Feed the world: Emma’s essay wins Australia trip

A Ballymena woman has won the trip of a lifetime to Australia to take part in a global Youth Summit set up to find innovative ways of feeding the world in the future.

Emma McIlveen, 24, who is currently working as a political researcher for David McIlveen MLA in Northern Ireland, won her place at the Bayer CropScience Youth Ag-Summit in Canberra by writing an essay under the theme of “Feeding a Hungry Planet”.

In it she had to outline what she saw as the main causes of food insecurity and propose solutions to tackle the issue.

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Every day the world’s population is estimated to increase by 233,000 people, and the world’s population is forecast to grow to more than 9 billion by 2050, according to the United Nations.

Producing enough food to feed this larger global population is a challenge that requires creativity, vision and long-term perspective. For that reason, Bayer CropScience joined with Australian agricultural youth organization Future Farmers Network to organise the second Youth Ag-Summit. The week-long event will serve as a forum for young leaders to discuss opportunities, collaborate and act on solutions for a sustainable agriculture that will feed the growing global population. Nearly 2000 18 to 25 year-olds from around the world entered the essay competition, with 40 coming from the UK.

Mike Abram, PR and Communications Manager at Bayer CropScience said: “We were impressed by the number and quality of this year’s entries. There were some excellent ideas to build on at the summit later in the year, but in the end we could only send two candidates.”

In her essay, Emma focused on the food security challenges Northern Ireland is currently facing, identifying food price inflation, inadequate social security provision and lack of relevant information as the main causes.

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The solutions she proposed were practical and creative and included: embracing country-led plans to tackle global food insecurity, encouraging production and consumption of local food, and enhancing long-term commitments from key stakeholders for necessary future investments.

Although her whole approach of the “Feeding a Hungry Planet” theme was impressive, it was one of the solutions she proposed that made her stand out. Currently, women account for the majority of the developing world’s agricultural workforce and produce half of the world’s food. Emma believes there is an opportunity to increase global agricultural production by focusing the necessary resources to improve the skills and training of women farmers.

Emma said: “I am delighted to be selected to represent the United Kingdom at the Youth Ag-Summit in Australia. Upon my return, I plan to share the knowledge which I have gained with decision makers, young influencers and farmers across Northern Ireland. By doing so, I hope that I will be able to assist Northern Ireland to better contribute to feeding a hungry planet.”