The world’s population is going to hit 9.7 billion by 2050 and when that time comes, the world may not be able to sustain the amount of mouths to feed. And especially that climate change has brought up extreme challenges along with the rise of our population. This isn’t the exact same words that I heard from the speakers at the World Food Prize, but the message was crystal clear for me. Our food security is at risk. After I attended that event, my views were changed. I went there with zero knowledge about what that event was going to be about and I came home with a purpose and aspirations to be a hunger fighter. Rather than just being concerned about myself, the three-day event in Des Moines made me care more about the 821 million people in the world who are struggling with hunger. Because deep down I know that if I don’t make a move to help combat hunger, I could be starving too by the year 2050.
This year’s Global Youth Institute, October 17-19, 2019, that is hosted by the World Food Prize Foundation was held at Des Moines with over 200 high school students that came from different countries just to participate in this prestigious event. It was an honor for me to represent my country, the Philippines, along with two other IRIS kids: Deepanshu Dabas from India and Mercy Lugard for Nigeria. Each one of us wrote a research paper about problems in our country that affects the food system. And for a three-day event, we learned a lot more than what we expected.
I arrived at the venue on October 16th with my local coordinator, Emerald Johnson, and I was overwhelmed by the amount of professional-looking people walking around the hotel. Because of the exhaustion I felt, it didn’t really sink in that I was a part of a global event that could possibly change the future of food security around the world. The next day would be when it would all sink in. The event started to kick off by meeting our group leaders and having breakfast together with our groups. Then we were inspired by our keynote speaker for that morning, Mr. Akinwumi Adesina who is the President of the African Development Bank and the 2017 World Food Prize Laureate. The breakfast hall was filled with applause as he finished his talk about his life and his journey into being a hunger fighter.
We had a fun game called cultural challenge before we were dismissed for the Borlaug Dialogue and Luncheon at the Marriott Hotel. We had the chance to sit with experts during lunch and talk about research papers with them. I got really good comments from people from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD). And then we had the esteemed keynote speakers for the rest of the afternoon that talked about agriculture, migration and peace. The day ended with a dinner buffet and a watch party for the 2019 Laureate Award Ceremony. A Filipina singer named Rachel Anne Go even performed at the awarding ceremony and left the audience in awe. I was watching with a proud smile that night! Pity that I didn’t get to meet her though.
And then the nerve-wracking day had finally come. We were going to present our findings on the second day. During the day, I was nervous about presenting. I wasn’t very confident about my research paper but I knew I had to do it. Even if Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, the President of the World Food Prize Foundation, was sharing with us a story during breakfast, I couldn’t focus since my mind was elsewhere. I was trying to recall the words that I have practiced for the past few weeks, but I think the only time that I calmed down was during the work immersions. I attended the Iowa Ag Accelerator that talked about how we can incorporate agriculture with business and how to market a start-up business especially since the business world is very competitive nowadays. I had fun during the immersion because I get to act like a businesswoman and present a business proposal with my groupmates. It was all good until I the dreadful moment came. I was exaggerating because I was nervous. However when it was time for me to present my research paper during the roundtable discussion, it went smoothly and I did it. I knew my research paper had some loopholes in it, but after the discussion, I gathered a lot of ideas and comments that would make my findings even better. I also learned a lot from my groupmates. I’m surprised about how passionate they are about their findings and was amazed as well. Even my local coordinator Emerald said that she liked my group because we had really good topics for our roundtable discussions.
For dinner, we had an exciting activity that was really an eye-opener for most of us. We had an Oxfam Hunger Banquet where we were divided into three groups: the rich people, middle class men and the poor population. I was part of the middle-class. Each one of us received different portions of food depending on our status for that night. And with that, we learned about working hard, sharing and why food sustainability matters. Everyone showed courtesy no matter how little the amount of food they got and that is something that we can always ponder upon.
And as for our last day, we went to Corteva Agriscience for our continental breakfast. There we heard the global teams challenge presentation and closing remarks from the 2019 World Food Prize Laureate, Mr. Simon Groot. Our global teams challenge was a joint activity where we discussed possible solutions for a given problem that is related to food security. Everyone had some really great ideas. I know that someday, we can actually make these happen.
We ended the event with warm hearts and a promise to be hunger fighters of our generation. Everyone went home with a smile on their face, big ideas and a packed lunch too. I still think it’s funny how nervous and hesitant I was to attend the Global Youth Institute and the World Food Prize last month. I wasn’t very confident with my research paper and I didn’t know if I actually belonged there. I didn’t know anything about agriculture and now I’m thinking of all of these ideas to help combat hunger. It has changed me. It was worth my time because I learned a lot of things from the activities that we did, the motivational words from the speakers and from my fellow hunger fighters as well.
The bottom line is that I know I can do something despite being a mere student. People may not realize it but each one of us can have a role in feeding humanity. As the challenges brought by climate change arise, we can all help fight these consequences from climate change and secure our food system. One thing I learned from Dr. Per Pinstrup-Andersen, 2011 World Food Prize Laureate, is we should try to fix the problem first instead of blaming someone for it. Because blaming someone won’t solve the problem. It will only prolong the agony. I believe that no matter who you are or what you have, it doesn’t limit what you can do to contribute to food security. Doing small things like reducing food waste is actually a big help. Big enough to conquer anything that will hinder food sustainability.