International Movement of Catholic Agricultural and Rural Youth
Category: Current activities
Designing the campaign with young people
What is wrong with our current food system? Who is responsible for it? What are the many areas directly affected by its functioning? What can we do to change this? These are, among many others, the numerous questions that the actors of the #GoEAThical project are asking themselves and that we wish to answer together with the young people.
On the 28th of September, MIJARC Europe, in collaboration with other organisations of the #GoEAThical project consortium, organised an online session with young people from all across Europe, in order to reflect with them on the development of the campaign that will be launched. 48 participants attended this session.
The #GoEAThical project foresees the holding of different YouthLabs (at national and international levels) so that young people can take part in the development of the campaign and the project. However, the sanitary circumstances we are experiencing have significantly slowed down and then prevented the holding of these YouthLabs. In order to ensure that young people can still have their say, we thought of this session.
Learn how to design a campaign with our expert Julius
Julius van de Laar is a campaign and strategy consultant with many years of international campaign experience. During Barack Obama’s presidential campaign of 2007 and 2008, Julius was a full-time US presidential campaigner for him.
Julius is therefore our advisor in the implementation of the campaign for the #GoEAThical project. He was of course invited to this session, in order to briefly introduce the participants to the basics of running a campaign. Among the many keys he gave, Julius explained that a good campaign should be like a good story: to arouse emotions in people. Using this metaphor, he invited participants to reflect among themselves on what stirs up emotions of anger and indignation in them about the way the current food system works. He then proposed to them to name the actors of this system who could be considered as the villains of the story, being largely responsible for the inequalities denounced by the participants.
Highly invested and creative participants
“It was great meeting, I learnt a lot, and not only about campaign but also about how to do a very good online meeting and discussion. Thank you a lot!” Here is one of the feedback we received after we proposed to the participants to give us their views on the session using an online survey.
And indeed, the participants who were divided into 8 groups through breakout sessions, were particularly productive, not only in naming the injustices and actors involved in maintaining this unfair system, but also in proposing solutions and tactics to change it.
You can take a look below at their many proposals, which they managed to formulate in a very short space of time as the session lasted only two hours.
This session was of course only an outline, to reflect with young people on national, European and international issues concerning the food system and learning the basics of a large-scale campaign. But there will still be many steps in the design of the campaign and we look forward to continuing to work with young people, both those who attended this session and new ones, for further discussion and debate.
This publication has been produced with the financial assistance of the European Union. The contents of this document are the sole responsibility of MIJARC Europe and can under no circumstances be regarded as reflecting the position of the European Union.
Here we are, September has arrived. All over Europe children are going back to school, students are going back to university and adults are going back to work, even if for many of us it is teleworking.
Another thing ends at the same time as August, the sea and the vacations: our Grow It Yourself challenge. Together we planted our fruit and vegetables for 5 months. In order to celebrate this accomplishment, here is a little feedback from some of the participants and organizers:
“I am very proud of the three strawberries and one mini zucchini I had on my balcony this summer! I have to admit that it was all I managed to grew but they were awesome In general I am more thankful for the farmers who manage to feed some much people by working hard and in difficult conditions (work, weather etc.)”
“I was in charge of editing the photos for the duration of our campaign, what a pleasure it was to receive pictures of small seeds in April, and to see these same seeds become vegetables on the plates of the participants this summer. We really did something rewarding!“
Grow it Yourself was by far the most satisfying challenge I took this year. It was a very rewarding feeling to be see my own vegetables growing. Productive, efficient and self motivating, Grow It yourself is indeed a challenge i would gladly take every year!
This challenge has brought me closer to my roots and to my childhood. As a child I used to help my family in their farm and I spent most of my summer holidays outside, in the scorching sun, bare feet on the ground and eating whatever was ripe. I particularly remember watering the onion beds, because I could soak my feet in the ice-cold water that filled the onion beds and use my small hoe to direct the water wherever I wanted. I have not felt more in control than I felt then. I realised that there is a lot of land in my yard that we now use to grow green grass and we put considerable effort into having a manicured lawn, so I start ”taking back” the land and growing herbs, such as the ones I need on a daily basis. I realised that I was spending a lot of money on things that I could grow myself, and exclude the waste that comes together with buying herbs in plastic pots and without any of the chemicals that keep them looking fresh under the artificial light of the supermarkets. I also discovered a lot of gardening enthusiasts around me and we started exchanging goods we grow ourselves. My mint, basil, dill and sage were exchanged for fennel, cherry tomatoes and cranberries. The challenge has also brought my son closer to gardening. The look on his face when the first dill threads came out is the most memorable image of this challenge. There are so many things that will stay with me but the most simple, yet powerful of the conclusions is that we have all we need as long as we have soil, water, sun and good health.
It’s safe to say we enjoy our GIY adventure here at MIJARC Europe! If we were to launch the same campaign next year, would you follow us in this journey?
Do you know that feeling of fulfilment when you have done something right, something that had impact and brought joy in the hearts of people? Well, that is exactly how we felt after the ”Youth participating by a hectare” webinar.
Ever since our summer activities were postponed and meeting our friends from abroad in person turned into an intention scheduled for ”whenever it will be possible again”, we started toying with the idea of doing something that would still bring us a piece of the excitement and satisfaction our traditional summer seminar did.
Our international webinar ”Youth participating by a hectare” managed to achieve all that and more. Scheduled on the 22nd July, when we had planned to be in France, visiting several local farms and agricultural initiatives, the webinar gathered young people and experts on agriculture who discussed the challenges young people face when it comes to getting involved in this field.
Although it was not initially included as an activity, the international webinar became part of our annual work plan “Rock, Paper, Participation“. The work plan focuses on seeing-judging-acting on how young people get involved in the dialogue on agricultural policies and on how they take part to sustainable agricultural practices.
The ”Rock, paper, participation” annual work plan is co-funded by the European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe and the European Union.
The webinar gathered more than 60 participants out of the 91 who registered for it. They were all young people from one of the member organisations of MIJARC Europe, representing 8 European countries.
The 3,5 hour agenda was intense but time just flew by once the experts started talking about education and knowledge in the agricultural field, green jobs, agricultural policies and shared their personal stories of getting involved in the field.
The webinar looked at agriculture from three perspectives: access to knowledge, information, and education, access to green jobs and engagement in agricultural policies. A study carried out by MIJARC World, FAO and IFA in 2011 revealed several challenges young people faced in the agricultural field and provided solutions for them. Almost ten years later, we wanted to analyse some of the challenges listed in the study, which are relevant for young people in Europe today, and look at them to see if they are still the same or what progress has been made so far.
The webinar was split in four session: an introductory session, two rounds of discussion groups and a common session to draw the conclusions.
Session 1: Access to knowledge, information, and education & access to green jobs
The session began with asking the participants where they learnt about food and agriculture related issues and the poll revealed that most of then had learnt about these by means of their own research.
The first guest speaker was Russ Carrington, a former chairman of Rural Youth Europe, who is currently a farmer practicing regenerative agriculture in the United Kingdom. He joined the call directly from his farm and made a presentation about his life journey. He spoke about why he decided to go back to full-time farming like his parents, after having left to study Civil Engineering to follow a different career. During the Q&A Russ received many questions from the participants. The questions were about whether agriculture and farming is presented in schools as a viable option; about his opinion on the current and future situation of agriculture; about whether he could use his Civil Engineering knowledge in farming; and also about technical issues such as what is meant by sustainable agriculture and what is the role of GMO.
The second guest speaker was Doris Letina, the vice president from CEJA Young Farmers, who is a farmer cultivating apples in Slovenia. She firstly asked the participants to describe ”Green Jobs” in one word using the Mentimeter application.
Some participants were then asked to elaborate on their chosen word, such as “conservation”, “responsibility” and “ethical”. Doris went on to giving a small presentation of what is understood as Green Jobs. Having received some inputs, the participants were then asked the questions: “What are we missing to have Green Jobs?”. This generated some interesting discussions and opinions such as the importance of public awareness, funding and change of societal values. Some participants came back to the importance of access to education, connecting to what was discussed in the first part of the session.
Session 2: Access and engagement of young people in policy dialogue
The session started by defining what is a policy dialogue by asking the participants to choose one picture out of four.
The choice of picture was partly different in the two sessions, but most of the participants chose pictures with young people working together at a table or discussion together. The session had two guest speakers: Jannes Maes, president of CEJA and Daniela Ordowski, board member of MIJARC Europe. Both of them underlined that engagement in policy dialogue is a process. The first step of it is to get organized with other people and define together what is the position shared by everyone and to agree on one message to communicate.
Further, the participants were asked if they had ever taken part in a policy dialogue and to share their experience about it, especially the issues and challenges they had. Some of the participants mentioned that they had never taken part in any dialogue on policies. They had the opinion that if young people do not search actively for such opportunities, they will not have the chance to take part in them. Others said that being in that session was already a step towards being active in policy dialogue. Jannes agreed that sometimes you have to ask for a place and this is not easy, but in general youth are then welcomed, because stakeholders and politicians know that they need the opinion of young people. For established organisations like CEJA or MIJARC Europe it is easier to be involved as an organisation than it is to join the dialogue as an individual. Youth organisations are crucial for the representation of young people.
During the final session, the participants reflected on the discussions they had in the discussion groups and a summary of the main points was made.
Finally a list of priorities identified during the webinar was made and the participants ranked them. The lack of education or its availability only in urban areas was the challenge most of young placed at the top, closely followed by the fact thatyouth in environmental protection is not a priority for governments these days and the fact the rural areas and farming are not given enough prominence in policies, media and on social networks.
The priorities identified by the participants during the webinar will be collected together with those identified during the local visits in each country and will serve as the basis for the upcoming international activities. During the next phase of the work plan, the participants will develop concrete action plans to address the priorities. The action plans will be the main working tool for the third activity, when participants will create project proposals to help with the implementation of at least one measure included in the action plans.
The webinar was a very successful activity judging by the results of the evaluation form and the testimonials given by the participants.
”This webinar was very useful. Before this I didn’t even know that people like you are actually trying to solve problems like this one, the involvement of young people into agriculture and the development of rural spaces. The most useful thing that I have learnt is that with topics like this, there is still hope from the younger generations and I think that I have actually found some inspiration to speak out on what I want to say something, because until now I was too shy and I didn’t think that people really want to hear what someone like me would want to say.”
”On a personal level, I could relate my own education and life with the experiences that one of the speakers talked about. He inspired me to use most of the engineering and problem-solving capabilities to get involved in sustainable agriculture.”
Will I have enough time?
This is the question I asked myself when the team of the agriculture committee of MIJARC Europe proposed the idea of the Grow It Yourself challenge. I would have to buy seeds, potting soil, put it all in pots and make sure that my plants get enough light but not too much, that I water them enough but not too much… I know today that most of us were wondering about these questions.
What we didn’t anticipate was that the date we had set for the start of our campaign (April 1) would be in the middle of the lockdown period.Not knowing how long the quarantine lasted, the anxiety that came with the global pandemic, teleworking days that all looked the same, with no interruptions from taking transport or going for a walk… All this has shaken our relationship to time. Spatial and social inequalities were compounded by temporal inequalities, between those who suddenly had nothing to occupy their days and those who found themselves with even more work, doubled by childcare.
In this context, gardening has emerged almost as a symbol of our questioning of our relationship to time. It is an activity that requires patience as well as a form of slowness. And as I watched my plants germinate, make leaves and then finally the vegetables appear, I became more and more comfortable with the idea that this totally new period we were living through had its advantages in the midst of chaos. For once, I wasn’t coming home from work so exhausted that the only mechanical gesture I was capable of was checking my smartphone.
I read, I watched old movies, I cooked and… I grew life. I hope you’ll forgive me for the possible mawkishness of that statement, but all the same, the quarantine brought me back to basics, and for that I am grateful.
YouthLabs are participatory activities (online / offline format) to involve YOUNG Europeans in the design process of our pan-European campaign strategy.
MIJARC Europe is responsible for organizing, within its network, 3 National Level YouthLabs and 5 International Level YouthLabs.
The first national youth lab of our #GoEAThical project was carried out in online format, in Romania together, with our member organization Asociația Asistență și Programe pentru Dezvoltare Durabilă – Agenda 21.
The activity took place in online format on the 5th of June 2020. It lasted around three hours.
42 young people, were selected among the network of global education schools of APSD-Agenda 21. They worked together with Mr. Daniel Alexandru – head of the Laboratory on Agrometeorology– from the Romania National Institute of Meteorology, and our colleague Florina Potîrniche as facilitator.
Using the SEE-JUDGE-ACT methodology, participants were able to go through different questions such as: What is climate change? // Is Earth’s Climate Changing? // What Is Causing Earth’s Climate to Change? // What Might Happen to Earth’s Climate? // How does it affect the production of food? // Conventional agriculture vs. Organic agriculture?
Later on, after summarizing the discussion and highlighting the interconnection of food production and climate change and the main impacts climate change has on different parts of the world, the participants analysed a case study, which was based on real facts –The impact of the El Niño drought in 2016 on one family in Lesotho–
Through this case, participants were able to see how climate change affects the normal weather and climate patterns. The result was a severe drought that lasted since 2015 until 2016. This led to food supplies constantly decreasing, the price of food increasing and ultimately the poorest population not able to ensure they daily food. This led to poverty, hunger, the urgent need for humanitarian support and massive migration.
All the young participants could reflect on the negative impacts of climate change, and in different groups, they went into the ACT part. Divided in breakout rooms of 4-5 people they went through an exercise to design some elements for the #GoEAThical campaign. The youth participants participants discussed and created different proposals of messages for the campaign, topics for the campaign, as well as different activities to be carried out.
They produced really interesting ideas!
Here you can read some of the comments from the young participants gathered during the evaluation:
“I really liked that I interacted and came up with many different ideas. I learned new things about climate change and what we can do to make it better”
“I liked this lab because I learned a lot of new things. The most useful thing I found out is the connection between climate change and migration”
“Participating in this laboratory helped me to become more aware of why it is important for each of us to have a responsible attitude towards the environment and what are the consequences of reckless long-term actions on the climate and especially food production. Change begins with each of us!”
Change for the better and feel good about it”
The story of how I planted my own food for a social media challenge and started my dream of self-sufficiency
I have dreamt of planting my own food since I was a child, but the city lifestyle kept me from starting any concrete action. I was always wondering how to plant anything inside an appartment, if I would be able to take care of home plants and how it would work if I had to leave the place for a certain amount of time.
Then the Covid-19 crisis happened as long as the lockdown that went with it, and as for everyone, my plans have changed. So as I was certain to be home and to have time, I decided to join the “Grow It Yourself challenge” organized by MIJARC Europe and to plant green bean seeds at home and take care of the plant during the pandemic. I must say that when I saw how people were running from one market to another, buying everything in sight, the idea of self-sufficiency seemed all of a sudden particularly appealing to me. My green beans were a good place to start.
Taking care of beans
The very first thing to do was to make sure there would be enough humidity for the seeds to germ. I found the whole process described in a video onYouTube. When seeds were ready to be cultivated, I did a little digging and tilling. A couple of weeks later the leaves appeared. Some more care was needed. I asked my grandparents who live in the countryside for help and experience sharing. I got to say that observing the whole process of a plant growing everyday is quite amazing.
Enjoying the beans
A couple of days ago the harvest was ready. Of course, it was not much (you can see from the pictures how small my plant was). However, I got to prepare a meal with my own planted green beans and this felt special. I took the easiest way: boiling green beans in hot water, then adding garlic and salad greens to the main dish. The beans have been cleaned and washed, then the boiling process took about 30 minutes. Then I used garlic and salad greens to bring delicious taste.
Here is the main dish ready to be eaten. I personnaly think it looks delicious (and it was). Of course, I cannot cook this meal for a dinner with guests as I do not have enough beans, but it is good for one person.
Through this food planting process, I have learnt a lot. Now I am motivated to cultivate more green beans in the next spring, which will help me to share my food with others. I hope that my own experience will motivate others to plant their food. That’s an amazing feeling when you eat the food cultivated by yourself. I encourage young people to plant their own food and get ready to those amazing feelings. Bon appétit !
What are superfoods?
Super foods generally refer to foods that are particularly rich in nutrients, especially fruits and vegetables. Super foods are therefore often full of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which can have beneficial effects on health. Most super foods are plant-based foods that naturally have high levels of individual micronutrients, enzymes and secondary plant substances.
Why don’t we enjoy them as we should?
Fresh super berries, cereals or leaves are usually rich in valuable ingredients to begin with, but the journey from growing areas in exotic countries to our supermarket is a long one. The products are often harvested too early, sometimes heavily processed to make them edible, or are stored in shipping containers for weeks on end. This raises the question of how much of the advertised benefits actually reaches the consumer and benefits his or her health.
Grow your own superfoods!
Growing one’s own superfoods gives certainty about the ingredients they contain and is also more environmentally friendly by saving a large amount of transport CO2 emissions.
Berries that contain many antioxidants are perfect examples of superfoods. Of course, it is not easy to keep a large raspberry bush on the balcony, but there are smaller plants with just as much benefits! For example, spinach is a natural appetite suppressant, broccoli contains anti-inflammatory substances and pumpkin seeds are good for our magnesium needs.
So… Will you join us in planting your own food?
”Rock, paper, participation” – an annual work plan co-funded by the European Youth Foundation of the Council of Europe and the European Union.
In 2020 MIJARC Europe will focus on seeing-judging-acting on how young people get involved in the dialogue on agricultural policies and on how they take part to sustainable agricultural practices.
Following the successful implementation of the work plan on citizenship and participation in 2019, MIJARC Europe has chosen to go deeper into the topic and build on the great results it has achieved so far, by focusing on increasing youth participation in building a sustainable future for agriculture and for rural communities. Agriculture is a key topic of MIJARC Europe and a strategic area of intervention when it comes to youth participation. Rural development and a prosperous, sustainable future for young people in rural areas are interlinked to agriculture. In 2017 official data revealed that Europe’s farming sector was dominated by an older population, especially in the case of women farmers – data showed that just 4.9% of farmers under 35 were women, compared to 6.4% for men. Even less were engaged in policy dialogue. We need to get young people from rural areas back at the dialogue table, we need to provide them with the skills and insight needed to understand what sustainable agriculture is and to give them a strong, informed and evidence-based voice in agricultural policies.
Listen to 32nd episode of our podcast “How about you(th)” to find out more about what sustainability means for agriculture.
Through this work plan we strive to provide the rural young people in the MIJARC Europe network with the values, attitudes, skills, knowledge and critical understanding required for meaningful participation and effective engagement in decision-making and policy development about sustainable agriculture.
The three phases of the work plan bring young people closer to farmers, sustainable agriculture initiatives and agricultural policies and uses a bottom-up approach. During the local visits/national webinars young people focus on the priorities they feel should be pursued in their community in order to increase young people’s involvement in agriculture, while the seminar and the summer camp teach them to understand and work on agricultural policies and to develop concrete projects at community level to address the priorities identified.
The local visits are planned to take plan between March-May 2020 but following the mobility restrictions imposed by the current global pandemic, the local visits will be organised as webinars.
The seminar and the summer camp are postpone to autumn 2020 with updates to be published at the beginning of August 2020.
The study session ”I, Youth Advocate” was a double study-session co-organised by the International Movement of Agricultural, Rural and Catholic Youth – Europe (MIJARC Europe) and Don Bosco Youth Net (DBYN). It was held between 7th – 10th October 2019 at the European Youth Centre in Budapest (EYCB).
The study session was based on non-formal education methods and used a mixture of the methodologies used by the two host-organisation. The “See-Judge-Act” methodology of MIJARC Europe and the Don Bosco method promoted by DBYN. As MIJARC Europe and DBYN are both faith-based organisation, sessions on spirituality were an important part of the programme.
The study session was structured on two main phases: an e-learning phase and the residential phase of the study session.
Online learning phase
The online learning phase took place between 20th September – 2nd October. It was hosted on the Moodle platform and it included ten days of study and a time investment of 2 hours per module.
The study session lasted only four days therefore the flow was designed around the principle of efficacy, aiming to create the appropriate atmosphere quickly and to build the spirit towards in-depth discussions and concrete actions on the topic of advocacy. 34 participants, 4 trainers and several experts from all over Europe came together to learn and teach about advocacy based on human rights and policies. The study session took place in the European Youth Centre of Budapest, which offered us both financial and content based support. Furthermore as the European Youth Centre stands for “Access to Rights” and “Youth Participation” their policy framework was an ideal basis for the learning programme.
Following the SEE-JUDGE-ACT methodology, the first day gave room for the SEE-phase, introducing participants to the rationale of the study session, the organisations involved and the objectives of the session and connecting the online learning phase with the residential one. Once the participants got into the “advocacy mood” and reached common ground on the key concepts of youth advocacy and youth advocates, a process of mapping local realities and transferring them to the European level was initiated.
The JUDGE-phase was built on two dimensions: (i) tools and instruments and (ii) advocacy skills. On the second day the participants learnt about the 9 steps of the advocacy circle and worked with it on different topics at local, national and European level. After that, there was an information session about the European Youth Forum (YFJ), given by Silja Markkula, board member of the YFJ. The participants learned about the human rights-based approach of the YFJ, about rights holders and duty bearers and also about the difference between policy and politics. A clear example that was given was about how the YFJ had a collective complaint/a legal case against Belgium on unpaid internships. This campaign was very successful and it resulted into a ban imposed by the European Parliament on having unpaid internships. The tool and instruments session block also included presentations of policy instruments used at European level by the Council of Europe, the European Union and policy instruments of the two organisations – MIJARC Europe and DBYN.
On the third day, the advocacy skills identified by the participants were pursued through a complex simulation game, set at the heart of the decision-making process of the European Union. It began with an explanation about the Council of the European Union and its president, the European Council and its president and The European Commission. This was needed to understand what the game was all about and to develop a strategy to play it. To play the game, all the participants were given a fictive role and were divided into four groups: the Commission, the European Parliament, the Council (of the European Union) and interest groups. While playing the simulation game, the participants learned a lot about the legislative procedures that are used in the given organisations and also about lobbying, setting up meetings, whom to address and also about listening to the opinions of interest groups and other parties.
During the ACT-phase the focus was on transferring the learning points to organisation level, by means of concrete actions in each of the two organisations: creating advocacy action plans for the three MIJARC Europe Commissions and training new commissioners, updating the Advocacy Handbook and the Policy Paper on Representation of DBYN and training new members of DBYN Pool of Representatives. The ACT phase included a common session on developing ideas for future collaboration between the two organisations and on including the learning results into the advocacy campaign MIJARC Europe and DBYN are running with COMECE. There was also an information session for all the participants about the European Youth Foundation (EYF), its available grants and how to apply for them.
MIJARC Europe and DBYN are both faith-based organisations, therefore spirituality was an important part in programme. Each day started and ended with a reflection session for “good morning” and “good night” in a special “silent room”. In addition to this, community groups were set up every evening to debrief on the main feelings and learning points of the day, to evaluate the gains, losses and changes participants wanted to see and to create a group feeling.
E-learning phase of the study session – “I, YOUTH ADVOCATE”
The first phase of our double study session “I, Youth Advocate” has just been launched. This is an e-learning phase, open to the participants on the Moodle platform.
The study session is organised by MIJARC EUROPE and DON BOSCO YOUTH NETWORK in cooperation with the Youth Department of the Council of Europe – European Youth Centre Budapest.
The e-learning phase covers two learning modules and aims to give a short introduction to the topic of advocacy.
The first module is designed to get participants familiar with the platform, get to know each other and the team of facilitators, learn about the Council of Europe, DBYN and MIJARC Europe and start making connections between their local realities, their roles within their organisations and the study session.
The second module gives a closer look into the TOPIC of advocacy and aims to set a really good and COMMON BASE for the study session itself.
The residential phase of the study session takes place between 7-10 October 2019 and it is hosted by the European Youth Center in Budapest.
The e-learning phase will be open initially only to registered participants but it will be made publicly available to all those interested in the topic.