If you are between 18 and 25 years old, are an active “AgVocate”, have thought a lot about global food security and think you have a kick-a** well, a great idea about how to feed a hungry world, then you should apply to become a delegate at the 2019 Youth Ag-Summit in Brasília, Brazil.
Presented by Bayer, the Youth Ag-Summit is a biennial event where young people from around the world come together to help solve a real and urgent problem: How do we feed a hungry planet? And according to alumni, it’s an experience not to be missed. Two Canadians who attended the 2017 Summit in Brussels, Belgium, use words such as “inspirational” and “life-changing” when speaking about the five-day, intensive conference.
“There’s a baseline of passion and that passion resonates throughout the week-long event,” says Brandon Hebor, a Toronto native who found himself making connections left, right and centre throughout his time at the 2017 Summit.
“The Summit was an outstanding experience that diversified my perspective of global agricultural opportunities,” he says. “Not only did the experience provide me the opportunity to hear and really connect with so many different views and lifestyles in agriculture, it provided me the chance to make friends, connect with other youth who share the same passion about not necessarily ag, but food.”
Although Hebor was interested in agriculture prior to the Summit, it certainly cemented his career path along with generating new excitement and ideas for his business back home. Ripple Farms is an urban ag business in Toronto, ON, designed to reconnect city dwellers to agriculture through hands-on educational events. Hebor’s business also works to tackle food insecurity through the production of sustainable, local food.
Hebor said he felt inspired by other young people at the Summit who were so passionate and involved in ag. “I fed off the energy of what everyone was bringing (to the table),” he said. This energy helped all the delegates look with a critical lens as to how they were going to tackle the problem of food security. “If we are going to change the world, it has to fit into the world.”
At the Brussels conference, 10 groups of 10 delegates developed workable solutions to key problems in today’s agriculture industry. Hebor’s group worked feverishly to create Seeds of Change, a global NGO designed to engage youth by activating young agriculture champions to enter classrooms and present the story of local agriculture in that country. At the same time, Seeds connects its champions together to allow for idea sharing in hopes of achieving greater success with kids.
“Young people create interest by motivating youth,” says Hebor. “Youth then find someone in that field, look for an industry professional, then live a day in his or her life to see if ag is a career they want to pursue.”
Hebor’s group impressed the judges, finishing as runner-up and receiving the equivalent of C$7,500 for their efforts. The top prize went to fellow Canadian, Cassandra Hayward, who, along with her peers, created a gender equality solution in the face of global agriculture and food security. They call it Agrikua; kua means “grow” in Swahili.
The conference-winning pitch, earning the equivalent of C$15,000, was designed to educate young women in agriculture by providing free online information related to local agricultural practices. The project is now being piloted in Kenya with local Egerton University and 4-H Kenya.
Currently, Agrikua is conducting field research with the help of 30 female student volunteers to determine where information gaps begin. Once problem areas are identified, Agrikua will develop its platform to minimize and overcome said gaps, aid young women in their educational paths and help empower them, and other women, to enter the agriculture field.
Hayward and her group reconvened in Rome, Italy, from October 15-19 to present their idea to the UN Council on Global Food Security, creating exposure for Agrikua and hopefully securing new grants for their non-profit.
Hayward, who is from Halifax, says she found a home at the Summit and forged friendships that are sure to stand the test of time. “I still talk to everybody in that group everyday,” she says.
The global perspective was perhaps the biggest highlight for Hayward, who heard from voices beyond North America and learned about life and issues in other countries. “I went to the conference, met so many incredible people and found I was able to connect everything I like into one thing,” she says, adding that the experience was empowering. “My whole life has kind of shifted, it’s been pretty awesome.”
The upcoming 2019 Summit will see some changes to its format. Delegates will now work on individual projects rather than be put into teams. This is in response to feedback from the 2017 Summit, which showed that, once team members returned to their own countries, project implementation became a lot more challenging. Hebor believes that the updated format will foster the development of new, fresh ideas and greater entrepreneurship.
Will you be one of the 100 delegates to go to the 2019 Summit and help change the world? You better be, says Hayward. “If you have any interest in food security or agricultural production in any capacity this is the place to go to meet all the people you’ve ever wanted to meet. Take the time to apply because you never know what’s going to happen. If you have that spark, they’ll be able to tell on the application.”