Can one week improve the world?

Participating in a global forum with 100 young leaders in Brussels was a dream come true for Paulo Beraldo from Brazil – and it didn’t end there.

I still remember my first thought when I saw the challenge posed by the Youth Ag-Summit (YAS) on my computer screen: write an essay, in English, answering the question of how to feed a hungry planet. If successful, I’d have the chance to represent my country in Belgium.

“This is too hard for me,” I thought. There was no way I’d stand a chance.

Yet, one day later, that fear and lack of confidence had turned into excitement. A journalist by training, but with a farming background, I decided to take a chance and write my essay. What did I have to lose? In it, I talked about crop livestock forestry integrated systems (ILPF, in Portuguese). ILPF systems allow for a more sustainable food production, and each year they’re increasing in Brazil, now reaching more than 10 million hectares of land. They allow farmers to produce beef, milk, wood, grains and pastures in the same area all year long – improving productivity, increasing farmers’ incomes and protecting the environment. I argued that, in the face of growing global demand for food, this could be a powerful way to increase sustainable production across the globe.

When I found out I was one of the five Brazilian delegates, my willingness to gain a solid understanding of agriculture grew daily. And when I arrived in Belgium, I met one hundred other young people, full of ideas, dreams and, above all, a lot of expertise to learn and share.

On the first day, we divided ourselves into groups and, throughout the week, we developed ten projects to try to solve problems related to food safety. The goal was to find concrete ways of achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals – reducing the effects of climate change, for example, or increasing the finance available to smallholder farmers – and think of actions for sustainable local production. In addition to working on our own projects, we had dozens of lectures with researchers, entrepreneurs and people who, in some way, are making a difference to food insecurity in their regions. All of this comes in a context of undeniable climate change, increasing numbers of young people abandoning agriculture and rising costs for the productive sector.

What did I learn?

The message of the Youth Ag-Summit soon became very clear for me: the challenge of feeding nearly 10 billion people in the next 30 years depends on everyone taking action. We live on a planet in which over 300,000 people are born every day ¬– but by thinking and acting together, we can find ways to feed that planet.

Today, 815 million people wake up without knowing if they will have something to eat that day. If nothing is done in the coming years, these problems will only worsen. The UN estimates indicate that food production will need to grow by up to 60% by 2050. Yet at the same time, there are huge levels of food waste around the world, especially in developed countries. Did you know that about 30% of all food produced is lost?

People don’t realize the scale of the food security challenge ahead. That’s why better education and engagement with the agricultural sector is needed.

One way is to inspire young people to look at agriculture and see opportunities. Agriculture is so much more than being on a farm! In the fields, we need farmers, cattle ranchers, veterinarians, agronomists and people to handle the daily work. But outside of the farm, there is a huge world: lawyers, administrators, professors, consultants, economists, analysts, scientists, researchers, advertisers and even journalists make up the dozens of professions that orbit around agriculture.

At the end of the YAS, we vowed to continue working towards progress on food security by completing three small promises, or ‘Three Little Things.’ Mine are: going to schools to talk about agriculture and inspire youth to work with agriculture; writing more articles on agribusiness and food production, to inform more people; and lastly, to become an ambassador for the Youth Ag-Summit in Brazil and ‘agvocate’ for the opportunities that the rural world has to offer the next generation.

We have the necessary technology to increase food production, and to get it to those who need it most. But there is a lack of actions uniting the sector across borders, across value chains or across the consumer-producer divide. The more we talk about what the field is doing and why it matters, the more we can attract people and improve the image of farmers. Getting to experience the YAS atmosphere, learning and being inspired by solutions that are already working in other countries was an excellent opportunity to bring those ideas back to Brazil and start taking action.

I might not have been sure of my own chances when I first came across the competition, but one year on, I’m so glad that I took the chance to apply!

Can you see yourself at the next Youth Ag-Summit? We’ve swapped the essay for a video application this time round, but the premise remains: we’re looking for people who are passionate about feeding a hungry planet. Applications are open now – click here to find out more.


Comments

14.11.2018 | Okoro Jessica Akudo

Paulo, thank you for sharing your experience at the YAS. I shall do well to contribute my quota on this task of zero tolerance to hunger...starting from my community.

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