Holy See: Young people are agents of change for sustainable agriculture

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 host a study seminar at FAO in Rome on youth-led action to promote food security and the regeneration of agri-food systems. The Vatican Observer to FAO IFAD and WFP, Archbishop Fernando Chica Arellano, wrapped up the event.

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 said on Monday, at a study seminar on the role of young people as agents of change in the agri-food sectors 

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 included, amongst others, 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 the participants  in the seminary, 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”.

“University and the academic environment are fundamental tools for equipping young people with all the knowledge and skills necessary to understand the complex reality of contemporary society.”

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 be educated to always seek the truth and to pursue it with courage to help build a more just and more humane world.”

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”. 

“Let’s go back to including craftsmen and artisans, “peasants” to put it better, of the inter-generational alliance. In this way, no one will be left behind and not only will it be possible to contribute to the pursuit of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda, but a more equitable, inclusive, supportive and just society will also be built.”