Youth engaged in world food security issues

A Manitoba high school student outlines what he learned from attending the recent World Food Prize Global Youth Institute Conference in Des Moines

Attending the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute Conference in Des Moines, Iowa, October 15-18, 2014 was an amazing opportunity. Through loads of very informative and thought-provoking information, the intense three days were an eye-opener to me about the world food production situation.

This was the first time Canadian youth had participated in the event.

This opportunity was presented to me by my teacher, Ms. Tait, through Agriculture in the Classroom. I filled out an application and wrote a 300-word essay on why I was qualified to attend the conference, which included my agricultural background and volunteer activities.

I was then interviewed and chosen to go. My next task was to write a 2,500-word research paper from topics suggested by the Global Youth Institute Organization. My topic was East Coast Fever affecting cattle in Tanzania, Africa. ECF is a tick-borne disease ravaging Tanzania and surrounding countries. It is killing more cattle daily.

East Coast Fever is crippling the Tanzanian government, taking away money from a government that greatly needs it. Added stress is placed on farmers by not allowing them to supply their families with proper nutrition, water and schooling. When it holds back the people, it holds back the country and that is why I believe we need to promote the vaccination of cattle in Tanzania.

The Global Youth Institute mission statement is to create a community of international learners committed to investigating and seeking solutions to problems of global consequences. This organization along with The World Food Prize and The Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium hosted the conference I attended. The following paragraphs will outline what I learned and experienced at the conference.

Education

Agriculture education is crucial for helping Africa feed itself. Soils, depleted in nutrients, produce lower yields each crop cycle. Solutions are also needed in water management — more is wasted than used. One of these involves drip irrigation, where pipes under the ground bring water to the roots of the plant. Food waste is also a concern that results from a lack of infrastructure, for example, roads and refrigeration vehicles. Produce either spoils from lack of cooling or rough roads damage crops.

One example we saw was that of a healthy smallholder farm in Africa that consisted of a home quarter, crop quarter, livestock quarter and a greenhouse/fruit quarter, all primarily run by women.

The president of Sierra Leone, by way of video chat, updated us on the Ebola crisis and the importance of young people in agriculture. Most smallholder farms are run by elderly women, as AIDS has depleted the male population.

A highlight was to witness Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram receive his World Food Prize Award for his development of over 400 varieties of wheat. What an amazing contribution to agriculture worldwide.

We packed meals for African countries and learned that American aid is different from Canada’s. They send food, whereas we give money so that food can be bought from the local farmers, which helps their economy. Another interesting fact, learned during the Oxfam Hungry Banquet, was that the world’s middle class differs from ours, in that Canadians’ income is much higher.

In conclusion I would say that, we as Canadians need to be more proactive in addressing the concerns of the food crisis in developing countries. Events such as these are a fantastic step in opening the dialogue for increased awareness and opportunities for action. As a result of my involvement, I hope to spread the word that ALL need to be involved to feed nine billon people by 2050.

On a personal note I would like to thank the following people: Kim Tait for the nomination, helping with my paper and attending the conference with me, Karen Hill through Agriculture in the Classroom and also attending, Leanne Sprung, Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, for all the arrangements, Clayton Robins, Manitoba 4-H Council, for reviewing my essay and my mom for all the editing of my work.

This opportunity was provided by Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, Agriculture in the Classroom – MB and Manitoba Canola Growers Association and I hope that Manitoba high school students will continue to participate in this incredible experience.

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