During Tuesday’s lunch session at Ag Media Summit, participants listened to a special presentation on the future of agriculture in Africa, and the potential it holds for both economic prosperity for millions of impoverished youth, and answers to the greatest challenge humanity will face yet: How farmers are going to feed an additional three billion people by the year 2050.
Trent McKnight, rancher and founder of the nonprofit AgriCorps, explained how the current world population has set the stage for the great food security challenge of the next fifty years, and how the solution requires bringing agriculture heavily into two generally under-appreciated sources: The continent of Africa, which is home to 60 percent of the uncultivated land on Earth, and the young people of the world.
“Africa is part of the solution; but primarily youth are the solution. Youth are the ones who, when they are mature, will be faced with the great challenge of feeding 3 billion more people, whether those people are in Africa, or America, Latin America, or Asia,” he said. “We need to be investing in youth in agriculture around the world, in our country as well as abroad.”
McKnight founded AgriCorps, which is structured similarly to the Peace Corps, with a mission to connect volunteers from within American agriculture to the growing demand for conventional, science and technology-based agricultural education in developing nations. Volunteers with college degrees in agriculture are sent into developing nations to become agriculture teachers.
“We are working with existing 4-H Global Progams in [Africa and Latin America], helping to support them with capacity building and creating model 4-H and future farmer programs, so that they have something to build off of within the agricultural education model,” McKnight said, “We believe that if we can develop these young leaders in developing countries who are committed to farming as a science and business, they can be the solvers of the problems they face at home rather than being dependent on westerners coming in and solving those problems for them.”
The economic benefit of AgriCorps has many beneficiaries within the participating communities. Through education effots and the help of 4-H global sponsors like the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, one AgriCorps-led 4-H and Future Farmer program in Ghana helped local youth start a nursery of new hybrid varieties of cocoa and oil palm seedlings. They successfully marketed the seedlings to local farms, bringing money directly into the schools as well as incredible increases in both yields and profits for the farmers.
McKnight is confident about the future impact AgriCorps will bring: “The economic benefit isn’t static, its very dynamic and will continue to take off from just small things that 4-H, Future farmer organizations and our Corps Members are able to develop.”
Listen to my interview with McKnight here:
Interview with Trent McKnight, AgriCorps