Youth shake the coconut tree
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During the Halting Deforestation Conference in Rome 19 – 22 Feb 2018 over 50 enthusiastic youth from around the world gathered in Rome to join their voices to those of experts who assembled to forge a way forward in halting global deforestation.

Like the theme (Working across sectors to Halt deforestation and Increase Forest Area) suggested, various experts with different academic and professional backgrounds shared their thoughts on how to move forward with more Forest area and reduced deforestation. The youth delegates had a power packed training session on the 19.02.2018, prior to the conference. During our training, we were inspired with key note speeches from experts in Gender, Agriculture and Forestry. Most remarkable from the speeches was the concluding remarks that clearly spelt out the potential held by the youth in contributing to the global change dialogue.

Later in the day, youth were engaged in designing strategies and action plans that could be useful in addressing the current gaps in sustainable forest resources management; working in groups, we developed model action plans for demonstrating practical implementation of the landscape approach in supporting the current international processes. These developed action plans will be consolidated into a message that will be incorporated in the recommendations for the the UN Strategic Plan for Forests for 2017-2030 (UNSPF).

Following the youth training, youth joined the rest of the delegates that assembled at the FAO office from 20th – 22nd February 2018. Represented by the International Forestry Students Association (IFSA) president: Ms. Salina Abraham, the thoughts of the youth were shared during the opening plenary. Furthermore, Ms. Cora Van Osteen from Wageningen University who led the greater part of the youth training exhaustively presented the outcomes of the youth training session to the plenary.

Throughout the 3-day session, the presence of the youth was felt through their signature saying ‘’shake the coconut tree’’ which literally means transforming the theoretical part of the approach to issues around deforestation to a more practical approach that will bear tangible fruits for communities. The youth did not only initiate the lighter side of the conference but also, drafted a key message highlighting a call for an awakening, to the reality that youth are valuable partners and agents of change in efforts to halt deforestation, particularly in facilitating collective action, building capacity, and sharing the message with everyday people. The youth involvement was made possible through efforts by IFSA, YPARD1 , FAO Forestry, and the GLF2 .

I am personally proud to have been part of this great youth movement. To many, it may be thought of as a drop in the ocean but we (the youth) today believe in a better future and are committed to making the change today!

1 Young Professionals for Agricultural Development
2 Global Landscapes Forum