Continuing our collective efforts to influence agricultural policies to achieve sustainable rural development and to assess the role and needs of young people in rural areas, the first National Rural Youth Assembly was held on October 11, 2023. This assembly was part of the Advocacy Platform, the 3rd Albanian Rural Parliament, which took place from October 11-13, 2023 and was organized by the Albanian Rural Development Network (ANRD) in collaboration with the Agricultural University of Tirana (UBT).
More than 100 young people from all over the country participated in this first assembly, which is part of the Rural Youth Hub (RYH) and not only, gives young people the opportunity to have their own space in their assembly “With the youth, for the youth, by the youth themselves” to share their experiences, challenges and opportunities in rural development.
The plenary session was opened by Mrs. Martina Dedaj, President of the Board of the Rural Youth Hub, who emphasized in her speech that “Young people in rural areas are excluded from decision-making processes. There is instability and a sense of exclusion for rural youth, which encourages young people from rural areas to leave the country, risking the abandonment of villages and the rapid aging of the Albanian population.” “Ms. Martina Dedaj concluded her speech by saying that: “Most youth policies ignore rural youth and most rural policies ignore youth”.
The Vice President of Cia – Agricoltori Italiani, Matteo Bartolino, noted in his speech that rural areas are often characterized by a series of challenges and opportunities that must be addressed to promote sustainability and development and improve the quality of life of local communities. Transforming these areas is a complex process that requires a holistic and integrated approach. He listed some key measures that should be taken: 1. development and modernization of infrastructure; 2. access to finance for young farmers; 3. economic diversification; 4. skills development through training; 5. promotion of digital technologies; 6. involvement of local communities in the decision-making process; and all these measures must be in harmony with the environment and ensure 7. environmental sustainability.
In the plenary session, young people shared their real-world experiences. Julvin Marku from Puka described his experience with the new project for growing hazelnuts and his vision of a village based on hazelnuts.
The “Rural You” project was presented in more detail because of its importance for rural youth and the role of support through small grants for young people was highlighted, emphasizing that in reality Albanians need financial support to create and start a new initiative, etc. The winners of the grants from the Rural-You project were presented through presentation videos. Anjeza Zmakaj from Fushë-Arrës presented in a video her passion for beekeeping and her initiative “Beekeeper Smakaj”, Labinot Murrja presented the “Butterfly Camp” and the expansion of the accommodation facilities, which now include wooden cottages thanks to the Rural-You project.
The first National Rural Youth Assembly is an important event that addresses the current and future perspectives of rural youth. The Assembly highlighted the realities facing young people in rural areas. The voice of rural youth was heard in a dedicated space, they all came together and their challenges, needs, dreams and concrete desires were structured to be addressed to the governing bodies.
Recognizing the fundamental role of young people in supporting rural communities, agriculture, and food security, the Assembly focused on several pressing issues: the out-migration of young people from rural areas, which also poses the greatest risk to the sustainability of the sector and the rural living community; improving quality education infrastructure; better health care; and improving other basic services to empower rural youth and facilitate their access to these essential services.
The youth emphasized the need to increase collaboration between government and academia to collect geographic age data for young people living in rural areas and other data to help identify their problems..
The meeting in the session “Challenges, priorities and solutions for rural development” organized the youth in discussion groups and thanks to their opinions in these discussions, it was possible to develop the Rural Youth Hub’s statement for rural development during the three-day training from October 11 to 14 “Rural advocacy”, which was held in parallel with the Third Albanian Rural Parliament.
In the Rural Youth Declaration presented on the closing day of the Third Albanian Rural Parliament, the youth urged the national authorities to change the image of rural youth from a needs-based approach to a rights- based approach and to promote their meaningful participation in decision-making processes on issues that affect them.
They concluded by emphasizing that the Rural Youth Hub (RYH) should be recognized as a network that represents rural youth and actively engages in policy discourse on rural development strategies.
ℹ️ The Rural-You project is financed by the European Union in Albania and implemented by Volontari nel Mondo RTM in cooperation with the Albanian Network for Rural Development – ANRD, ADAD Malore, AgroPuka, Partnership for Development Foundation and Associazione Giovani Imprenditori Agricoli (Cia – Agricoltori Italiani)”.