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Institute tackles global challenges

One-third of the world’s population lacks access to improved sanitation and one billion lack any access to toilets, latrines or waste disposal systems.

In addition, 783 million people in the world do not have safe water. Women and children bear the responsibility for collecting water in most developing countries, often spending up to six hours a day doing so.

Libby Crimmings, director of national education programs for the World Food Prize, presented these examples of the realities imparted to students attending the annual Global Youth Institute (GYI) in Iowa.

Speaking at the recent Global 4-H Network Summit in Ottawa, she said the institute connects young people and their mentors or teachers with experts and academics to talk about solutions to such challenges.

There, they can interact with Nobel and World Food Prize Laureates and discuss food security and agricultural issues with international experts.

“We challenge students to look at problems and suggest solutions on what would work, then present them to world leaders,” she said.

It’s unfathomable to her as a mother to think that so many in the world do not have access to common remedies easily accessed in Canada and the United States.

At the GYI, hosted by the World Food Prize Foundation, young people meet students from around the world, tour research facilities and take part in discussions about science, industry and policy.

Teacher-mentors register their students to participate, and students then research and write a short research report on a food security issue. Papers are published in the GYI proceedings and are available online.

Participating students are also eligible to apply for the Borlaug-Ruan International Internship, an eight-week experience with scientists and policy-makers at research centres in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East.

Clayton Robins, executive director of the Manitoba 4-H Council, said Saskatchewan and Manitoba sent two teams to the GYI with the help of sponsorships.

He called it a life changing experience for young people, opening their eyes to issues of food waste and food security.

“They are made aware of things you can’t relate to coming from a country like Canada where things are good,” he said.

“It makes them realize the impact of challenges of feeding the world population now and as it grows.”

For some, it will direct their future career choices, Robins said.

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