Juan Pablo Casadiego Guevara could be any young man. He is in the last year of a Business degree in the Universidad de los Andes, he just turned 22, he is the oldest of three brothers, and he likes to dance, cook French cuisine, learn languages, visit his grandparents on the weekends, and do sport: he is a member of his university swimming team. However, he will be the only Uniandino and one of the only Colombians who will travel to Brussels – Belgium to represent the country at the Global Youth Ag-Summit next October.
Through thirty Colombian universities and social networks, Bayer Agricultural Education invited young people between 18-25 to send their innovative proposal that addressed one of this century´s most important challenges: how to feed a hungry planet through sustainable agriculture. Among almost 1200 applications, Juan Diego´s essay entitled Armed conflict, poverty, and hunger: an interrelated phenomena was selected after having gone through a careful selection process that included several interviews in English, which is the official language of the event.
Juan Pablo says that finding out about the invitation was simple: I just read an email that was sent from the Student´s Union and I was really motivated. He said it´s, “not just the prospect of getting to know Brussels, which is the capital of the world, but also thinking of making a contribution to Colombia on such an important topic, especially in a post-conflict context”.
But the task was not easy: it consisted of finding an idea that, as well as being innovative, was embedded in a local problem and would finally make a contribution to the country. He recounts that, “I began to think that peace is necessary to be able to reduce hunger. If there is no peace, there are no sustainable spaces; so, I understood the levels of malnutrition and hunger have a close relationship with the levels of conflict.”
“I found that violence is the Colombian problem that has most affected the countryside”, and from analyzing this topic, Armed conflict, poverty, and hunger: an interrelated phenomena was born. In the essay section of the thesis, in which Casadiego affirms that “the armed conflict created two problems: internal displacement and lack of investment as nobody wants to invest in a population -urban or rural- with this type of conflict. This creates poverty as the people who work in the country go to the cities and increase the levels of poverty: this is the first reason that prevents basic needs, such as food, from being supplied…It is complex although it seems simple”.
It is for this reason that for this young man from Bogotá, “developing spaces for peace to contribute to sustainable agriculture and strengthening the interinstitutional work in the public, private, and third sectors is key to being able to generate social impact; however, it is important to attack the problem at its route cause”.
Juan Pablo recognizes that part of his concern arose when he finished a module on public management, which was one of the Faculty´s required subjects. “This class made me question what role private entities play as it is possible to see the actors involved in the production chains of a company that affect a society. From the private sector point of view, there is a strong social element as the responsibility to solve public problems, such as hunger, are not exclusively the State´s” he claims. He then states that, “I believe that public management from a private angle is something that companies need to rethink today”.
Based on these views, Juan Pablo Casadiego has become one of the 100 exceptional young leaders from 49 countries who will participate in the Global Youth Ag-Summit (YAS) from 9th to 13th October in Brussels, Belgium. The hope is that with their participation the summit will generate a synergy with representatives from countries that are in conflict, observe their problems, and find out the origins of these disputes. It will then be able to see what they can offer that is different and innovative to open spaces for peace as part of the proposal for land restitution, job creation, technification of the countryside, and the analysis of the possibility to return displaced people to their homelands.
He ends with the words, “Colombia is on its way, there is hope”.
The university and Jeffrey Sachs, who is the representative of the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, announced their alliance.