Natalia Cisneros represents the Youth in Landscapes Initiative, a movement connecting tens of thousands of students and young professionals passionate about making a difference in agriculture, forestry and other land use sectors.

The closing plenary featured representatives from the Global Landscapes Forum’s founding and coordinating partners to share and discuss their visions and expectations for the future of the Forum over the next four years.The Forum is undergoing a transformation, from focusing on policy advice to implementing action on the ground and tracking progress toward new climate and development goals. Through scientific input, capacity-building programs, online engagement, thematic symposiums and global events, GLF aspires to introduce one billion people by 2020 to the landscape approach – and connect them in embracing it. The GLF is more than just a series of events: it is a dynamic platform with which diverse stakeholders can collaborate to create a more sustainable world.

Join the movement to reach 1 billion people: #ThinkLandscape


Dinesh is a young Nepali agriculturalist. He’s developed an online mentoring program to build the skills of young Nepalese agricultural professionals. Daphne is a youth mentee. And, together with her mentor Peace, she’s restoring degraded riverbanks in Western Uganda.

Freddy is a young Peruvian forest engineer. At a networking event at the 2014 Global Landscapes Forum he met Robin, a researcher with CIFOR. Together they have helped Peruvian farmers regenerate their plots. Soon their work will be published in a journal.

Last year, 10 young innovators dreamed up an interactive toolkit for integrated catchment management in partnership with Alan Nichol from the International Water Management Institute. They are preparing to pilot the toolkit in Vietnam and Ethiopia next year.

Over 150 youth alumni, each taking their newly-learned skills and landscapes knowledge back to their home countries. They have stayed connected, applying what they learned with us in their work, studies and daily lives as young landscapes practitioners.

This is the Youth in Landscapes Initiative. It’s a partnership between IFSA, the International Forestry Students Association; and YPARD, Young Professionals for Agricultural Development. Together, we represent over 18,000 young people working and studying in agriculture, forestry and agroecology.

Together we unite and empower people aged between 18 and 35 from diverse backgrounds around the world to have a voice.

Every year, we bring some of these bright young people to the Global Landscapes Forum, where we run workshops, a mentoring program, and a youth session. We plug youth into leadership positions throughout the conference. You may have seen some young people facilitating or helping out in sessions today.

We help young people feel supported, heard, valued, seen, and proud to speak for themselves. And we help them find the strength and capacity to take action. We create the space for young participants to actively engage throughout the GLF.

These stories are just some of the real and very tangible examples of our program, and how it reaches far beyond the walls of a conference each year.

These are some of the many ways we are creating a global community of youth, and a community that is working to affect meaningful and positive change across our landscapes and livelihoods.

The Youth in Landscapes Initiative has been a part of the Global Landscapes Forum from the start. Since our first program in Warsaw, we have been helping, developing the international capacity of hundreds of GLF delegates through skill building, networking, mentoring and leadership development.

And, this year, we have pioneered a whole new approach to designing a conference session, where we mobilized our 150 alumni across the world to collaborate virtually – across multiple time-zones and social media platforms and in only three weeks – to design the youth session that many of you may have attended today.

This is the level of engagement and collaboration that we should all aspire to, if we really want to call ourselves a Global Landscapes Forum.

And our program is not just about youth. It’s about bringing people together to collaborate across boundaries, sectors, and generations in order to achieve a sustainable future for our global and local landscapes.

So we’re here bringing key issues that affect not only youth, but the societies that we live in – from rural-urban migration to education and training – to the table.

I’m not going to stand here before you and try and convince you of how important young people are, how we need to engage with, mentor and support youth as emerging landscapes leaders.

I’m not going to go on about how the only way to address inter-generational issues, such as climate change, is by meaningfully involving the generations that will inherit these challenges and experience the impacts they will bring.

Because you know this and I know this, and we’ve had this conversation before.

Our world is changing rapidly in ways that we could never imagine – environmental degradation, political upheaval, and social unrest.

And yet, amidst all of this, it is increasingly the younger demographics who are standing out as a voice for hope and for the future we want to imagine. We need to be on the playing field, not on the sidelines.

And we are well beyond just talking. I stand here today calling all of us to action.

So, the GLF wants to connect one billion people by 2020 to create a meaningful movement. The Youth in Landscapes Initiative must not continue to just be a part of that vision – it must be a core pillar. Because, to be a core pillar, we need to work together on a few key things.

First, to reach a billion people we need to massively boost the initiative’s capacity. Because we operate on a tiny budget, with hundreds and even thousands of hours that we’ve dedicated on volunteer time. It’s an incredible feat to accomplish what we’ve done with a lot of volunteer time, but it’s becoming unsustainable the bigger we grow.

To achieve our shared vision, we need a full time paid global coordinator. We have so many ideas that we’d like to implement, but we just don’t have the resources to work with them. We want to create a toolkit that enables our youth community to take what we’ve learned and adapt it, and apply it, in their own communities around the world.

This is how you affect change at the scale of a billion people.

Also, to ensure this billion-person movement is actually meaningful – if it’s going to be meaningful, it needs to go beyond conference walls and enter the everyday lives of young people and everybody even in this room in general.

So that’s why we’re asking you to commit resources to a 12-month fellowship program that will enable emerging landscapes leaders to receive training and mentoring, and intern at partner organizations, seed fund their ideas, and attend GLF events.

And we need an actual seat at the table. And I think that by we, I also mean everybody in this room. We all need to be considered in future decision making so that it’s made better with our input. If we really want to work together, you have to let us in. And I’m saying again all of the people in this room, so indigenous leaders and gender groups. It’s not just the youth.

You’ve seen what we can do. And from developing our program here in Marrakesh in just three weeks to create a global movement and community of youth in just three years.

I was going to close by saying, imagine what we can do if we work together. But you know what? It’s going to take more than imagination to connect a billion people. It’s going to take much more than just talk to affect real-world change.

So, on behalf of Youth in Landscapes around the world, I stand here and ask you all to join us in taking action.

Somebody once said that a tree is just as strong as the forest that surrounds it. So let’s be that forest – and let’s be that forest together.

Natalia Cisneros – Closing Keynote GLF 2016 Marrakesh

Recent Videos

Related Videos