Prior to this year’s International Youth Day, the Pacific Community’s (SPC) Human Rights and Social Development (HRSD) division launched a poetry competition highlighting the theme Transforming Food systems: Youth Innovation for Human and Planetary Health.
This competition gave Pacific youth the opportunity to voice their views on why they should be involved in the design of the region’s food systems structure. This youth day initiative also allowed young people to showcase their creativity and capabilities in strengthening SPC’s international food and integrated health system initiatives.
During the poetry competition SPC’s Land Resources Division (LRD) hosted the Pacific Heads of Agriculture and Forestry Services (PHOAFS) meeting in which Pacific Heads committed new energy and focus to the region’s stretched agriculture and forestry sectors and pledged to support the sustainability of communities region-wide in the face of climate change.
The outcomes of the PHOAFS meeting strengthened the Pacific’s voice at the United Nation’s Food Systems Summit, which was held in New York on September 23 this year. The Summit’s ambitious agenda saw the launch of bold new actions, solutions and strategies to deliver progress on all 17 Sustainable Development Goals, each of which relies on healthier, more sustainable and more equitable food systems.
The HRSD team has awarded five youths from across the region with prizes as winners of the poetry competition. Each poem highlights issues that need immediate actions from regional and global leaders.
The voices of youth captured in these poems was echoed by the UN Food Systems Summit outcomes that called for the need for a more inclusive and transformative food systems and advocated for a people-centred approach in the region’s food systems.
Direct messages from the poetry competition winners:
We produce for food security purposes. But at the same time, we also created our own food insecurity by way of greenhouse gas emissions.
This rising trend is calamitous and the Pacific islands have already felt its pinch in terms of food security, natural hazards, and vanishing islands.
We lost our islands, our shorelines, our food security, taboo sites, homes, and even our ancestors' graves.
These are but just the beginning. The worst is yet to come, but how prepared are we in terms of food security, government policies, and the political will to address or negotiate with the global super powers?
We need an innovative solution to tackling food systems and its link to climate change.
Youth involvement in food systems is extensive, and they must not take this for granted or be taken for granted.
We must not be spectators. We must take the lead!
Finally youth must not be too lazy or ashamed of what they do for a good cause, either big or small, but to stand united to save the planet.
We have only one liveable planet. Our Mother Earth!
We have far too many battles to tackle here.
We will fight together and win together.
Realising that the world is no longer the same because of COVID-19, we begin to see our youth turning back to the land and sea for survival, and sadly losing our elders at such a high rate has risked the loss of our traditional knowledge and so much more. This inspired my writing, because humanity, at this point in time, are at a crossroads where our survival depends on the choices we make now.
My Poem speaks to the heart of why engaging our youth is crucial in designing and strengthening Pacific Food systems, because “youth are agents of change”.
The UN Secretary General, Antonio Guterres at the 76th session of the UN General Assembly said that “Young people need more than support; they need a seat at the table” and this embodies the essence of “inclusivity”.
As we revolutionise food systems to satisfy our increasing consumption, creating a sustainable food system in the Pacific will require an integrated and inclusive approach. An approach that transcends, age, gender and wealth.
Youth are an asset and have a lot of potential when considering this is the prime phase of a person in life. As such, the potential to yield more if engaged in almost anything good can be promising. The Pacific has a broad demographic base, indicating there are more young people in our Pacific Island countries, and this is anticipated to progressively increase over the coming years. Hence, it is crucial to have the leaders of tomorrow in our countries be part of designing, understanding and playing a part in our Pacific food systems.
Though the Pacific Islands are rich in culture and diversified in many aspects, we all are faced with climate change that challenges our Pacific food systems. These challenges include food systems processes, quantity, quality, infrastructure, skills and techniques. Youth, if trained well in the relevant knowledge, skills and techniques of existing food systems, can sustain and even better current systems. As an eager and readily available resource, including youth will no doubt give us a better chance to strengthen Pacific food systems. As SDG 17 points at partnership, every individual, regardless of gender, age or background, including youth, plays a critical role in strengthening Pacific food systems. Engagement is inclusion, inclusion is being counted and making it count.
Marie Eve Budna
The vitality of young people makes them capable of carrying and supporting the great changes, whether socially or organizationally is necessary to redesign the Pacific food system. The struggle goes far beyond our plate or our fishing net. It is part of the defense of noble and global causes such as access to healthy food for all, reduction of inequalities, reduction of our impact on the environment and biodiversity, and respect of human rights.
Advancing our food systems means advancing on the UN SDGs. That's all it is! So yes, I think the Pacific needs the harmonious contribution of these young people who are the farmers, barterers, leaders, fishermen and poets of today and tomorrow.