By Louise Emmanuelle Mabulo, GAIN Regional Impact Coordinator for Asia-Pacific & Friend of Humanity Distinguished Alumni

What if I told you that the young people in your community dictate the flow of each of our lives?

That the combined efforts of all the young people out there could elicit immediate global impact when given a shared common goal?

That young people could eradicate a pressing social issue if we put our minds and combined efforts to it?

That the youth are the key to world change, and youth movements are palpable in every industry to date?

With over 1.8 billion young individuals worldwide, it is without a doubt that young people hold a powerful role in modeling our world today. In the Philippines alone, the youth population comprises a third of the Philippine population. In this respect, the Philippine industries are becoming increasingly reliant on youth-led endeavors to create social impact and solve their most pressing issues.

Two Philippine industries, in particular, are in dire need of youth intervention in order to survive the next decade: Agriculture and Environment.

And this is no understatement.

For one, in the Philippine agricultural field, farming is becoming a dying culture, with the average age of farmers at around 57-60 years old, and with farmlands giving way to rapid urbanization. If this persists, researches forecast a drastic drop in agricultural production in the next 15 years, posing a threat to food security, unless the youth take an intervention.

Contributing to this is rapid urbanization, which are shrinking productive farmlands and forests in favor of industrialization.

Beginning 1993, the Philippines has been losing farmlands at a rate of 2,300 hectares per year. Even more startling is the fact that rainforests are also disappearing, dropping from 70% of rainforest coverage in the 1900s, down to 2% today.

Urbanization, loss of interest in food production, and the lack of awareness to push for sustainable development are slowly destroying not only the ecosystem, but jeopardizing the country’s food security and bringing concerns over the sustainability of the country’s development.

The solution to these problems lies in youth awareness, as well as action and programs spearheaded by the younger generations to set the example and pace for the rest to follow.

The Filipino people have long since held misconceptions about the agriculture industry, poverty and environmental protection. Many people still believe that farming is associated with destitution and that joining the labor workforce in the cities are the only ways to get out of poverty. People still struggle to grasp the concept that the environment will furnish long-term benefits to the society and the idea that there is more benefit to industrialization over the protection of farmlands and forests; that jobs in the city will be more beneficial than spearheading projects and ventures in rural towns.

But the time to end these misconceptions is now and our generation will be the first to dispel them.

In fact, with the greater need to ensure food security, food production is becoming a profitable venture because of the booming population growth. Businesses and enterprises which address the needs to fill in shortages and gaps in the food industry are growing and becoming more profitable because of the growing number of mouths to feed.

Forestry and environmental protection are becoming even more relevant in order to combat climate change and improve soil fertility and water sources and watersheds used for household and irrigation purposes but also for the protection of communities and ecosystems. The steady growth of the economy relies on our natural resources and joint efforts to preserve our natural assets.

There is more opportunity for the entrepreneurial ideas, social awareness, and drive of the younger generations now than ever before. Investment in youth ventures are growing and the spotlight is on us to become the driving forces of our communities. In this age of connectedness through social media and impact-driven ideas, the Philippines is a starting ground for growth and a canvas that the youth of today can drive into a new direction: SUSTAINABILITY.

There is no better example of this than at the Youth Assembly, a place where the youth are at the forefront of the global movement for change. My role as a Regional Impact Coordinator for GAIN Asia-Pacific has given me the opportunity to equip and mobilize promising individuals of the Philippines and neighboring countries to achieve greater heights with the resources, networks, campaigns and opportunities available in the international community.

The Youth Assembly is a rich training field which banishes age-old misconceptions and guides the youth of today in the right direction to jumpstart their careers as earth shakers, youth leaders and community movers.

Armed with our notebooks, ideas, and spurred by our motivation to begin a legacy that outlives us, the fifteen Filipino delegates I had brought to the Youth Assembly have been using the prestigious experience in New York to take these crucial matters into their own hands and work on programs and undertakings that address them and aim to solve them in the near future.

As a result of their experiences at the Youth Assembly, Philippine delegates have been vanguards at resolving these leading issues our country has been facing. Among them are Dominique Lagrimas, 28, who was inspired by the sessions at the Youth Assembly to impact her community. Since she returned, she began working on organizing events to promote environmental conservation, climate change awareness and community cleanups in cooperation with the local government in her community to foster change, awareness and youth participation.

Another inspired delegate, Dorothy Pascual, 18, has used her networks at the Youth Assembly to work on education, contributing to related organizations that promote sustainable urban development and provide support to the impoverished youth in third world countries to become more socially aware.

Similarly, Jairus Ferrer, 29, a farmer and entrepreneur, is dispelling myths about food security and farming, by promoting agri-businesses in his public speaking engagements with youth to prove that agriculture is a necessary, sustainable and profitable opportunity if we are able to fill in the gaps and needs of our booming population and food industry, while ensuring proper farming and production practices.

Meanwhile, Marjorie Restrivera, 25, is working in organizations that support sustainable fishing practices and ensuring that people keep a commitment to sustainably sourced seafood. Furthermore, she’s working on environmental protection and community programs to educate the youth and make certain that children in impoverished communities do not go hungry.

And yet these are only a few of the people making an immeasurable impact on both agriculture and the environment.

We set the scene for a new decade, the last stretch to achieving the 2030 agenda, the decade of restoration, and the decade of youth action. As a result of events like the Youth Assembly, countless young people are out there, armed with knowledge, inspired and driven to act, impact and succeed.