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  • Writer's pictureSimon Kaack

Sowing the Seeds of Food Security: The Youth's Contribution

Updated: Oct 18, 2023

Indigenous knowledge on the use of plants, such as the rice paddy herb, is a cornerstone for future food security.

As we approach the year 2030, with just seven years left to accomplish the SDGs, it is concerning that nearly 750 million people are unable to exercise their fundamental right to access adequate food. Food security is defined as the state in which all people have reliable access to enough affordable, nutritious food to live healthy and active lives. Current food systems, however, suffer from a lack of food sovereignty, which involves the right of people healthy and culturally relevant food produced through ecologically sound and sustainable methods, and the right to determine their own food and agriculture systems. Consequently, indigenous, and local farming and knowledge systems are under widespread threat.

The 2023 Global Hunger Index (GHI) underscores that, despite years of advancements leading up to 2015, the global fight against hunger has largely reached a standstill. Since 2015, there has been an increase in hunger levels in 18 countries with 2023 GHI scores ranging from moderate to alarming. Among these countries, three are situated in East and Southeast Asia. Notably, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Papua New Guinea, and Timor-Leste are classified as serious in terms of hunger.

In several other countries, hunger is categorised as moderate, while China, Fiji, and Mongolia have 2023 GHI scores that are considered low. East and Southeast Asia heavily rely on rice as a staple in their diets. The potential threats of flooding in Pakistan and the emergence of the El Niño weather pattern in 2023 may lead to decreased rice production, subsequently resulting in increased prices and reduced availability and access to this critical staple grain in the near future.

For rich harvests, unique ecosystems such as wetlands need strong protection schemes.

Among those bearing the brunt of these crises are significant demographic groups, such as women and young individuals. Young people are often poised to inherit food systems that are unsustainable, unjust, exclusionary, and increasingly susceptible to the adverse effects of climate change. They are more likely than adults to grapple with extreme poverty and food insecurity, with young women being particularly affected, despite the significance of their health and nutritional well-being for future generations.

Young people are three times more likely to face unemployment, and they often lack access to the resources, land, skills, and opportunities that would enable them to actively participate in productive roles within food systems. These barriers, along with the challenges of climate change, land degradation, exposure to risks, demanding or precarious working conditions, and limited social recognition, have dissuaded many young individuals from pursuing careers in agriculture and rural livelihoods.

While youth are often underrepresented in the realms of policymaking and decision-making concerning food systems, it is imperative to recognise their legitimate interest in shaping their own future, and their voices must not go unheard. Youth are rightful claimants of the right to food, and the importance of good nutrition cannot be understated for their personal growth and development during this crucial life stage. Young people make up a significant and growing demographic, particularly in countries facing food insecurity. A striking 42% of the global population is under the age of 25, and the number of adolescents and young adults worldwide, totaling 1.2 billion, is the largest in history.

Overconsumption, such as in fishing, does not only threaten species but also local livelihoods depending on them.

Cambodia for instance has a notably youthful population, with a significant percentage of its citizens falling within the youth age group (15-24). This demographic factor underscores the importance of addressing food security issues for the well-being and prospects of the nation. Agriculture is a crucial sector in Cambodia, and youth involvement in sustainable farming practices is pivotal for food security. Encouraging young people to participate in agriculture, providing training, and facilitating access to land and resources can enhance food production and reduce poverty.

Promoting education and raising awareness among Cambodian youth about proper nutrition and sustainable farming practices can contribute to better food security. Informed youth are more likely to make healthy dietary choices and adopt improved agricultural techniques. Cambodia's youth population is tech-savvy, and their embrace of technology and innovation can lead to creative solutions in agriculture and food distribution. Initiatives that leverage digital tools and modern farming methods can improve food security. From mobile apps for crop management to vertical farming techniques, youth-driven solutions can enhance food production and distribution. In addition, empowering young farmers and entrepreneurs can enhance agricultural practices, promote innovation, and contribute to the sustainability of food systems.

Moreover, the importance of indigenous nature-based practices for youths in future Cambodian agriculture cannot be overstated. These traditional methods hold a wealth of knowledge and wisdom, passed down through generations, which are perfectly suited to the country's unique ecological and climatic conditions. By incorporating these practices into agricultural education for the younger generation, Cambodia can foster sustainability, resilience, and a deep connection to the land. The wisdom of indigenous practices can help conserve biodiversity, promote soil health, and mitigate the impacts of climate change, ensuring a prosperous and ecologically balanced future for Cambodian agriculture.

Passing on knowledge about edible and poisonous plants can also be solved through technology, for example apps.

Thus, involving Cambodian youth in decision-making processes related to food security policies and programs can ensure that their perspectives are considered. Youth participation can lead to more effective and locally relevant solutions. Leaders should adopt a long-term perspective and invest in sectors that can enhance the well-being of young people, encompassing health, education, and skills development. Young people must seize opportunities to participate in the governance of food systems and integrate their perspectives into policymaking, enabling the establishment of just, sustainable food systems for all.

In summary, addressing youth and food security in Cambodia is vital for the nation's development and stability. Empowering young individuals through education, engagement, and innovation is key to ensuring that future generations have reliable access to nutritious food, ultimately promoting health, well-being, and sustainable development.

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