All around the world, youth often aim to have a better life than their parents. For those engaged in agriculture, this sentiment is particularly true. The traditional perception of agriculture is one of subsistence, meaning that farmers only produce enough food to eat, with minimal profit. The farmers’ children recognize this and want something better. Currently, trends and attitudes see youth looking to leave the laborious farming life behind for better opportunities in other sectors. “Rural youth recently reported that access to information, lack of credit and negative perceptions around farming are the leading reasons” [IFAD, 2017]. In Cambodia, migration of young rural workers away from farms has been significant in the past 15 years and threatens to cause a future labor shortage in the agriculture industry. This creates a challenge, in Cambodia and many other countries, as a new generation of farmers is needed to achieve the global challenge of feeding a growing world population.
In Cambodia, the Appropriate Scale Mechanization Consortium (ASMC) is working to change the labor-intensive perception of farming and showcase agricultural careers as an attractive option for youth. The advances in agronomy, crop science, agribusiness, agro-engineering, agro-processing and agricultural education, agriculture has evolved into an expansive and exciting field in recent decades. An agriculture-centered life has taken on new meaning, and there is a need to expose youth to the vast opportunities available within the field.
The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sustainable Intensification (SIIL) at Kansas State University is serving as one of the lead organizers for the 2017 Sustainable Intensification Conference: Biodiversity and ecological engineering for sustainable intensification of agriculture. This conference brings together international leaders to discuss sustainable solutions to global food security challenges.
The meeting will take place April 24-26 at the Hotel Ngor Diarama, Dakar, Senegal, under a partnership between SIIL, laboratories IESOL (Intensification Ecologique des Sols Cultivés en Afrique de l’Ouest) and LAPSE (LMI Adaptation des Plantes et microorganismes associés aux Stress Environnementaux), and IAVAO (Innovation et Amélioration Variétale en Afrique de l’Ouest).
The SIIL team is working with each focus country to establish indicators and measurements to assess how an innovation or technology is achieving sustainable intensification. The SI assessment framework is a flexible tool that can fit each country individually and help each project assess how a given innovation is helping the farming systems move to sustainable intensification.
The initial trainings for the SI Assessment framework took place at the annual meeting of SIIL in Manhattan, Kansas with project investigators. A continuation of this training will take place in Cambodia and Senegal with in-country scientist, technicians, and project coordinators. By offering trainings in each focus country we are able to engage with in country partners and specifically operationalize the framework for each project. These trainings support each sub-award towards each of its goals. The goal of the overall SI assessment framework is to provide a common framework that can guide research on sustainable intensification and facilitate cross program learning and assessment.
Since sustainable intensification is inherently interdisciplinary, more than one domain is considered. The five domains of sustainable intensification, each considered and measured within the SI assessment framework, are:
• Human condition