The fourth Global Landscape Forum (GLF) held alongside the UNFCC Conference of the Parties (COP) brought together more than 5,500 people from 95 countries, in person and online, to build solutions to climate change challenges through sustainable land use. As always, youth had an active and meaningful participation in the forum.
This year’s Youth in Landscapes Initiative (YIL) boosted soft skills in 10 champions chosen from over more than 500 young applicants around the world. This select group had a leading role by facilitating key discussion panels.
As a 2014 and 2015 YIL alumni and as a part of the 2016 YIL team, it was energizing to see how the initiative makes a difference in every GLF. To me, it had started to feel like a “college reunion”—especially that moment when you share and celebrate with your colleagues the opportunity to meet up again after a period of both personal and professional growth. And even better, with individuals who gather to speak about the challenges and solutions of climate change and gearing towards sustainability in their singular landscapes.
As a young professional immersed in the forestry and agricultural sector I have recognized the meaningful impact GLF has had during these three years and can sum them up as thus:
Connecting with myself
I was lucky enough to be part of the Youth Session at the GLF 2014 held in my city Lima.My enthusiasm led me to facilitate the Green Economy discussion. To be honest, I was scared to embrace that challenge in part because my resume looked very humble compared with my peers who were high level skilled young professionals with a large list of accomplishments and recognitions. Somehow I was lacking self confidence in my abilities but at the same time I was encouraged by the opportunity of having been selected. Fortunately, the Youth Masterclasses calmed down those feelings whilst I was building my networking, facilitation, pitching and critical thinking skills. I came to understand the power of soft skills, and that day became a key milestone in my life.
Connecting with my country
I felt like I had no more excuses to start to accomplish my own ventures. The inner voices claiming that I was not prepared were gone. I was empowered as never before and in early 2015, I co-founded Growing Empowerment, the first social venture in my country to focus on developing young agripreneurs with a strong understanding of their landscapes, by improving rural schools’ curricula. A team of science human professionals designed modules to improve personal skills such as self confidence, leadership, team work and other technical skills. Indeed, Growing Empowerment has been influenced by YIL sessions. That same year year, I was selected again to be part of the YIL initiative at the GLF held in Paris and after a few months, I was chosen to be the Peru country representative of the Young Professionals for Agricultural Development YPARD, the YIL partner, which has become one of the most influential young organizations for agriculture in Peru with more than 1,000 members online.
Connecting with the world
At the end of 2016, the opportunity I was looking for since my first participation at the GLF came to be: I would be part of the YIL designing team for the GLF to be held in Marrakesh. Coincidentally, the youth session titled “From disconnection to interconnection: rural-urban migration” was like a sounding wrap-up of what had happened to me until that point. When the day arrived, I had the privilege to introduce a video with testimonies from Peruvian rural youth who had to migrate from rural areas to the capital city looking for better opportunities to succeed, bringing Latin-American voices to the global discussion.
I know such clichés as “the experience changed my life” or “I am a new person” would be fitting summaries of my three GLF journey, but instead I will focus on the work of my lectors. I want them to know: experiences are best understood by looking backwards.
At the gate of my 30s, I am aware I am no longer a young fresh professional. This is why I consider it relevant for every youth starting their professional life to be able to find the connections with themselves, with their countries and with the world towards a meaningful participation in the solutions for better livelihoods.
Have you found yours?