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Food and sustainability

The farmer of the future will improve sustainable agriculture

The 5-day Taiwan Education Experience Program (TEEP) “De-Coding the Cold War and Contemporary Societies”  which was held in National Chiao Tung University in Hsinchu, Taiwan, under the auspices of International Institute for Cultural Studies, University System of Taiwan, was indeed a life-changing experience.

Being one of 50 international participants, I couldn’t have asked for more as this program brought up some insightful knowledge I had never learned before. And since my group members decided to talk about cultural and social identity, I chose to present ‘Rebuilding Agriculture as National Identity’ in Asian perspective. Coming with this idea, I was confident that I was in the right time and right place to introduce BCFN Alumni network, the work we do and the Youth Manifesto. The presentation highlighted one important question; can agriculture become an identity of a nation?

Born and raised in a small village of Simbune situated in Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia, I was accustomed to do regular farming activities. Most of the village residents work as farmers mostly cultivating cocoa tree, white pepper, coconuts, cashews, and cloves. Farming has become a part of the people and it constitutes main source of both daily needs and finance for their family members. However, it is obvious that children of farmers have been encouraged to pursue their education and other field of jobs instead of being farmers and that make less promising to have more farmers in the future. This issue was highlighted in one of seminar topics of Agricultural Renaissance in Taiwan by Yen-Ling Tsai, an Associate Professor of Chiao Tung University and agricultural movement activist.

Choosing Urban Farming at Tian Yuanqing Workshop as my field visit couldn’t be a better decision to make. The workshop is initiated by local youth studying at nearby colleges. These students help farmers cultivate their plants in a sustainable way. One particular way of planting I was interested in was making ponds as water resources where those ponds are surrounded by cultivated plants. What made me more surprised was that this way of planting is based on Indonesian farmers’ ways of both annual and biennial plants, as stated by the head of the workshop, and indeed it is very familiar in my country. They also encourage children to do farming by making some for-fun activities around the place. Videos of local children laughing and enjoying the activities remind me exactly what the Youth Manifesto is all about: to teach all children about the relationship that connects food, people, health, and the Planet. This is just a great example of how a small initiative can really make an impact for the people, who have the responsibility in ensuring youth’s involvement in the agricultural process.

Finally, it is on us if we want to make a new identity by reintroducing food and agriculture to our youngest generations, and BCFN Alumni with the Youth Manifesto are two inseparable sources for others to see the possibility of how young people can contribute to the community.

In 2016 the BCFN YES! competition is renewed to offer an opportunity for young researchers to invest in their higher education. The first prize of the new edition of the BCFN YES! competition is a research grant awarded to fund a study of one year in the field of nutrition and sustainability.
The contest is open to graduate students and postdoctoral researchers under 35, who can participate individually or as a multi-disciplinary team.
The Foundation encourages the participation of young people who want to get involved in creating solutions for the current food system, by combining their experiences in an innovative approach, and thus giving life to a new generation of experts in this field.

Sujardin Syarifuddin
BCFN Foundation Alumni Association
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