Youth Ag Summit 2019: Bringing people together to help feed the world.

In the natural world, diversity ensures strength and resilience. Weeds use genetic diversity from obligate outcrossing, large variability in inherited genes or mutation to vigorously adapt to selection pressures (herbicides, new environments or tough years). Established ecosystems mitigate the impact of external forces by leveraging the balance between species that thrive under different conditions. Healthy soil is dependent on a diversity of soil microorganisms and a balance of nutrients to prevent outbreaks of disease.

Agriculture itself is a global ecosystem of environment, economics, society and community, so it is only logical that adaptation to a changing climate and increasing production to feed 10 billion by 2050, is achieved through a diversity of people, experiences and approaches. When the day to day of agriculture in any country around the world becomes focused on internal problems or opportunities, the truly global nature of the industry and any potential solutions become obscured.

At the same time, on the ground solutions and production must be locally driven and address real problems faced by those farmers or groups involved in the supply chain. There is no sense in managing soil diseases in Western Australia the same as you would manage them in the Cerrado in Brazil – the science, culture and climate just don’t equate. And so agriculture relishes this global yet local approach, where people from around the world must and do collaborate to find solutions relevant on a local basis.

“The youth in Nigeria are not waiting for their government – they are taking action now”.

Iyaneselou Aliu, 2019 YAS Delegate from Nigeria

The recent Youth Ag Summit (YAS) in Brasilia, Brazil brought together 100 young people from 45 countries to drive global thinking about locally relevant solutions. It was not the country labels that defined us but instead a shared passion for developing the long-term sustainability of agriculture to provide food security for everyone. The Summit took place over three days with themes of innovation, leadership and sustainability generating talking points and providing experiential wisdom. Sustainability in a changing world was a standout idea of the Summit.

Working out a sustainable path to feed 10 billion people by 2050 requires the input from people right around the world, working on so many different projects.

“Can we feed the world without destroying one more tree?

Yes we can.” Rodrigo Santos, Head of Bayer CropScience Latam.

Fun fact: Brazilian farmers must retain between 20 and 80% of vegetation on farm, based on proximity to the Amazon Rainforest and the size of river or water storage on farm. This is covered by the Forest Code.

Analysis of vegetation laws

While the keynotes were certainly highlights, the strength of YAS was the inspiring array of experiences in agriculture with people from student, business, research, policy and advocacy backgrounds right across the world. During a bus ride to dinner a delegate from Mexico was discussing the role of non-government organisations in forming policy at the UN, having started her own. In countries like Australia, it is rare to have such direct conversations with dozens of people from dozens of different nationalities, each making such meaningful contributions. Other delegates from Canada, Indonesia and Nigeria had already formed their own companies driving beneficial change in agriculture, to a problem they weren’t waiting for others to solve.

While driving for innovation and change, it’s critical to keep the end users (farmers and communities in this case) front of mind. Day 2 of the Summit saw all 100 delegates head out to one of SLC Agricola’s farms in the Cerrado region. The 16,000 ha farm produced soybean, corn and cotton with high water and nutrient use efficiency. Cover crops were the norm, rolled and directly sown into as a way of improving soil carbon content and trapping moisture. Experiencing alternative methods of farming beyond your own horizons was well received by all accounts.

In an increasingly polarised world, the refreshing humanity of a shared desire for impactful and beneficial change was seriously life-changing. The experience of stepping outside your defined role as an ‘Australian’, ‘Italian’ or ‘Ecuadorean’ (or any nationality) could only be described as unparalleled in reflective impact. It makes you reconsider your assumed values and approaches, what is important and the global responsibility you carry in everything you do. It’s not that the responsibility is defined in laws or international treaties, but because just a short distance away, over a sea or some land there is a person with the same concerns about their future, their family and how best to navigate a path through. Improving agriculture is a fantastic method for improving society as a whole, communities, environment and leading a path to a future of which we are proud.

These are the stories of a just a handful of YAS delegates, told through their eyes about the interdisciplinary, global nature of agriculture and why their passion continues. The YAS group for 2019 doesn’t end with the conclusion of the Summit. The 100 strong group joins 300 others from the 2013, 2015 and 2017 cohorts driving change in every corner of the globe.

Mildred Jimenez Mexico | biotechnology engineering student | interested in Science communication & Evidence-based policy making

My involvement in the field of agriculture has revolved around promoting the participation of young scientists in science communication initiatives for evidence-based policy making, especially for international regulations on biotechnology. My interest in this area started about three years ago when I had the opportunity to attend the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) as a youth delegate of the Public Research and Regulation Initiative. The Convention also holds the Cartagena Protocol; which regulates biotechnology and biosecurity in regard to biodiversity; and the Nagoya Protocol, on access to Genetic Resources and equitable benefit-sharing from their utilization. During my participation there, I witnessed how technology can easily get locked up because of the misinformation that surrounds it and that there was a lack of involvement from young scientists in the decision-making process. After that, my colleagues and I founded Youth Biotech, an NGO that promotes youth participation in science communication and evidence-based policy making. We have continued participating in the UN Convention on Biological Diversity  and will continue working on giving young people a voice in the matter, either in big decision-making scenarios as the CBD or locally; because food security is a challenge that needs to be addressed in many different ways. In my case, as a biotechnology engineering student, passionate for science, I have decided that my way of contributing to the achievement of #ZeroHunger is to make sure that the technology that can safely serve this purpose and make people’s life better can ultimately be implemented.

Participating at YAS was an amazing experience. During the event I had the opportunity to interact, brainstorm and make friends with inspiring people who are working on projects that are really making a big impact in their communities; meeting them reinvigorated my passion for this fight and reminded me of why I started agvocating in the first place.

“El primer componente esencial de la justicia social es una alimentación adecuada para toda la humanidad”. – Normal Borlaug

The whole YAS crew!

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