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Shaping Futures: FAO Empowers Papua New Guinea’s Youth For Policy Advocacy And Sustainable Agricultural Development

The FAO, under the EU-STREIT PNG Programme, pioneers youth integration in sustainable agriculture and advocacy in Papua New Guinea. This effort, in collaboration with the government, establishes Provincial Youth Councils in the Sepik region, promoting youth leadership in agriculture.

Wewak, Papua New Guinea – The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), under the EU-funded STREIT PNG Programme, has collaborated with the Government of Papua New Guinea through the National Youth Development Authority (NYDA) towards the establishment of Provincial Youth Councils in the West and East Sepik provinces. This initiative aims to empower youths, particularly in rural areas, to have a platform to table youth issues, to become good leaders in their localities, and to contribute significantly to the country's sustainable development through active participation in the agriculture sector.

Building leadership and fostering participation

Under this initiative, the FAO in partnership with the NYDA and the Provincial Youth Coordination Desk under the Provincial Division of Community Development, hosted a series of capacity-building workshops and training sessions in West and East Sepiks. Through these sessions, 87 youths from the 10 districts representing cocoa, vanilla, and fisheries farming groups acquired leadership skills, and were educated on the structure and mandate of the National Youth Development Authority, the divisional functions of youth programs, the intricacies of the partnership between the EU-STREIT PNG Programme and the Provincial Administrations, and the importance of youth involvement in decision-making and agri-food value chains.

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"This initiative is crucial as it serves as a platform for advocacy and the promotion of youth leadership and innovation in development," said Ms Patu Shang, the FAO's Gender & Youth Inclusion Specialist. "We emphasize the importance of professionalizing agriculture and the participation of youths at all nodes of the cocoa, vanilla, and fisheries value chains, which are key economic drivers in the Sepik region."

Mr Christopher Usuka, the National Director of Programs and Extension Services for NYDA reiterated in his opening remarks at the workshop, “A formalised Provincial Youth Development Council is a prerequisite for acquiring any form of intervention or support, financial or otherwise from any National or Provincial funding basket.”

Creating a platform for collaboration

This initiative facilitates the establishment of Provincial Youth Councils, providing a formal platform for young people to engage with stakeholders and contribute to policy discussions at Provincial and National levels. This includes mobilizing fellow youths to participate in upcoming elections for their councils and advocating for support from district, provincial and national funding to pursue agribusiness careers. "The Provincial Youth Development Councils will empower young people to become effective community mobilizers and advocates," said Ms Zilpah Yahamani, Gender & Youth Inclusion Officer of the Programme. "They will play a vital role in fostering the development of a Youth Development strategy, action plan, and outreach programs, particularly focusing on promoting agriculture at the local level."

Positive impact and future steps

The workshops received enthusiastic participation from young people, community development officers, and government representatives from NYDA. Participants highlighted the valuable learning experience, gaining insights into leadership, communication, group management, and agribusiness opportunities.

During the workshop, the East Sepik’s Youth Development Council Working Committee (ESP-YDCWC) was elected, nominating 7 members (3 girls and 4 boys). Following the workshops, district youth representatives are expected to engage actively in their communities by organizing awareness campaigns and facilitating the election of District youth council executives with the support of the National NYDA. These executives will then be confirmed by the National Youth Development Authority which will oversee the establishment of the Provincial Youth Council and will support its efforts in sustainable agricultural and community development.

A collaborative effort for sustainable development

The EU-STREIT PNG Programme acknowledges the crucial role of youths in achieving sustainable development. By supporting the establishment of Provincial Youth Councils and empowering young people in the Sepik region, the Programme aims to create a more inclusive and prosperous future for the region.

About the EU-STREIT PNG Programme

The EU-STREIT PNG, being implemented as a United Nations Joint Programme (FAO as leading agency and ILO, ITU, UNCDF and UNDP as implementing partners), is the European Union's largest grant-funded initiative in the country. It focuses on boosting sustainable and inclusive economic development in rural areas. This is achieved by enhancing economic returns and opportunities within cocoa, vanilla, and fisheries value chains. Additionally, the Programme strengthens and improves the efficiency of value chain enablers, including access to ICT and digital financial services. It also supports the development of sustainable, climate-resilient transport infrastructures and renewable energy solutions. The Programme benefits two provinces: East Sepik and West Sepik.

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