier planet," said Paula Schindeler, deputy head of mission, Embassy of the Kingdom of Netherlands, in her opening speech.
She urged the existing food system needs to be changed, adding that innovative and capable young people can help boost the transformation process.
After the opening remarks, John Taylor, chief technical adviser of the Dhaka Food System project said, "With growth and expansion around cities, and rising land prices, it becomes difficult for farmers in the periphery to maintain their farms, which leads to food having to come from further and further away. This can lead to higher costs for our food."
The FAO Representative in Bangladesh, Robert Simpson, talked about the achievements of youth in the agri-food system of the country while delivering the closing remarks at this event.
He said, "Despite many challenges, the young people of Bangladesh are coming up with innovative game-changing solutions that can leverage transformation in the agriculture and food sector. Private sector partners are promoting small-scale farming and agri-businesses to maximise their profits through access to finance, agricultural inputs, advisory services, insurance and markets, and creating applications as a one-stop virtual sales solution."
He also talked about the important roles of academia, private sector actors, NGOs, development partners, and the government, in nurturing the youth.
FAO invited six young entrepreneurs and professionals who have contributed to different areas of the food system in Bangladesh, to share their experiences with the participants during the event.
The speakers at this event were Fahad Ifaz, CEO, iFarmer; Shamim Murad, general manager - Digital Services, ACI Agribusiness; Sharmeen Islam Eva, student, Bangladesh Agricultural University; Mukul Islam, successful entrepreneur (SaFaL project); Sudip Debnath, assistant professor, Khulna University; and Jannati Akhter Shumi, community nutrition volunteer (SaFaL project).
The participants urged leaders to invest now to support the youth of tomorrow. There is a large pool of available employment opportunities in the agri-food sector but due to limited access to land, natural resources, infrastructure, finance, technology, knowledge, and poor working conditions, the sector is not considered appealing and sustainable for youth, they added.