Young farmers representing farmers’ interests – the WFO Gymnasium

by Nicole Bolomey

The Internatioal Green Week has been a must-attend event for me since primary school. For me, the fair opened a culinary window to the world. I proudly told my classmates how old Italian cheese tastes or about the Ethiopian coffee that I was able to taste there for the first time. Getting to know the farmers behind the products was close to my heart. It was during a conversation at the fair that I first heard about the WFO Gymnasium programme.
Young farmers from all over the world: The World Farmers' Union Gymnasium (© WFO/ Demeter Dávid)
Young farmers from all over the world: The World Farmers' Union Gymnasium (© WFO/ Demeter Dávid)

It is a World Farmers Organisation (WFO) capacity building programme. The “World Farmers’ Organisation” is an umbrella organisation of agricultural interest groups such as the German Farmers’ Organisation and their joint platform. At international conferences it serves as a mouthpiece via which to communicate with the outside world. Bottom-up, the WFO seeks out common positions and cross-national solutions for sustainable agriculture. Topics address innovation and fair access to resources and markets for farmers worldwide.

To obtain the opinions of members and future supporters, the organisation is increasingly turning to young farmers. They make up the annual “Gymnasium” programme, involving 23 young farmers between the ages of 20 and 35 from all the continents. We have been exchanging ideas online since February. In the course of intensive training days, our two dedicated trainers, Giada and Annalisa, helped us prepare to deliver a public speech. We delivered it together to accompany the UN Water Conference and Silvia, our young Italian winemaker, was subsequently able to participate in the WFO Annual Conference in South Africa.

We experienced how nerve-wracking large conferences can be while negotiating one of our own papers. To this end, we have agreed on six key interests relevant to young farmers worldwide. After the engaging discussions at this round table, I feel even greater delight meeting all the participants in person. And this project is still in the pipeline. Since last month, it’s all been about the closing event – the Gymnasium participating in-person at the World Climate Conference COP28 in Dubai. Together, we are busy preparing the relevant topics, working on positions to adopt, preparing formats and organising panel discussions for this important event in November. Our presence in accompanying the WFO team on the ground ought to increase the visibility of farmers at COP28 and make our voices louder. This is the test and, at the same time, the reality for all of us who, since January, have been intensively trained and accompanied to become better communicators and representatives of farmers’ interests at national, regional and global levels.

But it is also important for me that we young farmers get to know each other. I want to better understand their commitment to the sector in their countries. I am therefore very excited to see what else we can learn from one another and I am looking forward to an intense time at the COP.

Since 2023, the Andreas Hermes Akademie has supported planning and implementation of the Gymnasium as an important platform for young representatives of interests worldwide. We can thereby secure the participation of two additional African farmers through our BMZ-funded global project “Strengthening Farmers’ Organisations” and we will also contribute in terms of content and methodology at the request and invitation of WFO 2024.

Guest Editor Leon Johann Andreas Ranscht

The Author

Nicole Bolomey

Director international

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