The World Food Forum highlights the essential role of young scientists at the STI Forum

05/05/2022

On 4 May, the World Food Forum (WFF) hosted an event during the Multi-stakeholder Forum on Science, Technology and Innovation for the SDGs (STI Forum), to highlight the essential role of young scientists in identifying and scaling up innovative solutions to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and positive agrifood systems transformation, with a specific focus on the links between healthy diets and climate action.

Focusing on WFF initiatives that empower young scientists to drive change, the event marked the launch of the first-ever cohort of the Young Scientists Group (YSG) and called for applications to the second edition of the Transformative Research Challenge (TRC). The event also built on the momentum of WFF’s youth-led activities in 2021, which brought together more than 40 000 young and young-at-heart people and over 75 partners from all sectors, with the common mission to transform our agrifood systems.

In her opening remarks, UN Secretary-General’s Envoy on Youth Jayathma Wickramanayake stressed the urgency of addressing global challenges in order to achieve SDG 2 (Zero Hunger) by 2030, and the massive potential of young researchers to facilitate sustainable agrifood systems transformation. Ms. Wickramanayake made it clear that what the world needs right now are youth-led solutions for a food better future. She called for a move away from business as usual and highlighted the need to redefine how we produce and consume food. She also called for innovative and science-based solutions to make agrifood systems more efficient and resilient, and explained that innovation does not necessarily have to be something new. It can also be an old way of doing things that makes an impact.

Following these remarks, Chief Scientist of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) Ismahane Elouafi spoke about the importance of gender equality in science and technology. “A sustainable future is only possible when women are given meaningful and equitable access to opportunities in science,” she said. “Only together we can spark a true transformation of our food systems to end world hunger and poverty.”

The WFF STI Forum event also highlighted the importance of a decentralized and community-based approach to agrifood systems solutions. According to Dr. Ibrahima Hathie, who is a member of the Independent Group of Scientists (IGS) and one of the appointed authors of 2023 Global Sustainable Development Report (GSDR), the beginning of a transformational path is already here but we need to accelerate these changes. “The link to smallholder farmers’ hearts has proved to be a great engine for our progress,” he said. “Community engagement is also critical.”

The second half of the STI side event included the announcement of the members of the first-ever YSG. These 20 young scientists come from all over the world and will provide scientific evidence and technical knowledge to the various initiatives of the WFF. There was also a call for applications and the official launch of the 2022 TRC, a competition designed to foster and promote innovative research projects from young researchers.

“We have to change the narrative that youth are just the leaders of the future. Youth are the leaders of today,” said newly appointed YSG member Peter Asare-Nuamah, highlighting the importance of self-empowerment and the relevancy of youth action.

In his closing remarks, FAO Chief Economist Máximo Torero stated that we are looking for ways to think differently, and both the YSG and the TRC can be the perfect opportunities to foster innovation and new perspectives.

The event concluded with a call to action to make ideas heard and share our visions of what could positively change our food future. Youth participation today will pave the way for the food security of future generations.

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