March 22, 2018 | By Chris Policinski

Guest Commentary - The Innovation of Youth: The Key to Global Food Security

Editor's Note: As part of our new blog series, The Next Generation, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs is inviting a diverse group of experts to explore topics related to youth employement and agriculture in advance of the 2018 Global Food Security Symposium.  Join the discussion using #GlobalAg, and tune in to the symposium live stream today, March 22.

By Chris Policinski, president and CEO, Land O'Lakes, Inc. 

Young people between the ages of 10 and 24 are nearly a quarter of the world’s population today. In developing countries, however, this youth population can be much higher - 50 percent or more.

This global rise in young people – the youth bubble – presents both a problem and an opportunity. The problem? These young people need access to safe, nutritious food and they need to be ready and able to find productive work. The clear opportunity is to engage this generation to help grow, produce and distribute more food, in increasingly productive and sustainable ways. Their ingenuity and innovations can provide much-needed solutions to global food security.

So how can we help encourage and inspire today’s youth to consider joining the cause of feeding the world? We can provide the resources, tools and insights that prove agriculture is not only fulfilling work, but that it’s the greatest growth industry of our generation, offering both innovation and opportunity.

As a nearly 100-year-old farmer-owned cooperative, we at Land O’Lakes take our mission of feeding human progress seriously. Our farm-to-fork perspective gives us a unique view of not only the food and ag industry, but of the talent that is required to feed our growing world.

In the US, we recently opened the WinField United Innovation Center in River Falls, Wisconsin, which incubates new solutions and technologies for domestic farmers. Our partnership with Microsoft continuously looks at new ways technology can be used to feed the world. And we're equipping students of all backgrounds to become more engaged with agriculture, nutrition and technology through our partnership with GENYOUth.

One aspect of Land O’Lakes to take particular note of is our work with the nonprofit, Land O’Lakes International Development. Through this partnership, we leverage our world-view and expertise to assist economically emerging communities across the globe and support innovative thinking as a means to solving the issue of global hunger. This innovation is transforming the future of farming here and abroad.

Take the story of a young man in Kenya named Victor Kipkorir. Victor started as an electronics engineer, but early in his career, he and his wife, Nicolette realized they wanted to farm tomatoes. His first season, their crop was ravaged by the Tuta absoluta moth. So, Victor the engineer, went online looking for a solution.

His search led to Kenya Biologics, Ltd., which provides farmers green, safe and cost-effective crop protection products. Kenya Biologics was among three companies whose proof-of-concept innovations won seed funding and technical assistance through the Feed the Future Kenya Innovation Engine (KIE). KIE was a five-year program, funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by Land O’Lakes International Development.

Victor was one of 10 farmers to attend the initial training on the Tutrack innovation from Kenya Biologics, Ltd. in Kericho County. His next crop of tomatoes reached its full yield potential. This meant more income for Victor and his family and more food for his community.

By the end of the KIE project, 202,364 farmers and over 1,400 enterprises had used KIE-supported innovation products to improve their farming practices.

The Entrepreneur

Victor’s story shows the diversity of talent that we need in our industry and the importance of continuous training and learning – especially among younger populations. Victor, even as a young farmer, now teaches best farming practices to other Kenyan farmers and had the opportunity to show his farm to Land O’Lakes Global Food Challenge students, college sophomores from the U.S., bridging knowledge between U.S. youth and African youth.

“Both Victor and farmers [we met] in Kansas have so much passion for what they do, whether it’s for their animals or the food they’re growing or for the community,” says Katie Enzenauer, Global Food Challenge Emerging Leader. “It’s not going to be one solution to feeding the world. Every area in every country and every farm is going to need something different.”

We've all heard the statistic: by 2050, our global population will approach almost 10 billion people. The key to solving our food security issues is to work together, learn from each other and find ways to continuously innovate.

Through development work and bringing insights and innovation to agriculture, we can ensure that countries don’t just survive, they become self-sufficient and economically stable. They become U.S. trading partners and they join the development community – as donors.

As Victor says: “Everyone in the world has to eat three meals a day. That means people have to farm.”

That means we don’t just have to farm, we need to farm in more ambitious, insightful and innovative ways, and we need to start today.

 

About

The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Blogroll

1,000 Days Blog, 1,000 Days

Africa Can End Poverty, World Bank

Agrilinks Blog

Bread Blog, Bread for the World

Can We Feed the World Blog, Agriculture for Impact

Concern Blogs, Concern Worldwide

Institute Insights, Bread for the World Institute

End Poverty in South Asia, World Bank

Global Development Blog, Center for Global Development

The Global Food Banking Network

Harvest 2050, Global Harvest Initiative

The Hunger and Undernutrition Blog, Humanitas Global Development

International Food Policy Research Institute News, IFPRI

International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center Blog, CIMMYT

ONE Blog, ONE Campaign

One Acre Fund Blog, One Acre Fund

Overseas Development Institute Blog, Overseas Development Institute

Oxfam America Blog, Oxfam America

Preventing Postharvest Loss, ADM Institute

Sense & Sustainability Blog, Sense & Sustainability

WFP USA Blog, World Food Program USA

Archive

Big Ideas and Emerging Innovations

Highlighting approaches, technologies, and ideas that have the potential to radically advance sustainable and nutritious food security globally.


Secretary Kerry Highlights Chicago Council Report

On Wednesday, June 18, during his remarks at the World Food Prize Ceremony announcing the 2014 World Food Prize Laureate Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram, Secretary of State John Kerry highlighted a recent Council report in his discussion of the threats of climate change on global food security.


Roger Thurow - The Lessons of Aboke

Philosophical statements and encouraging aphorisms, painted in white letters on green pieces of sheet metal, hang on the trees that ring the central courtyard: “Trees make our environment beautiful”; “Be proud of your school and environment”; “Learning to know is my dream and pride.”


Commentary - 2 Million Will Go Hungry If Congress Has Its Way

In the coming weeks, Senators on the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee will have a choice to make: Give a $75 million subsidy to the maritime shipping industry, or ensure that several million people in impoverished and war-torn countries have food to eat.


Photo of the Week

Brigit Soita of Chwele, Kenya, with her newly germinated millet.



Photo of the Week

Diogene Habiyakare of Kavumu, Rwanda, hangs his maize harvest to dry in a storage space near his home.





Live Blog Post - Every Farmer Wants What I Have

A recap of the "Managing Risks Associated with Volatile Weather, Changing Climates, and Resource Scarcity" panel at our fifth Global Food Security Symposium 2014 in Washington, DC.



Expert Commentary by Trey Hill

As a large grain producer, living in the mid Atlantic, I am able to see agriculture and food production from a unique perspective.



Live Blog Post - Climate-Smart Food Security

At the Chicago Council’s Global Food Security Symposium today in Washington, DC, a panel on “Climate-Smart Food Security” addressed the role of family farmers in mitigating the effects of climate change including: climate-smart approaches already being used by smallholder farmers, opportunities to preserve natural resources, and the need for a “brown revolution.”