Make it Real – Time for Action

Young Farming Champion’s Josh Gilbert  and Anika Molesworth are blogging from ParisCOP21 and they are ‘learning by doing’  These are Josh’s reflections from  Day 3…………

Josh and Anika say thank you for your support

Paris Day 3 of the COY11 conference has reinforced a number of things for Anika and me

Front and centre our agricultural sector has what it takes to be highly competitive but despite huge potential and the rapidly growing demand for our products, agriculture overall has been losing market share to international competitors. It’s widely acknowledged within agriculture that it is being held back by a lack of strong leadership.

Young people in agriculture like Anika and I  know that if Australian agriculture is to reach its true potential then it’s going to need a generation of passionate and energetic future influencers with a different set of skills beyond agricultural expertise, who can recognise new business opportunities and make them happen.

To help develop these vital skill sets Anika and I applied and were accepted into the Young Farming Champions program.

We joined the program because we are excited about the future of agriculture and its opportunities .We joined the program because we are aware of the challenges and we wanted to join the conversation on the solutions. We joined the program because we wanted to get involved and take action. We joined the program because we  know it provides access to some of the brightest minds in the country committed to exceptional talent development and importantly we knew we would be nurtured  and able to hone our skills in a safe environment.

An integral component of the Young Farming Champions program is “learning by doing” and this is why  we decided to crowd fund our way to Paris. We see Paris as a perfect opportunity to meet lateral thinkers from around the world who are passionate about the same things we are

Bringing the stories of passionate young Australian agriculturalists to Paris could not have come at a better time. Its is the perfect opportunity to work with others across the globe to determine our future by acting on climate change

Like us every single one of the 3000 young people attending the Conference of Youth (COY11) know that whilst

Climate change creates elevated levels of uncertainty about our future and amid this uncertainty, one thing is certain. We will leave the Earth to our children, young people and future generations.

When Anika and I arrived at Parc des Expositions Conference Centre at 8 o’clock this morning, we were greeted by 8 security guards and 6 soldiers holding machine guns.

This environment was sobering but it was overwhelmingly inspiring to see so many young people determined to make a unified statement and say together that Paris has to achieve much more than emissions targets and  a transition to a green economy, it also a time to stand up for social justice

The COY11 event has been set up as an open space. We have a choice of attending sessions on issues that like-minded people feel particularly strongly about. To help encourage further communication and innovation we can workshop our ideas in private or in public. It’s really free flowing and entirely dependent on the individual as to what they want to get out.

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With such a diverse group of people the language barrier can be a bit confusing at times. There are translators in each room and headsets available for the bigger sessions. The innovation stream is good for this and we have a full time translator as a facilitator for our group.

I was fortunate to be selected as one of 200 young people from around the world for a Make it Real Innovation Lab stream

Naturally I joined the agriculture group where young farmers from Kenya and South Africa, shared with us that climate change is a significant threat to the welfare of millions of the rural poor and opened my eyes to the need for a worldwide rethink on the way we produce food and the way we farm.  It’s pretty scary when you think that 30% of the fertile land in the world has vanished in the past 30 years.

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Like us climate change is emerging as a major challenge to agricultural development in their countries. The increasingly unpredictable and erratic nature of weather systems on the African continent have placed an extra burden on food security and rural livelihoods. On top of this there is poor infrastructure and governance and extreme poverty

World Bank forecasts show that Sub Saharan Africa will surpass Asia as the most food insecure region inhabiting 40-50% of undernourished people globally in 2080 compared with 24% today.

Unlike us these young people come from farming communities with no opportunity to share agricultural knowledge and little or no access to training on sustainable farming systems methods. They live in hope that they can continue feeding their communities, but uncertainty as to who will farm in the future and where they will get the knowledge.

Anika has spent the last 12 month in Laos forging an agricultural career spanning continents and cultural divides and the last 3 days has driven home to me just how important the work she is going is.

It has become even clearer to me that the need for action on Climate Change is NOW  because when the era of cheap food ends, the world will face the daunting challenges of food production and providing immediate relief for the poor affected by drought, natural disasters and conflict.

You can follow their journey on their #Paris COP21 blog here

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