The global population has been growing exponentially in the last few decades as compared to earlier times in human history, given that 42% of the population is under the age of 25. With a rapidly growing population, global food security is threatened and it is expected that without major agricultural enhancement, there will not be enough food for future generations. By 2050, crop production must grow by 60-100% from 2005 levels in order to avoid this fate.
Youth hold the future of the global food system in their hands. There are many young people working to combat the global food security crisis in a way that puts sights on the future, not the present. Through scientific innovations, advocacy and more, these young men and women not only give hope for a world with less hunger but also vehemently encourage others to join them. Some examples of their work follow.
Kiranjit Kaur: Kisan Mazdoor Khudkushi Peedit Parivar Committee
Kiranjit Kaur of India, a 23-year-old political science postgraduate student from Punjab state, is a pioneer in the fight against farmer suicide. Losing her own father to suicide spurred her to focus on community engagement to address the statistics of over 16,000 farmer suicides in India each year. With 39% of the employed population working in agriculture, success is important for the health and well-being of farming families.
Punjab was an agricultural haven during the Green Revolution, but since the 1990s, with increased land productivity and the cost of agriculture, loans have become a norm and financial stress has increased. Kaur motivates the women in her community to participate in a social campaign that focuses on mental health, mutual support and activism. As for now, she spends most of her time working with the group but plans to do a Ph.D. on farmer suicide in the future.
Craig Piggott: Halter
A New Zealand native, Craig Piggott dedicates his talents to agricultural innovations in herding and tracking cows. His invention involves a GPS-enabled and solar-powered collar for cows, Halter, which enables farmers to herd the animals remotely; using sounds and vibrations to both direct the cows and alert the farmers of any issues. Piggott developed the app through three years of testing, and a few dairy farmers in Waikato are eager to implement the technology within their own herds. With more testing and exposure, he hopes to extend the program nationally to aid New Zealand’s agricultural field.
This innovative app will save time and resources by decreasing the farmer’s workload and using grazing grass more efficiently, thanks to the virtual fences. Piggott’s company was founded in 2016 when he was 22-years-old and has grown to a current team of more than 40 scientists, engineers and other professionals.
Sophie Healy-Thow: Scaling Up Nutrition
Sophie Healy-Thow, a 20-year-old Irish college student, is a prominent European name in the rural development advocacy and global food security spaces. She and her team’s natural bacteria project won the BT Young Scientist Exhibition in 2013, and she was also named one of Time magazine’s Most Influential Teens. Healy-Thow also speaks out about calling leaders to action, and hopes for a time when young people are listened to and engaged instead of just getting a pat on the head.
Today she speaks at the U.N. conventions and TED talks and is part of a team developing a Kenyan project called Agrikua, which focuses on encouraging women’s involvement in agriculture, providing education and other support. After university, she plans to work for a charitable organization that helps women, inspired by her current involvement in ActionAid U.K.
Jefferson Kang’acha: The Eden Horticultural Club
Food security is not a new issue in 19-year-old Jefferson Kang’acha’s life in Kenya, and he works to grow tomatoes in order to protect the staple ingredient of many Kenyan households. Due to declining yields, the price of tomatoes has spiked to high prices that most Kenyan families cannot afford. In response, Kang’acha developed the hydroponic production of tomatoes, which grows the plants with no soil and in a controlled climate.
By founding the Eden Horticultural Club, he is able to provide tomatoes to his community, including schools and hospitals in the area. In the first few months alone, he was able to distribute 2.5 tons of tomatoes to more than 100 households. He hopes to one day use this process to assist global food security throughout Africa and beyond.
The Future of Global Food Security
The future of the agriculture industry is hard to predict, but the U.N. encourages youth participation and innovation to solve the problem. Goal 2 of the U.N.’s Sustainable Development Goals (2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development) seeks to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture.” Vast problems require bold solutions, and these four young people are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to innovators doing their part to protect global food security.
– Savannah Gardner