Archive for the ‘Youth’ Category


U.S. Ag Education Groups Make Soil Health a Priority

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By Carol Dreibelbis

In the United States, some agricultural organizations are beginning to recognize the value of training new leaders in sustainable farming practices. In the state of Nebraska, Nebraska Agricultural Education and the Nebraska Future Farmers of America Association (FFA) are in their second year of providing teachers and students with the skills they need to conserve and restore the local landscape, thanks to a three-year, $200,000 grant from the Nebraska Environmental Trust.

Nebraska educators gain skills to take back to their classrooms as part of the Soils Project’s “Excellence in Ag Science Day” 20workshop. (Photo credit: National Cooperative Soil Survey)

With the awareness that the world may need to feed an additional 3 billion mouths by 2050, Nebraska Agricultural Education aims to “prepare students for successful careers and a lifetime of informed choices in the global agriculture, food, and natural resource systems.” The organization provides in-class and experiential instruction to more than 13,000 students in 148 schools each year.

With 93 percent of its land devoted to agriculture, Nebraska is one of the United States’ most productive agricultural areas. In 2012, it ranked first nationally in terms of commercial red meat production, the area of irrigated land harvested, and Great Northern beans production. In 2011, it ranked second in ethanol production capacity, with 24 operating plants having production capacity of 2.2 billion gallons (83,279,059,600 liters). In 2010, total cash receipts from farm marketings were over $17 billion, representing 5.5 percent of the U.S. total. In 2008, it was ranked eighth nationally in certified organic cropland acres (52,551 ha) and eighth in certified organic pasture acres (21,518 ha).

The Nebraska FFA Association supports Nebraska Agricultural Education’s leadership and career development roles, with the understanding that “today’s agriculture education students will be…responsible for ensuring a safe and stable food and fiber supply for the growing world.” The FFA reaches more than 6,500 high school students in Nebraska.

During the 2011–12 grant year, 100 schools in Nebraska received free soil testing kits and professional development training for teachers through the Nebraska Agricultural Education Soils Project. More than 100 FFA educators attended a two-day workshop in June 2011 on soil science, where they received soil guides and participated in field- and lab-based exercises to learn how to use the kits.

The soil quality kits, which include buckets, vests, gram scales, measuring wheels, soil probes, spades, measuring tapes, and other equipment, enable the educators to teach their own students how to assess important soil properties, including moisture, electrical conductivity, temperature, phosphate, nitrate and nitrite, pH, aggregate stability, organic matter, respiration, bulk density, and infiltration. Proper soil management can prevent land degradation (i.e. erosion), which can impact agronomic productivity, the environment, food security, and even quality of life. According to the Secretary General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon, “Global efforts to halt and reverse land degradation are integral to creating the future we want…Sustainable land use is a prerequisite for lifting billions from poverty, enabling food and nutrition security, and safeguarding water supplies. It is a cornerstone of sustainable development.”

The soil science workshop received overwhelmingly positive feedback from participants. “There is so much great information and materials to help me teach soil science. Thank you so much for allowing me to be part of it,” said Amber Endres, an agricultural educator in Hartington, in northeast Nebraska. Beyond the trainings, follow-up sessions provide resources and education to additional teachers.

Ed George, the Soils Project coordinator, views the initiative as a way to boost students’ confidence and engagement both in and out of school. He notes that the Soils Project enables students to recognize the impact that humans have on the environment, to engage with local environmental concerns, and to grow into “future leaders, with the skills to sustain Nebraska’s land productivity and soil health.

What is your region doing to develop future leaders in agriculture and conservation? Please let us know in the comments section below.

Carol Dreibelbis is a research intern with the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet project.


European Campaign Raises Awareness of Aging-Farmer Crisis

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By Carol Dreibelbis

Only 6 percent of farmers in the European Union are under the age of 35, while one-third of the region’s farmers are over the age of 65, according to the European Council of Young Farmers (CEJA). The lack of generational renewal in European agriculture puts future food production and the vitality of rural areas at risk, the council argues.

“Future Food Farmers” aims to address the age crisis in European agriculture. (Photo credit:

To raise public and political awareness about the age crisis in European agriculture, CEJA recently launched a Europe-wide campaign called “Future Food Farmers.” The primary objective is to make young farmers a priority in the upcoming reform of the Common Agricultural Policy, the EU’s leading agricultural policy framework. CEJA hopes to shape European legislation and regulation to make agriculture more accessible to young people.

Specifically, CEJA advocates that Measure 112 in the current CAP, which provides for the “setting up of young farmers,” be made mandatory. Under the measure, EU member states can provide aid to their young farmers in the form of land, credit, or low-interest loans. But because this action is voluntary, some countries ignore it, leading to a lack of cohesive implementation and, CEJA argues, resulting in a lost opportunity to support Europe’s next generation of farmers. According to an October 2012 progress report from the European Network for Rural Development, just under half of the €4.9 billion (US$6.4 billion) budgeted for Measure 112 from 2007 to 2013 has been spent, and some 70,000 farmers have received support—only 42 percent of the set target.

In early 2013, CEJA plans to present its petition and signatories to European Commissioner for Agriculture and Rural Development, Dacian Ciolos; President of the Agriculture and Fisheries Council and Irish Farm Minister, Simon Coveney; and Member of European Parliament and Chairman of the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development, Paolo de Castro.

To pledge to support “Future Food Farmers” or to find out more about the campaign, visit

Carol Dreibelbis is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.


Students Protest New, Healthier School Lunches

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By Carol Dreibelbis

Thanks to the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, schools across the United States are serving healthier school lunches this academic year. School lunches must meet new nutritional guidelines—such as including fruits and vegetables and limiting fats and sodium—for schools to receive extra federal lunch aid. Calories counts are also restricted: high school, middle school, and elementary school lunches must now be no more than 850, 700, and 650 calories, respectively. Although nutrition and health advocates celebrate this change, a recent article in The New York Times indicates that many students feel differently.

Food waste has increased due to healthier school lunches this year (Photo credit: Librado Romero/The New York Times)

Students in districts around the country have responded to the healthier lunches with boycotts and strikes. According to Shawn McNulty, principal at Mukwonago High School in Wisconsin, participation in the school lunch program had fallen 70 percent as a result of student action. “There is a reduction in nacho chips, there is a reduction in garlic bread, but there’s actually an increase in fruits and vegetables,” Mr. McNulty said. “That’s a tough sell for kids, and I would be grumbling, too, if I was 17 years old.” Students are also throwing away more food in New York City and elsewhere.

Food service directors are using a variety of strategies to encourage students to eat fruits and vegetables, including asking teachers to discuss healthy food in class, giving out free samples, and educating students about where their food comes from and how it is produced. But, schools may simply need to wait for students to grow accustomed to new menu options: according to William J. McCarthy, professor of public health and psychology at the University of California, Los Angeles, children must be exposed to vegetables 10 to 12 times before they eat them on their own. “If our task is to get young kids to eat more fruits and vegetables, we have to be willing to put up with the waste,” he said.

How would you suggest that we teach kids to eat and value healthy foods? Tell us in the comments below!  

Carol Dreibelbis is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE.


21 Awesome Policies Changing the Food System!

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Today we celebrate World Food Day in commemoration of the founding of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). It is a chance to renew our commitment to sustainable and equitable agriculture as a means of ending world hunger.

Around the world, governments and organizations alike have made huge strides towards achieving the principles on which the FAO was founded. Governments on every continent have taken significant steps to change food systems for the better, making them more sustainable, healthy, and accessible to all. Today, we showcase just 21 of the many recent policies and laws enacted by governments worldwide that are helping to change the food system, promote sustainable agriculture, and eradicate hunger.

1. The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act was passed in 2010 with a focus on improving the nutrition of children across the United States. Authorizing funding for federal school meal and child nutrition programs, this legislation allows the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to make real reforms to school lunch and breakfast programs and promote healthy eating habits among the nation’s youth. Read more about the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act and 15 innovations making school meals healthier and more sustainable on the Nourishing the Planet blog.

2. The Rwanda Agricultural Board (RAB) was founded in 2011 to help improve the provision of services to farmers in the country. It focuses on adapting its policies to local needs, developing sustainable production systems, and providing farmers and consumers with education, techniques, and services to help supply Rwandans with better foods. The RAB has received praise for its efforts from organizations like the Executive Board of the Forum for Agriculture Research in Africa.

3. Beginning in 2008, the Australian government committed $12.8 million for 190 primary schools across Australia to participate in the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program. Hoping to encourage healthy and nutritious eating habits in young Australians, the program works with primary schools to teach students how to grow, harvest, prepare, and share fresh food.



25 Youth Making Agriculture Cool

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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.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE.


Chase Campaign: Feeding and Educating Our Youth

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By Devon Ericksen 

This month, The Worldwatch Institute celebrates the role of youth in the creation of a just and sustainable future. Nourishing the Planet knows that we must not only teach our children about proper nutrition to ensure that they live healthy lives, but also to care about the future of sustainable agriculture. Around the world, children face problems ranging from malnutrition and lack of access to education in developing countries, to obesity and poor school lunches in developed countries.

The future of the world’s food system depends on what we teach and feed our children today (Photo Credit: Food Network)

Though the problems may differ, the solution remains the same: develop local agriculture systems with which to sustainably produce nutritious food for our children. In August, we highlighted ways that people are working to bring agriculture closer to home in our post, “From a Garden in South Africa to a Cafeteria in California: Sharing Meals and Good Ideas”. By making fresh produce more accessible, whether it is delivered from a local farm or grown in the schoolyard, organizations such as Abalimi Bezekhaya in South Africa, the Community Alliance with Family Farmers in California, and the Washington D.C. Farm to School Network are all working to feed our youth healthier food, whether they live in situations of poverty or wealth, whether they are obese or malnourished.

Just in time for school to start, we provided ideas and examples for improving school lunches in our post 15 Innovations to Make School Lunches Healthier and More Sustainable. These changes are badly needed at a time when one-third of American children are overweight or obese—a recent study found that children who eat school lunches are much more likely to be obese than children who bring lunch from home. From school gardens to healthy vending machines, change is happening across the country as people realize the importance of feeding our children healthier food.



Six Innovations Lifting the World’s Agricultural Workers out of Poverty

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By Catherine Ward

Agriculture employs more than one billion people worldwide—about 34 percent of global workers—making it the second-largest source of employment globally. Yet agricultural workers remain one of the most marginalized, oppressed, and exploited groups in the world. According to a report by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Labor Organization (ILO), and International Union of Food, Agriculture, Hotel, Restaurant, Catering, Tobacco, and Allied Workers’ Associations (IUF), the global agricultural workforce is “among the most socially vulnerable; the least organized into trade unions; employed under the poorest health, safety and environmental conditions; and is the least likely to have access to effective forms of social security and protection.”

Agricultural workers are one of the most marginalized, oppressed, and exploited groups in the world (Photo Credit: Planet Matters)

In many countries, up to 60 percent of agricultural workers live in poverty and less than 20 percent have access to basic social security, according to the Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development (SARD) initiative. The agricultural sector also has the largest numbers of child workers—nearly 130 million children between the ages of 5 and 17.

Innovations to lift the world’s agricultural workers out of poverty can simultaneously promote sustainable agriculture and international development. Today, Nourishing the Planet offers six solutions to help lift the world’s agricultural workers out of poverty:

1) Support organized labor. Labor unions play an important role in minimizing exploitation among agricultural workers by advocating for higher wages, improved living conditions, and safer work environments. Agricultural workers are often one of the most disempowered groups within societies, and in many countries they lack access to basic healthcare, education, and participation in government. Unions advocate for worker rights, and fight to stop the exploitation of children.

In Ghana, 70 percent of the country’s 23 million inhabitants are involved in the agricultural sector. The General Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU) is the largest union in Ghana and represents many marginalized agricultural groups. The union supports rural communities by providing support in training, learning new skills, and microcredit. GAWU is currently investing in a youth development center, and organizes training workshops for union members. The union has campaigned for better farm wages, so that families don’t have to send their children to work in the agricultural sector.

By supporting community-based organizations, such as the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), consumers in the United States can help ensure that farmworker’s rights are recognized and enforced. The CIW is a coalition of farmworkers working low-wage jobs in the state of Florida, and is responsible for advocating farmworker rights via hunger strikes, boycotts, interfaith prayer vigils, rallies, and marches.  The CIW is organizing a Labor Day Weekend of Action and is calling on the public to actively protest Publix in your state.

2) Include women in agricultural development. Innovative technology solutions can help disadvantaged agricultural workers ease their work burdens and increase productivity. Women make up over 40 percent of the global agricultural workforce, yet are one of the most vulnerable groups amongst these workers. Female agricultural laborers form an invisible workforce, as they often work on the fringes of the formal economy assisting their husbands with manual labor, or producing food to feed their families as opposed to food for sale.

In India there are over 258 million people working in the agricultural sector, and up to 70 percent of rural women are engaged in the agricultural workforce. There have been some noteworthy success stories in India around the creation of innovative technology solutions for agricultural workers. An Indian midwife, Arkhiben Vankar, became known as the pesticide lady when she developed an herbal pesticide that was efficient, low-cost, and toxin-free. This innovation provided Indian women engaged in agricultural work with an alternative to harmful chemical pesticides. Another technological innovation was designed by Subharani Kurian, who developed a bicycle-operated duplex pump to draw up ground water. The innovation assists women based on the idea that leg muscles are more powerful than hand muscles, making a bicycle pump more effective to operate.

Lack of communication, education, and access to technology among women, particularly in developing countries, has often prevented women from receiving the same benefits and opportunities as men in the agricultural sector. For the last 50 years, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has helped to bring scientific knowledge and technology to poor agricultural workers in developing countries through initiatives like the Collaborative Research Support Programs (CRSPs). According to USAID, “by empowering women farmers with the same access to land, new technologies and capital as men, we can increase crop yields by as much as 30 percent and feed an additional 150 million people”.

3) Support worker advocacy organizations. Research can be a useful tool to examine risks associated with the agricultural industry and how to mitigate them in the future, thus ensuring that vulnerable workers do not risk losing their livelihoods. Agriculture is one of the most dangerous industries to work in due to hazardous machinery, livestock, extreme weather conditions, dehydration, and exposure to pesticides.

In China there are an estimated 225 million agricultural workers, but farms are increasingly worked by the youngest and oldest residents of rural communities, as many middle-aged wage workers seek employment in cities. Injuries are abundant due to use of heavy machinery, and result in millions of deaths and disabilities among farmworkers each year. A collaborative research project  between the Colorado Injury Control Research Center, the Center for Injury Research and Policy at The Ohio State University, and the Tongji Injury Control Research Center was undertaken between Chinese and American researchers to find solutions to reduce agriculturally related injuries in China. The program has trained over 80 researchers, published studies on agricultural injuries, and opened a center for injury prevention in China. The project aims to provide insights on how to train agricultural workers to safely handle new machinery to avoid future injuries and deaths.

Consumers can make a positive contribution towards the health care of farmworkers in the United States through non-profit organizations such as the National Center for Farmworker Health (NCFH). The organization is dedicated to improving worker health in the United States by providing services like resources for migrants, training programs, and education and policy analysis. The public can get involved through NCFH’s Gift of Health program, which accepts donations that are invested in promoting the health of America’s farmworkers.

4) Get involved and be aware—locally and globally. Local initiatives that invest in the well-being of vulnerable communities can effectively help change the conditions of agricultural workers. Farmworkers are often described as hidden people, usually subjected to impoverished living conditions, with limited access to basic services like water and electricity.

South Africa’s wine and fruit industry alone generates US $3 billion a year for the South African economy. Yet, according to a Human Rights Watch report, farmworkers benefit very little from the profits, and are often forced to live in substandard housing. Solms-Delta is an example of a South African wine estate that has established its own initiative, the Wijn de Caap Trust, to break the cycle of poverty among farmworkers on the Solms-Delta estate. The trust receives 33 percent of profits from the estate’s wine sales, which aims to improve the lives of farmworkers by providing quality housing, investing in education facilities for children, and providing medical care to families.

Consumers in the United States can also become directly involved in community farming enterprises by volunteering or working at local farmers’ markets, participating in volunteer days at nearby farms, or even apprenticing on a farm for a season. Visit to learn more about on-farm opportunities in the United States and Canada.

5) Promote universal education. Education can be used from a grassroots level to dispel ignorance and empower local communities. Agricultural workers often migrate in search of seasonal or temporary work, and can be unaware of their rights due to poor education, isolation within rural areas, and fragmented organization. Education programs can also help inform consumers on ethical considerations of food production, and educate young leaders on policy formulation and advocacy.

Student Action with Farmworkers (SAF) is an innovative nonprofit organization, which uses popular education to raise awareness of issues around farmworker conditions in local U.S. communities. SAF works with farmworkers, students and advocates alike, and has provided support to over 80,000 farmworkers to gain access to health, legal, and education facilities.

6) Vote with your dollar. Consumers can choose products produced in environmentally friendly and socially responsible ways. By purchasing products that are not linked to the exploitation of agricultural laborers, it sends the message to agricultural employers that consumers do not support abusive labor conditions, and that they are willing to pay an often-higher price for ethically produced goods. This helps ensure that workers are paid fairly and do not work under poor conditions.

Fair Trade USA is an international movement that allows customers to buy products from all over the world that support poverty-reduction projects, relieve exploitation, and endorse environmental sustainability.  The Fair Trade standards enable agricultural workers to work in safe and inclusive environments, follow economic trade contracts with fair pricing, improve their own living conditions, and avoid child labor. There is growing demand from consumers for socially responsible food production; North America will soon implement its own Food Justice label. This label will also help lift American workers out of poverty by guaranteeing fair wages, adequate living conditions, and reasonable contracts.

Agriculture will not be viable while the vast majority of its workforce lives in poverty around the world, and innovative measures to break this cycle of poverty, along with your contributions, are crucial to fostering a healthier food system.

Do you know of any innovative projects that are assisting impoverished agricultural workers? Let us know in the comments below!

Catherine Ward is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project     

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE.


Innovations to Make School Food Healthier in London

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Check out our latest op-ed published in the London Free Press of Ontario, Canada. The op-ed discusses school food programs in the area that are helping to improve child health and nutrition.

Unequal access to healthy foods is a serious issue in London—obesity disproportionately impacts poor families who can afford only cheap, processed foods. Thankfully, a number of organizations, like London Food Bank and Community Harvest Ontario, are helping low-income children gain access to healthy foods.

Click here to read the full article.


The Hunger Shames: Schools Can Set Children on Lifetime Path of Healthy Eating

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Check out our latest op-ed about school meals and student health, published in The Journal Gazette of Fort Wayne, Indiana.

Indiana gets a bad grade for childhood obesity and malnutrition. In 2011, 15 percent of Indiana high school students were considered obese, meaning their body mass index was at or above the 95th percentile. Fortunately, schools can play a key role to reverse this trend and reinforce healthy eating behaviors. By emphasizing hands-on nutrition education, such as school garden projects and classroom cooking demonstrations, and by providing fresh, local fruits and vegetables in cafeterias, schools can encourage students to improve their diets.

Read the full article here.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE.


At Back-to-School Time, Let’s Press for Healthy Eating

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Check out our latest op-ed about improving school meals and students’ eating habits, published in The Montreal Gazette. The Gazette is the largest English language daily in the province of Quebec, and has a weekly print circulation of 1,094,653.

It’s almost time for kids to go back to school. But for many children in Montreal, this means a return to unhealthy school lunches that jeopardize their health and well-being. Schools can play a key role in reversing this trend and reinforcing healthy eating behaviors.

Read the full article here.

To purchase State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet please click HERE.