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Overcoming the Climate Crisis: Will Our Food Systems Survive?

It is not surprising that the consequences of climate change have today disrupted ecosystems on all continents, leading to growing concern of a latent agricultural crisis in the very near future.

Currently, the volume of greenhouse gases emitted around the world is at the highest levels in history, causing irreversible climate change. This creates a huge challenge for people, especially in vulnerable developing countries, to build resilient food systems amid a climate crisis and extreme weather events.

To address these challenges in Sri Lanka, SLYCAN Trust, a nonprofit think tank working on climate change, sustainable development and related fields, recently compiled a national report on Youth in Food Systems. The report was compiled with consultations in all provinces, providing a platform for the voices of young people in food systems and contributing to the global process of the United Nations Summit on Food Systems.

The national report “Engaging Youth in Sri Lanka’s Food Systems” summarizes and synthesizes the findings of a series of independent dialogues at national and provincial levels conducted by SLYCAN Trust in August and September 2021. The dialogues covered all provinces of the country and received the contribution of 1,101 young people between the ages of 18 and 35.

Roar spoke to some of the youth coordinators involved in the forum to learn how the participation of young people from Sri Lanka can potentially slow climate change and limit its impacts on the agricultural sector.

Is climate change hindering traditional food practices in Sri Lanka?

Nilukshi Cooray, program coordinator for the Western Province Dialogue on Youth Engagement for Climate Action and Resilient Food Systems in Sri Lanka, told Roar that lack of adequate knowledge, deforestation, drought and changes in rainfall threaten the existence of traditional food practices in the country.

Cooray explained that ‘waste’ was an unknown factor in traditional food systems as our ancestors used their land seasonally, which did not involve wasting available resources, but we have now moved away from many practices. traditional.

According to her, sustainable consumption patterns and diets can not only improve human health, but also reduce the negative environmental impacts caused by unsustainable food systems.

A traditional plate of rice and curry in Sri Lanka

Cooray further said that before engaging in the provincial consultations, she was not aware of the main concerns of the existing food system in Kalutara district. She noted that the forum helped her gain a lot of knowledge about the importance of doing your best to create a healthy future for all.

“I started gardening at home on a small scale,” Cooray said, sharing his experience.

Speaking to Roar, Central Province District Coordinator for the Provincial Dialogue on Youth Engagement for Climate Action and Resilient Food Systems in Sri Lanka, Shaheer Ahamed from Matale said the current conditions of climate change have had a significant impact on the food system, compromising its ability to meet the growing demand and nutritional needs of the country. Prior to attending the forum, Ahamed only focused on a few areas which changed once he was made aware of the issues facing the community in different areas.

Ahamed now wants to learn more about the issues that exist within our food systems as well as the communities that are affected by these issues. He is passionate about finding government actors or other key players who can connect with regional farmers to help them overcome their existing farming problems.

Can we build more resilient food systems without the participation of young people?

Young people can play a decisive role in conserving and protecting Sri Lanka from the coming agricultural crisis.

Mayantha Madurasinghe, head of programs and knowledge management at SLYCAN Trust, told Roar that the country’s youth can play a central role in adapting to climate-friendly, ethical and sustainable dietary practices.

“Young people can provide unique solutions and new perspectives on this issue. Young people can also play a vital role in outreach and communication activities, and their abilities with new media and communication tools allow them to be leaders in their communities, which could lead to the building of a system. sustainable and resilient food in the country, ”Madurasinghe explained.

Cooray further said that the growing curiosity, interest and passion of young people is essential to tackle climate change and build resilient food systems.

“As young people have the energy, power and compassion in this regard, their words and actions will motivate all of society. These various youth groups will also promote these ideas through social media to educate the younger generation as well. Encouraged by their interest, these young members will initiate various projects to support this cause and these will have a wider impact on the general public, ”she said.

However, she also said that for youth participation to be successful, they should be more aware and interested in the topic. It is important that they are given opportunities to obtain information and education. Through this, young people can devote their time, energy and efforts to sustainability by building a resilient food system in Sri Lanka.

Image courtesy of dtet.gov.lk

But how can young people get involved?

Steps need to be taken to reduce the main challenges facing the agricultural sector today and improve interest, knowledge, access to necessary resources, support, community engagement, youth participation and awareness.

What measures are these?

Reflecting on workable solutions, Cooray spoke about the importance of outreach programs, field trips for young people, education campaigns for schoolchildren, puzzles, essay contests and posters for people. through social media, nationwide innovative ideas contests, and newspaper articles raising awareness about the issue.

Ahamed further mentioned that it was necessary to go beyond simple discussions to raise these issues directly with farmers in rural and village communities through the use of local languages, with the sole aim of providing them with solutions. practices for overcoming the challenges of climate change.

There is a need to organize more follow-up sessions by providing adequate training at the local level so that representatives can organize their own sessions at district, provincial and institutional levels.

Madurasinghe further stressed that people need to be empowered and empowered to deal with economic and social issues that may arise due to climate change.

“Food systems around the world are sensitive to the impacts of climate change. Changes in weather conditions can negatively impact traditional eating practices, which can lead to food security and nutrition issues, ”he added. “It also affects the income and standard of living of a large number of people engaged in these fields. It is imperative that we are prepared.

As the disastrous effects of climate change continue to affect food security across the country, the engagement of young people is more vital than ever. The upliftment of youth is perhaps the most important factor in our fight to stem the growing agricultural crisis before it takes its toll on Sri Lankans as a whole.