Broadening Young People’s Lens on Agriculture
Particularly in developing countries, many of them associate agriculture with poverty – a view rooted in the dominant smallholder and subsistence farming that they have observed from their grandparents over the years. That said, there are many youth who are changing the face of agriculture, and with proper support and dedication, they create positive success stories in the sector.
My given name is Hlamalani, meaning ‘be surprised’ in Tsonga. My family name is Ngwenya, meaning crocodile. I am widely known as Hlami, but you may also call me ‘Be surprised Crocodile” if you like. I am an international development consultant, lecturer and social entrepreneur. Qualified as a high school teacher since 1992, imparting knowledge and skills to others is not just a passion – it’s a calling which runs through my veins. I hold a Masters degree in Consumer Sciences, specializing in community nutrition and have since professionalized in other areas through practice.
With 25 years of work experience, I have a wide range of expertise in the food, nutrition, agriculture and natural resources sector (including climate change), ranging from public policy to community development, farmer organizational development, cooperatives to institutional reform, to agricultural education & research and beyond. I have the rare luck of combining my love for travel and work, and have been to more than 40 countries around the world and facilitated over 180 workshops, seminars and other engagements globally.
That’s why I am passionate about mentoring youth. We need to open up the agricultural space, and promote the sector beyond the stereotypical image of farming. While to many, agriculture means producing crops in the fields or working on a smallholding, other functions need to be in place too – business, policy, scientific innovation, technology – to support the sector’s productivity. That’s how we attract more interest from people who under normal circumstances would not have imagined having a role to play in agriculture (like me, as a youth!). As an example, I engage in a number of policy debates around the UN Sustainable Development Goals and other related topics, and was privileged to attend the Committee on Food Security (CFS 42) in Rome in 2015, representing talent development in agriculture.
In an effort to broaden the lens through which we look at and understand agriculture beyond farming, I mentor and coach youth, linking them to relevant opportunities where I can. I have started a campaign called PERFECT opportunities for youth in agriculture, using PERFECT as an acronym for Policies, Education, Research, Finance, Extension & Advisory services, Communication and Technologies.
I am looking forward to challenging the delegates to broaden their view, to see alternative pathways to attract brilliant and innovative youth, including those out of the mainstream agricultural field. Most importantly, I’m looking forward to exploring ways for attracting investment for youth development in agriculture along the PERFECT value chain. I take every event I attend as a learning curve, and I look forward to being inspired by the many young delegates who will be in Brussels next month.