The Gymnasium is a capacity building programme aimed at training young farmers to make them become future agricultural leaders. It aims at enhancing their capacity by exposing them to training modules on topics related to the global agricultural agenda. Young farmers are trained by international experts and leaders who work in different policy areas and can participate in global events related to agriculture as the training sessions are organised back-to-back such events. This allows them to exchange best practices and views, bring back the knowledge and disseminate it in their communities, bridging the gap between what happens at global level and what reaches rural areas.
It is based on a collaboration between farmers and private sector as WFO implements it with Bayer and it features the participation of experts from research organisations, international organisations, CSOs among others, contributing to SDG17. The young farmers meet twice per year during international conferences related to agriculture, to gain exposure to global negotiations and meet all the involved stakeholders. It has an impact also on other SDGs including 5 and 8. It makes young farmers grow personally and professionally, build a network with international actors and among themselves to share experiences and practices to be replicated in different countries, as well as increase the chances to be successful in their career as leaders of farmers organisations or advisors for rural issues.
It is an effective model of multi-stakeholder engagement for implementing SDG4. It is based on a collaboration between actors from different sectors thus being a very good example of action to implement SDG17. Also, being a capacity building program aimed at strengthening personal and working skills of young farmers, who are entrepreneurs and future farmers’ leaders, it has a huge potential impact on the overall achievement of the 2030 Agenda, especially SDG2, because by strengthening young farmers, it potentially strengthens their farmers’ organisations and their rural communities, thus contributing to Zero Hunger.
Young farmers are selected via a transparent and democratic call for expression of interest open by WFO to its entire membership. Candidates are selected among those who meet the established requirements, first and foremost being a farmer. Each edition lasts for approximately 30 months and young farmers meet at least twice per year back-to-back international conferences related to agriculture. Also, they attend training modules from international experts on different topics, as well as a training on soft skills and leadership by professional life coaches. At the end of the 30 months, they need to submit a presentation on a topic they can choose among those presented during the training or however related to agricultural issues and present it to the WFO Board in an official graduation session to receive the Gymnasium final diploma. WFO and Bayer management meet regularly throughout the implementation period so to monitor the programme as its implementation is financially supported by Bayer through an agreement signed with WFO.
Based on the experience of the first edition (Oct 2017-Feb 2020) we can say that the Gymnasium program truly benefits its participants from different points of view. They could get out of their “comfort zone” travelling across the world, meeting new people from different cultures and background, getting to know international experts and leaders, participating in official international meetings and delivering official speeches on behalf of the farmers’ constituency (i.e. HLPF, COPs). Major challenges were linked to travelling due to visa issues, language gaps for participants coming from non-English speaking countries being the program run in English only. However, the group built a very strong network and participants were always updated and involved in the activities even though not physically present during the sessions. Regarding the language challenges, we noted that in many cases being part of the program also helped young farmers improving their communication skills.
One enabling factor is for sure the good collaboration between WFO and Bayer, which share a common vision on the importance of investing in young farmers to contribute to improving the sustainability and boosting the potential of the agricultural sector. Also, starting from 2020 young farmers are also trained on soft skills and leadership by professional life coaches. A constraint has been the outbreak of the Covid19 pandemic, which delayed the beginning of the second edition and it is impeding face to face meetings, so the training sessions are being held online.
Being a capacity building programme, the Gymnasium is an initiative that can be replicated by other organisations, at different levels, in different countries, tailored to the needs of the beneficiaries and according to the aim of the initiative itself. For example, capacity building program for leaders of farmers’ organisation in general, not focusing on youth only, so to give them the chance to be engaged in international discussions, gain knowledge on different topics that they can then share with their members.
The first edition of the Gymnasium, 2017-2020, ended in February 2020. The second edition was supposed to kick off in June 2020 but everything was delayed by the outbreak of the pandemic. Also, the pandemic excluded the possibility of traveling and in person meetings, hence the kick-off of the Gymnasium 2020-2022 edition as well as the first training sessions were held online. Connection issues affect participation of young farmers, particularly those from developing Countries for whom WFO put in place a mechanism for refunding data bundle so to facilitate their participation. The pandemic raised awareness of the key role of farmers in society and investing in improving young farmers’ skills is at the basis of a strengthened farming sector and society.
SDGS & Targets
Ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all
Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all
Deliverables & Timeline
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The Gymnasium Programme has a global coverage, being open to young farmers from national farmers’ organisations members of the World Farmers’ Organisation (WFO) and implemented at the global level https://www.wfo-oma.org/the-gymnasium/