Young people around the world are using their energy and creativity to build a brighter future for the planet. From farm-to-school networks to agriculturally focused cartoons, youth have created extremely innovative projects in sustainable agriculture that deserve recognition. Here are 25 individuals making agriculture both intellectually and economically stimulating for youth around the world:
1. Will Allen is the founder of Growing Power, Inc, based in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Mr. Allen began Growing Power in 1993 to train urban farmers and to encourage community food systems. His organization has been on the forefront of the aquaponics movement, a farming technique mixing aquaculture and soil-less agriculture.
2. BCFN YES! is holding a competition for the best student idea focusing on “Food and Sustainability: How to reduce our impact on the environment, while securing health and access to food for all.” New entries closed on September 5, but public voting for semi-finalists began on October 1. Vote to help us choose the next Youth Making Agriculture Cool! The top 10 semi-finalists will present at the 4th International Forum on Food and Nutrition.
3. The Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension at the Cape Coast University in Ghana is attempting to improve agricultural extension services throughout the country. The program chooses extensionists already working with farmers from all over Ghana, the majority of whom would not otherwise have the resources to attend college. The extension workers learn how to communicate and collaborate with farmers to determine the best solutions for each community. Listen to Nourishing the Planet’s interview with Professor Festus Annor-Frempong to learn more about how Cape Coast University is improving Ghanaian agriculture.
4. Earth University, in Costa Rica, offers four-year bachelor degrees in agricultural sciences and natural resources management. The University focuses on international students from Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa, and Asia. Nearly one quarter of the University’s alumni go on to become entrepreneurs. Whole Foods, which has a long-running relationship with the school, distributes several Earth University products, allowing students’ ideas to influence the supply process.
5. Diana Fan won the 21st International Children’s Painting Competition on the Environment in 2012. The event, organized by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), encouraged children to depict “Green Communities.” Diana’s painting, above, won her US$2,000 and a free trip to next year’s International Children’s Conference on the Environment. Finding a way to gain children’s interest in the environment and agriculture, such as the Painting Competition, is integral to sustainability (Painting by Diana Fan).
6. Food Corps places volunteers in high-obesity, limited-resource communities to encourage healthy diets and gardening among children. By teaching kids what healthy food is and how it is produced, children can grow up making informed decisions about their diets. Volunteers serve for one year and are eligible for a $15,000 living allowance.
7 and 8. Amie Frisch and Mark Anthony Medeiros co-founded Veggielution, a two-acre urban community farm, after graduating from San Jose University in California. The farm offers local food and a chance for the community to gain hands-on farming experience through volunteering. The group also provides part-time summer jobs to high school students through the “Dig It” program.
9. Jonathan Glencross spearheaded McGill University’s Sustainability Projects Fund (SPF) along with the McGill Food Systems Project (MFSP) in 2009. SPF has helped sponsor several projects throughout the University. MFSP has also worked with the dining halls at McGill University to buy food supplies from local sources.
10. Ellen Gustafson co-founded the FEED Projects in 2007 and launched the 30 Project in 2010. FEED sells a popular brand of handbags, donating a portion of each sale to the United Nations World Food Program to fund school lunches. The 30 Project brings together key organizations and activists in agricultural development to work together to transform our agricultural system over the next 30 years. Gustafson also provided an interview in Eating Planet: Nutrition Today—A Challenge for Mankind and for the Planet, a new book by the Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition.
11. Sarah Elizabeth Ippel started the Academy for Global Citizenship. In 2005, when Sarah was 23, she proposed the environmentally friendly charter school to the Chicago Board of Education. By 2007 she received approval. The charter school provides a holistic approach for students to learn global stewardship: from running off renewable energy, to offering all-organic meals and a student garden. In 2010, Sarah received Chicago Magazine’s Green Award.
12. Rowen Jin is a project manager for World Water Relief, a non-profit organization focusing on WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene) in Hispaniola. Having recently received her Bachelors degrees in Biology and English, Rowen began working for World Water Relief in Haiti this year. Rowen first visited Haiti in 2011 as a disaster relief volunteer. World Water Relief focuses on helping individual communities where tangible improvements can be achieved. Projects range from school hand-washing to improved sanitation stations.
13. Paul Peter Kades is an actor for ShujaazFM, a Kenyan comic focusing on agricultural innovations. Paul is the voice of the main character, Boyie, and the host of ShujaazFM. Shujaaz means ‘heroes’ in Sheng, emphasizing the importance of the comics’ agricultural lessons. One issue explains the importance of vaccinating chickens to protect them from Newcastle Disease. With roughly 12 million readers each month, Paul’s program helps teach sustainable agricultural practices in a fun and interesting way.
14. Edward Mukiibi founded the Uganda-based Developing Innovations in School Cultivation (DISC) in 2006. The non-profit helps Ugandan primary schools grow fresh, clean produce. The first program of its kind in Uganda, Edward intends to make agriculture fun for children. This year, Reuters AlertNet named Edward among the “top 10 food trailblazers.”
15. Sithembile Ndema is a program manager for Food and Natural Resource Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) in Southern Africa. Sithembile manages FANRPAN’s WARM (Women Accessing Realigned Markets) project, which uses theater to empower women farmers in southern Malawi and Mozambique. The production facilitates community discussions about the issues addressed in each performance. Sithembile was also a contributing author to State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet.
16. Andrea Northup founded the Washington, D.C. Farm to School Network. The organization promotes sourcing local and fresh foods in D.C. schools. Andrea helped promote the legislation to incentivize the use of fresh food in schools. This year, the National Resources Defense Council named her the Young Food Leader of the Growing Green Awards.
17. Molly Rockamann founded the farm EarthDance in Ferguson, Missouri in 2008, at the age of 26. EarthDance offers an innovative Organic Farming Apprenticeship program, allowing urban dwellers to connect with the agricultural process. There will be 28 farm apprentices this year alone. The farm even held a benefit concert this summer, entitled “Farms Rock!” Molly received the Natural Resources Defense Council’s 2011 Growing Green Award for Young Food Leader.
18. Danielle Sewell was a Peace Corps Volunteer working with the Farmers of the Future project in Western Africa. Farmers of the Future—an International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics’ (ICRISAT) project—teaches children agriculture skills through both traditional classroom lessons and hands-on experience. Danielle served as an agricultural worker for the project and conducted a survey analyzing the programs results. The Farmers of the Future project distributed four trees to each student (including a “Sahelian Apple” tree and a mulberry tree). Those students with the best-cared-for trees received prizes. Danielle’s experience demonstrates the wide-array of programs through which young people can make agriculture cool.
19. Tristram Stuart is a writer and food activist. He is the author of Waste: Uncovering the Global Food Scandal and The Bloodless Revolution, he founded Feeding the 5000, and he wrote Chapter 9 of World Watch’s State of the World 2011. Tristram exposes the vast waste of food around the world: roughly one-third of food produced is lost or wasted annually. He explains how we can drastically reduce our waste, and our impact on the environment, by buying less food, keeping an eye on expiration dates, and voting with each food purchase to discourage business waste. Feeding the 5000 is an annual event that feed 5000 people on perfectly healthy food that would otherwise have been thrown out. Our food choices have a major environmental impact.
20. Shawn Sweeney leads Youth Outreach and Engagement for Jane Goodall’s Roots and Shoots. Roots and Shoots connects thousands of young environmental activists around the world, helping members with service projects and campaigns. Shawn strives to connect these young activists through digital networking and to engage them with social media.
21. Aurelia Weintz is the Program Coordinator in Egypt for Slow Food’s “A Thousand Gardens in Africa.” The goal of the project at large is to create 1,000 school gardens in 25 African countries. Nearly 800 communities have already been involved, including four in Egypt. Aurelia has a background in environmental education, drawing her to this program. Her projects target ordinary people, proving the urban dwellers can participate in food production.
22. Nicole Wires is the Food System Change Coordinator at Collective Roots, a non-profit in East Palo Alto, California. Collective Roots teaches local students in gardening and encourages decentralized urban farming. Nicole began working with Collective Roots as an intern before moving into her current role. She works with this low-income district of Palo Alto to promote sustainable food systems through communal labor and decentralized farming.
23. In 2007, the World Cocoa Foundation began Empowering Cocoa Households with Opportunities and Education Solution (ECHOES). Its programs provide education to youth in cocoa communities. ECHOES currently offers educational opportunities throughout 79 communities in Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana. Educational facilities include vocational agriculture training, functional literacy training, and family support scholarships. Such programs encourage youth to remain in their agricultural communities.
24. Ramon Zepeda is the Youth Organizer for the U.S.-based Student Action for Farmworkers (SAF). He began working with SAF in 2005 through the Fields Internship Program. Ramon has since helped organize several youth events supporting the farmworkers’ rights.
25. Alex Zizinga is the founder and coordinator of The Community Livelihood Project, a BOLD Food Fellow, and a Natural Resource Scientist. As a BOLD Fellow, Alex received training in food security and participated in an U.S.-African exchange program. The Community Livelihood Project works with farmers in Nangabo, Uganda to provide training and to incorporate indigenous plants into their crops, leading to year-round harvests and surplus yields. This program helps struggling families overcome seemingly insurmountable agricultural barriers.
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