Youth innovators invited to give feedback on European Masters Program

By Diane Guerrier, Jhannel Tomlinson and Dinesh Panday

Youth in Landscapes workshop – Day 2, Picture credit: Youth In Landscapes initiative

Climate Change has emerged as one of the biggest challenges facing our world today. With the success of agriculture being highly dependent on favorable climatic conditions, food security will be adversely affected as the impacts of climate variability become more evident.

As a result, efforts are being made to design educational program that will equip professionals with the requisite skills needed to develop effective agricultural policies within a changing climate. One such program is the Agriculture, Climate Change, Transitions as joint European Masters of Science (MSc in ACT), which endeavours to train young professionals to be able to deal with issues hindering agricultural development. The ACT MSc offers a curriculum taught in five different European universities: Boku Viena, Copenhagen, Catania, Pablo de Olivade/ Seville, and Montpellier SupAgro.

During the 2015 Youth in Landscapes Initiative, which is a program to unite young innovators (aged 18 – 35) to develop real-world solutions to land use challenges in partnership with organisations working on the ground, Didier Pillot from SupAgro delivered a presentation about MSc in ACT program. We were participating in the education challenge and Didier asked us to gather feedback from rest of the youth innovators. As there were 50 young professionals from 23 countries participating, Didier was keen to get a range of feedback from the diverse background and experiences in our group.

In order to collect the recommendations from all the young innovators, we used some guiding questions and asked our friends to just think about what could make this masters program even better and appropriate to the different profiles and backgrounds existing around the world. This process made it possible for these young professionals to provide their individual opinions and critiques and further helped to understand what they deem as being essential components for an effective Master program.

Some of the main recommendations we collected were around the language, the location, the fees and the content itself. For instance, some people commented on the fact that Portuguese was a missing language in the curriculum unlike French, English and Spanish. Yet, Portuguese represents an important language in several continents like Africa, Europe and South America.

We also asked questions about potential scholarships for suitable students who couldn’t afford the fees requested. Similarly, the program needs to have internship opportunities and engagement with the private sector, finance sectors and farmers organizations to get a clear the picture of the realities of farming on the ground.

In terms of the content, we recommended that it was important to have a course on the role of gender in agriculture and climate change. While the program indicates that the research component of the MSc would be done in a developing country, we made recommendations that project may be most useful if based in the student’s own country.

Further recommendations spoke for the need for global North-South sharing of Climate Smart adaptation techniques and that the masters should be framed as an opportunity for this generation to solve the climate change problem.

This opportunity was interesting to realize how our personal and professional experience can help us to properly analyze what should be taught in a Masters program dedicated to agriculture and climate change.

As young professionals ourselves, it was pleasant to see that our experience enabled us to professionally comment on the content, vision and organization of the Masters program. It gave us confidence in what we know and what we are – two things that, as a young professional, you often question.

It further helped us to understand what young professionals across different regions considered as being important components for the curriculum. This showcases that interdisciplinary collaborations are often needed to provide a holistic curriculum.

Special Thanks to Didier, Myriam, Michelle and the rest of the team for not only affording us this opportunity but also for realizing the importance of such a program and how input from young professionals will strengthen the impact the Masters will have in the future.