Making food security partnerships more gender- and youth-inclusive

Wageningen CDI together with Sampark and AME Foundation, invited CDI alumni in South Asia for a refresher course called 'Designing and facilitating multi-stakeholder partnerships for gender- and youth-sensitive food security'. Mid-career professionals from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal and Sri Lanka came to Bangalore (India) for 2 weeks to update their knowledge and skills.

In South Asia, the agricultural sector is under pressure because of low productivity, lack of market access, and the impacts of climate change. It is therefore not easy for smallholder farmers to see a future for themselves and their children in agriculture. Still, smallholder farmers grow the majority of food on the subcontinent. In the next decades, the need for enough nutritious food is only likely to increase given expected growth of GDP and population growth. Therefore it is critical that productivity increases, whilst at the same time agriculture becomes more inclusive and sustainable.

Women are engaged with agriculture yet have low recognition, low representation at the community level, lower wages than men and the work division. Household reproductive chores in particular remains solely the responsibility of women and girls. Given that agriculture is more and more unable to sustain rural livelihoods, rural youth look towards education and work which leads them away from the villages. Their re-engagement with rural livelihoods is a complex and demanding agenda requiring strong multi stakeholder partnerships for long periods. This implies that specific strategies on e.g. gender and youth need to be integrated into existing policies and interventions, ranging from social protection to market access.

There is a growing realization that such complex challenges can only be overcome when different stakeholders collaborate. Yet, the capacities to design and deliver effective multi-stakeholder partnerships (MSPs) are limited: often there is limited true dialogue and learning happening, and partnerships are often under resourced.