Agriculture will be in ‘good hands’

Some of us yearning for retirement wonder who will be taking over the reins of leadership of ag organizations, ag academia, the government

Some of us yearning for retirement wonder who will be taking over the reins of leadership of ag organizations, ag academia, the government ag bureaucracy and the industry in general.

Last week at a conference in Calgary, all doubts were put to rest at an outstanding display of youthful exuberance, enthusiasm and commitment to agriculture on a global scale. The conference entitled “Feeding a Hungry World — Youth Ag Summit” was sponsored by Bayer CropScience and was held to celebrate the 100th anniversary of 4-H in Canada and the 150th anniversary of the global Bayer company.

It’s been years in the planning and resulted in 118 youth delegates, along with mentors, and company reps from 26 countries arriving in Calgary for the weeklong event. The delegates attended seminars, workshops, went on tours and listened to presentations by prominent ag and food industry speakers.

The thrust of the event was for delegates to come up with concepts that might in some way alleviate world hunger. That would be a tall order for anyone, considering it’s a problem that has menaced humanity since the beginning of time.

However, the young delegates were up to the task and in one daylong session came up with eight concepts that might not solve the problem completely, but would make life a lot better for at-risk groups.

One involved direct action in helping hungry women in third-world countries, being they comprise 60 per cent of hungry people in the world. The health of those hungry women in turn affects the health of their children.

Some other concepts were more indirect, involving advocacy and networking to set up ways and means to take direct action through either existing agencies or motivating oblivious governments.

Old cynical attitudes (yes, guilty) would dismiss many of the ideas as unrealistic, considering the political, economic, cultural and religious hurdles that play such a large part in perpetuating hunger around the world.

It’s no secret that modern commercial agriculture can provide enough food for the entire world population. This is especially true if modern agronomic practices, including GM crops, were used in areas of the world that need them the most like Africa and Asia. The biggest hurdle is always despotic and corrupt governments, and nowadays duplicitous environmental groups who try to thwart the use of modern crop production methods in developing countries.

The delegates, some of whom were from developing countries, were aware of the confounding realities that would frustrate the implementation of their ideas.

What is promising is that a conference like this would seem to open possibilities that, yes, might be achievable, if only some effort were made to start the process — however small. What the ideas did do is plant some seeds in these young minds that might grow whilst they advance into leadership roles in their various countries.

If that is all this conference achieved, then it would be a roaring success, and the event should be carried out regularly to reinforce the concepts and to encourage progress.

Another real benefit of the conference is the networking connections that are built up. Unlike the past, where further connecting was sporadic, today with social media, these young delegates will create blogs, websites and a host of other real-time connections that will keep the conversation alive.

As these young folks grow into careers in the ag industry, academia and government bureaucracies, social-media networking will be a constant way to track the progress of some of the original concepts.

It’s also a clear avenue for those in western countries to support the efforts of those in developing countries, as both parties rise to positions of influence in their respective countries.

The concern is that this conference was done to celebrate specific events and will never happen again.

The reality is that these exercises are very costly and require extensive logistical support. That makes it all the more important for other global agriculture related companies to get involved and formally support this type of event every few years.

To their insightful credit, Bayer CropScience got the ball rolling.

Now the others need to step up to the plate and join in. This type of youthful excitement over critical food issues needs to be nurtured now — it will pay off down the road for the entire human race.

— Ahead of the Heard

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