Centre Director, Elske van de Fliert, presented the opening keynote address at this year's annual meeting of the Global Forum for Rural Advisory Services (GFRAS), in Ingham, Queensland, on the 9th of September.

The Forum, which is now in its eighth year, hosted over 80 participants from 40 countries to discuss the theme of ‘rural advisory services and empowered youth for balanced transformation in rural and urban communities’ from 9-12 September. The GFRAS annual meeting was held in conjunction with the International Conference of the Australasia-Pacific Extension Network (APEN), held from 13-15 August 2017 in Townsville.

The goals of the GFRAS annual meeting were to identify and discuss roles, challenges and opportunities for youth to be meaningful actors in rural development; to identify and discuss the roles and relationships between the Rural Advisory Services (RAS) and youth; and to identify and discuss changes in policies.  

Elske used her deep knowledge of the rural development field to inform her keynote and present the participants with statistics and narratives about youth migration in rural and urban communities, policies and interventions for youth in rural and urban settings, and the role of RAS in empowering youth to pursue agriculture. She argued for more multi-faceted, context specific and opportunity focused policies and interventions.

Conference attendee and speaker, Mahesh Chander, who implements a youth mentoring program in India, engaged with Elske's speech on his organisation’s website and reflected on her arguments.

"It was quite thought provoking," he said, “as it highlighted the need for creating opportunities in rural areas so that the youth are not forced to migrate."

Elske's concluding statement was that we need to make agriculture cool again in order to trigger interest from young people to remain in or come back to rural areas. The same encouragement of innovation and entrepreneurship, the same embracing of new technology that is so common in urban areas, needs to be seen in rural ones. She knows this from personal experience 

As part of the Centre's rural development project in Mongolia, technological innovation was used to encourage better livestock management. A tablet-based so called Digital Herder Service Centre was developed and piloted, offering nomadic herders with a wealth of information in various formats, while encouraging group-based learning and exchange. The evaluation of the pilot showed that it did exactly what Elske suggested was necessary in her keynote address at the GFRAS – it made agriculture "cool" again.

The keynote address, as well as other plenary sessions at the GFRAS meeting, was smartly captured by a graphic recorder, Filippo Buzzini, on a 3 m-long mural.

In a separate panel presentation, Elske shared her experiences from Timor Leste and introduced how storytelling could be used to engage rural youth in analysing their options in both urban and rural areas, and creating a vision for their futures. Project experiences with participatory video in Timor Leste, which had involved two previous Master students doing their CSC Practicum, were shared and the potential and limitations of the method was debated with the panel participations. 

Elske ended her time in North Queensland at the Australasia-Pacific Extension Network (APEN) conference, where she presented some of her other activities in Timor Leste, involving the establishment and facilitation of farmer business groups. Through these group rural families work with researchers and service providers and become actively engaged in defining the direction and pathway of change towards profitable, sustainable cattle management systems while enhancing their capacity to become independent entrepreneurs.

The GFRAS and the APEN conferences gave us six days of educational and engaging content, with eye-opening thought provoking panels and presentations from speakers with experience all across the globe. Elske was proud to be a part of the event, and hopes to attend again in future year. 

On this site

Go to top