Youth Ag-Summit: The Power of Starting a Movement

How do we feed a hungry planet, faced with ever-fewer resources, a growing global population and a rapidly ageing agricultural workforce? How will the next generation of farmers cope with the challenge of producing more with less? How do we get the brightest minds engaged in agriculture in the first place?

There’s no denying that farming faces a challenging future, which is why it was refreshing to see 100 energetic, passionate young agvocates came together at the Youth Ag-Summit in Brussels this October to find sustainable solutions to the most pressing issues in agriculture. Drawn from all corners of the globe, their backgrounds ranged from land and livestock farmers, to entrepreneurs reinventing agriculture through vertical farming or aquaponics, to profiles as diverse as ag policymaking, rural finance, and even entomophagy (or a passion for edible insects).

What did they have in common? A commitment to having an impact on food insecurity, not just in their own communities but in the world as a whole.

Sustainability, innovation and leadership were the watchwords of the week, as the young delegates heard from a host of experts on how their own actions will spearhead global efforts to make agriculture work for the coming generations. In the words of Diego Moscoso, YAS alumnus and founder of Mundo Croak, “Dare to do things differently. This is not only about cultivating food; this is about cultivating people.”

It was a message which resonated throughout the week. People have the power to make a difference, and in communities the world over, we can see examples of how individual ideas are changing the world. Just look at MIT Media Lab’s Caleb Harper, who encouraged delegates to seek to answer their own questions about ‘What if?’ – a tactic which led him from being a high school failure to developing the world’s first food computer at MIT. Or Hugh Evans, who electrified the room with his story of building a global anti-poverty movement from the ground up to win the support of world leaders. Whether they were gaining an insight into the heart of EU policymaking at the European Parliament, or seeing innovative solutions in action at the Hof ten Bosch Bayer ForwardFarm in the Belgian countryside, delegates were continually reminded that they will be the decision-makers of tomorrow. And those efforts started directly in Brussels, where delegates were tasked to work on their own ‘Thrive for Change’ projects, spending hours developing, prototyping and testing sustainable solutions to tackling food insecurity.

The result? Ten distinctly innovative projects, all of which could make a concrete difference in reaching Zero Hunger and meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals, whether that’s through tackling unsustainable consumer behaviours, supporting older farmers in adapting to new technologies, or bridging the gender equality gap in the agricultural sector. And these plans will soon be put into action, with the top three projects seeing their ideas implemented with the help of Bayer funding.

In third place came “Imperfect Picks”, with a cartoon campaign to tackle food waste by promoting “ugly” fruit and veg to children. Winning €3,000 to develop their project, they aim to enable a broader cultural shift towards accepting food that appears blemished but is still of good quality.

Second place went to “Seeds of Change”, who will use their €5,000 prize to fund a grassroots project connecting young agricultural champions with school audiences, in order to bridge the disconnect between people who consume, and people who produce food.

Finally, taking home the grand prize of €10,000 to tackle gender inequality in the agricultural sector came “AGRIKUA” (“kua” being Swahili for “grow”). They plan to create an online professional platform for young Kenyan women involved in agriculture, connecting them to female mentors and partners as well as providing information on funding opportunities and work placements. Besides their funding, AGRIKUA’s members will receive training to make their project a reality, and will be invited back to Europe to present their project to a relevant stakeholder platform.

And not only did delegates contribute to building a sustainable food system through their project ideas; each and every delegate also committed to doing ‘Three Little Things’ in their everyday lives to impact on food security on their return home.

In a world often filled with pessimism over what the future holds, the Youth Ag-Summit showed that when young people are brought together and empowered to collaborate on pressing issues, innovative ideas can fly and positive solutions can come forward. But for the UN goals to be reached, everyone needs to do their part.

With the future of food security at stake, every individual has the power to start a movement, and a responsibility to act: starting from individual, everyday changes, to grassroots outreach in their communities, right up to building a global movement.

How will you commit to addressing food insecurity?

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