Four young adults from the UK and Ireland have been chosen to participate in the third global Youth Agricultural Summit, which will take place in Brussels, Belgium from 9-13 October, 2017.
Luca Steel, a second year biology student from the University of Bath, Emily Davis, studying agriculture at the University of Nottingham, Sophie Healy-Thow, a final year student at second level school from Kinsale, County Cork, and Luke Blomfield, an accountant from Surrey won their places by writing a 1500 word essay on the topic of food security.
This year’s Summit, organised by Bayer Crop Science in partnership with Belgian youth organisations Groene King and Federation des Jeunes Agriculteurs, is themed “Feeding a Hungry Planet” and aims to address the UN Sustainability Goals of ending hunger, achieving food security and promoting sustainable agriculture.
In total, 100 young people aged between 18 and 25 from 49 countries will share their diverse experiences and work together to generate innovative, sustainable and actionable solutions to global food security challenges. Across five days delegates will undertake group projects and participate in tours, as well as learning from guest speakers. Their mission is to come up with concrete new ideas which can drive agricultural progress across the globe and be put into practice at home.
“The agricultural industry can contribute strongly to achieving some of the key UN Sustainable Development Goals, but this also requires the active involvement of the next generation,” says Liam Condon, member of the Board of Management of Bayer, and head of the Crop Science Division.
“The Youth Ag-Summit aims to give young leaders the opportunity to foster their ideas, share best practices and explore the role of modern agriculture in feeding a hungry planet.”
The Summit is a much-needed opportunity for young people to discuss food security issues, share ideas and begin to implement change, says Miss Steel, who despite not coming from a farming background became interested in how food production method could be made more efficient during her A-level geography course.
“It’s really important to keep young people involved in food security discussions, so change can be continued into the long term. The more informed our future generations of policy-makers are the better.”
Miss Davis says agriculture is an industry faced with challenges and responsibilities like few others. “It’s not just a question of yield any more – we need to have an integrated approach and consider sustainable production that is secure on environmental, political and economic levels if we want to feed the world.”
Her experience this year of studying in France as part of the Erasmus scheme encouraged her to apply for the Youth Ag-Summit to discuss with others the many opportunities that challenge presents. “I hope to come away with new ideas to explore and become part of a community implementing these ideas along with other farmers in the future.”
Mr Blomfield, who studied Accounting and Finance at the University of Durham, recognises that some potential ideas that could improve food security would require people to make considerable changes to their everyday lives, and as such are met with resistance.
In his essay he made a passionate case for insects to become an everyday part of diets around the world, explaining that their impact on malnutrition, land use and climate change would be extremely positive, while recognising the barriers, particularly in western cultures, of eating insects.
“I had already begun working on setting up a business around eating insects, so the Summit is perfectly in line with my aims. I am sure I will learn a lot from the other delegates and hope to form business friendships with some.”
The fourth delegate is Irish student Sophie Healy-Thow, who plans to study International Development & Food Policy at university. She wants to be part of the generation that creates a sustainable future for the world.
A Youth Ambassador for the ONE campaign and a previous Grand Prize winner at the Google Science Fair, Miss Healy-Thow is already very active in communicating around food security issues. Currently she is developing a mobile app with a friend to help children learn about food security.
“We have the capacity to feed a hungry planet, but we’re not doing it yet,” she says. “Young people have open minds and believe change can happen. I can’t think of any better people to shape what we do in the future, and I am very excited to be selected for the Youth Ag-Summit.”