Making sense of perspectives for youth in the Andean agri-business

Making sense of perspectives for youth in the Andean agri-business

in News
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Tom Van den Steen
Tom Van den Steen
Programme Advisor Planning, Learning & Accountability

The VECO offices in the Andes region and Central America share a specific approach in their value chain work: promoting new opportunities for youth in the agri-business. Involving the new generation in the coffee and cocoa business - which stretches from production over processing to commercialisation - is paramount to keeping these agricultural sectors vibrant and to assure high quality coffee and cocoa reaches the world market.

In order to better understand the particularities of youth engagement in these value chains, both VECO offices have joined the Fragments of Impact initiative. The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in Europe and Central Asia and Cognitive Edge launched this initiative to foster understanding of fast-changing, highly-specific local contexts -in which most development organisations operate- through the use of SenseMaker®.

VECO teamed up with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Zambia to develop a common signification framework to grasp attitudes, perspectives and emergent patterns on youth involvement in the agri-business sector. Following the design of this framework, a first data collection took place in Peru, Ecuador and Nicaragua in December 2015. The resulting dataset was then analysed at a joint UNDP-ILO-VECO workshop in Istanbul in January 2016, under the guidance of SenseMaker® experts from Narrate/Cognitive Edge. They also exchanged useful techniques for a shared analysis of the emerging data with stakeholders and key staff.

To maximise the potential of the VECO teams of Andino and Mesoamérica, I shared analysis techniques for the SenseMaker dataset during a one-week workshop in Quito, Ecuador. Part of this training was a workshop with stakeholders of VECO Andino, on February 4, 2016. This event’s objective was to make “human” sense of the emergent data patterns. 25 participants - ranging from Ecuador’s ministries of agriculture and citizen participation, chocolate companies, local government officers in charge of promoting economic development, non-governmental organisations supporting inclusive agricultural value chains and technical education to youth farmer leaders and farmer organisation staff - dove into the data provided by over 200 rural youngsters and adult farmers, to identify key issues for youth in the agribusiness.

The workshop’s methodology allowed the participants to explore interactively the data and learn from each other’s perspectives. Several patterns challenged common assumptions on the perspectives of youth in the agri-business sector, thereby contributing to a better understanding of this rapidly changing context. At the end, the participants came up with a dozen of “safe-to-fail” action proposals conform the complex nature of the intervention areas and responding to the issues that emerged from the dataset.

This was a first exercise, mainly oriented towards strengthening local capacities to analyse and use the SenseMaker datasets as part of VECO’s work. After the conclusion of the data-collection in March 2016, a more fully-fledged workshop will take place to cover the final dataset and its analysis will feed programme interventions to promote youth inclusion in the agri-business sector in the Andes region and in Central America.