Michigan leaders at the Global Youth Institute

Michigan 4-H brings strong leaders to the World Food Prize Global Youth Institute; hear their thoughts on the experience.

Michigan leaders at the Global Youth Institute

In 1986, Nobel Laureate Dr. Norman Borlaug founded the World Food Prize. This prize annually recognizes an individual’s great efforts and success in “improving the quality, quantity, and availability of food in the world”. In 1994, the champions of the World Food Prize started the Global Youth Institute (GYI). Every year, in conjunction with the World Food Prize, GYI brings young people from all over the world to Des Moines, Iowa to educate and inspire what they hope is the next generation of global food security leaders. Collectively over the years 1,500 youth from 39 states/territories and 29 countries have participated in the Global Youth Institute.

The youth who participate in this international program are selected by their specific “home state” process and criteria. After being selected, GYI participants are required to research a specific developing country’s (of their choice) state of food security. They select a factor impacting global food security and critically examine how that factor is influenced by their country’s culture, social and economic structure, health, etc. They then make suggestions for improving global food security. This year’s theme was “The Greatest Challenge in Human History: Can We Sustainably Feed the 9 Billion People on our Planet by the Year 2050?”

Michigan is allotted two youth seats at this prestigious youth development program. The GYI MI youth representatives for 2014 were Sachin Kumar of Kalamazoo County, and Loren King of St. Joseph County. Michigan’s selection process for its GYI seats is unique in that it is completely facilitated by Michigan’s 4-H program. Rather than partnering solely with public educators, Michigan State University Extension educators work with a variety of community groups to identify 4-H’ers already interested in food security and access, community development, and global studies. Both young men this year were selected as outstanding representatives through a session at the 2014 4-H Exploration Days program.

Not only do the Global Youth Institute participants conduct research, write an academic paper, and make recommendations, but they also get to attend the World Food Prize. The World Food Prize youth delegates have the opportunity to hear world leaders in production, policy, and research discuss their views on today’s state of global food security and get direct feedback from those world leaders and other youth on the papers they’ve written. Loren, one of Michigan’s youth representatives, reflected on this saying, “One thing that really struck me about the conference [World Food Prize Global Youth Institute] was that all the speakers and guest were readily accessible at one point or another. Normally when I attend a conference I can’t speak to the speakers, but the World Food Prize was different.”

After being selected, Loren and Sachin were guided by MSU Extension educators and volunteers in constructing their paper and preparing for their on-site experience at the World Food Prize. The Michigan youth representatives developed informed and creative approaches to tackling some of the factors creating food insecurity in their research countries, considering options from genetic crossbreeding for more resilient poultry populations, to utilizing online platforms and social networks to develop linkages between local and urban producers and regional consumers.

Sachin specifically joined 4-H for the chance to participate in GYI. A former Iowan, he knew about the program prior to moving to Michigan. After participating in GYI and returning to MI he said, “This unique opportunity impacted my life in many ways and hopefully I am able to share this experience with those who share the same interest as we do…. Everyone I met and the passion they demonstrated towards resolving a certain issue that they believed in strongly was phenomenal and I hope to do the same one day. I would certainly like to take my interest forward and do some hands on research in a certain country.”

The World Food Prize Global Youth Institute is a youth development program that shows young leaders that they can have an impact. It connects them with global experts, explorers, and advocates, helping them build relationships and grow into globally conscious citizens themselves. Loren King stated the impact this way…“The World Food Prize and Global Youth Institute really got me in contact with like minded youth who want to change the future of agriculture. The experience really provides you with a chance to see the bigger picture but even more than that, it shows you what you can do to help.”

Stay tuned to the Global Youth Institute: Michigan page for updates on GYI and local related programming.

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