How can we bridge the world through horticulture?

Ayşenur Uzun represented Turkey at the 2017 Youth Ag Summit, where she met Jozef Van Assche from the International Society for Horticultural Science during the Summit’s industry marketplace. From this connection, she met Professor Yuksel Tuzel, chairperson of the International Horticulture Congress, and was invited to attend the 2018 Congress in Istanbul one year on. Here, she shares her impressions of the event.


It’s widely known that Istanbul is the only city in the world which bridges two continents, providing a melting pot between old and new, east and west, modern and traditional. But can horticulture bond the continents and the world? Under this theme, the 30th International Horticulture Congress (IHC2018) was held in Istanbul, Turkey in August. This intensive week of horticulture was supported with 39 scientific symposia, 2 colloquia, many workshops and technical tours. The congress was focused on research as well as creating new opportunities for collaboration between researchers, universities and the agricultural sector in the hope of creating a sustainable food system in years to come. 
 

As a plant enthusiast and third year student of pharmaceutical sciences, agriculture isn’t so far removed from my own profession. Thanks to my family’s farming roots, I have had a strong bond with agriculture since my childhood and have always known that agriculture was something that I wanted to get involved in professionally. Earning a spot at last year’s Youth Ag Summit in Brussels after writing an essay about sustainable agriculture was a dream come true. But I couldn't yet put a check mark next to agriculture on my to do list – because I have my “3 Little Things” to tick off first! During the Youth Ag Summit, we as ‘agvocates’ made promises to move forward food security through our own set of small individual actions to encourage change. My 3 Little Things were to stay in touch with agvocates, to share my YAS experience in Turkey and to get more involved in agriculture in my home country in an attempt to improve food security globally.

I was inspired to do something to send people to bed without rumbling stomachs when I learned this appalling fact: “800 million go to sleep hungry every day while approximately 1.4 billion tons of food is wasted per day.” While the world has committed to reaching Zero Hunger by 2030, statistics shows that over 20 million people are at risk of famine, according to the 2017 Global Hunger Index. Hunger strikes the most vulnerable parts of a community and discriminates amongst people based on their existing inequalities. Take Nigeria: according to IFPRI’s Global Hunger Index, in northeast Nigeria, 4.5 million people are experiencing or are at risk of famine while the rest of the country is relatively able to access food. Social inequality can make a difference in nutrition, even between two citizens of the same country.
 

Food security is one of the most important issues we face. Our food system is vulnerable to the damages caused by climate change, as well as ineffective agricultural techniques by farmers who lack professional training. Yet food security is a shared responsibility. We can't take significant steps to support a sustainable food system until we have well-informed consumers as well as educated farmers. We all eat food: we must raise awareness and spread the "conscious consumer" trend among the general population.
 

The IHC2018 carried my “3 Little Things” one step further with its scientific atmosphere, passionate speakers and distinguished participants. The event was a marvelous colloquium offering a platform for agribusiness, universities and researchers who are willing to use the “bond of horticulture” to cooperate and help to ensure a sustainable food system in the world. As the Turkish wisdom says: “What does one hand have? Two hands make a sound.”

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