The III Youth Forum 2020 in Peru took place this year, congregating among many other participants almost 40 young leaders from Peruvian cooperatives. Advisors from the organising institutions gave lectures on business planning, digital tools, product diversification, food security, governance and climate change.
Agriterra’s business advisor Carlos Torero was invited to give a presentation on “Youth Participation in Producers Organizations”. He explained the challenges faced by cooperatives to attract young people and the strategies that can be used to involve and retain them. His stance is that organizations need to recognize the importance of youth participation.
Carlos' main point: cooperatives need to understand the youth, by getting involved in their world, becoming aware of what they like and what motivates them. Getting more insight into the youth can eventually be of benefit of the cooperative.
Farmer’s sons and daughters grow up hearing how difficult the agricultural sector is and how little support it gets. That is why many youth prefer to study a technical or academic profession instead of following their parents’ occupation.
A way to involve these youngsters in the sector is to encourage them to work in the cooperative, to benefit from those skilled professionals who are associated to the organization, either because their parents are members or because they are from the region.
Another creative way to achieve youth participation is to organise sport or music events addressed to young people in the area. During this activities, young members can talk with invitees, listen to them, exchange life experiences, explain cooperative life and present different options to get involved. Carlos showed examples of various events to attract youth, organized by cooperative members in Paraguay.
Lack of access to capital is a challenge usually faced by young members. Cooperatives should support a business environment that is suitable and attractive for youth involvement. One example is that of young farmers in Zambia raising and selling chicken to finance the cooperative member's fee for the new young members.
Energy & Motivation
It is important for young people to maintain their enthusiasm and work motivation. If their organization does not offer an external incentive, they should look for an internal purpose. To find this internal purpose, they can ask themselves: How do I want my cooperative to be? Or: How do I see the future? This can be the start of a dialogue with board members to see how the cooperative and the youth can achieve that future together.
Being young, one has the desire and energy to get things done, but one can also make mistakes. Thus, the vision one has for the organisation should be discussed with directives and if proposals are not well received, it is important to analyse why they were rejected and consider different options. To stimulate this coaching and mentoring trajectory, organisations can also develop actions to prepare future leaders like Cooperative Coopecan in Peru, who have implemented the "Pro Joven" programme.
A final advice for the youth, you should always face problems, despite consequences, maybe you won’t always succeed in the first attempt, but at least you will gain experience and be better prepare to triumph later.
Peruvian cooperatives working on increasing youth involvement