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Young farmer focus: Ebba Engstrom, 22 - 'Agriculture's role in providing food security is vital'

Ebba Engstrom, 22, was born in Sweden but is now studying an MPA in development, technology and innovation policy at the University College London.

 

She recently attended the Youth Ag-Summit in Brussels and is keen to tackle food security.

Food security: One of the biggest challenges I believe agriculture faces today, is the impressions of it solely being associated with the farming practice itself and not its multidisciplinary and evolving dimensions.

 

Yet, agriculture’s role in providing food security is essential to our own survival and the core stability of society.

 

Thus, we should all take an interest to it.

 

To convey this message however, there is a definite need to reformulate the narrative regarding the field.

 

My path into agriculture was not necessarily a traditional one.

 

Having grown up and lived in cities ranging from Brussels to Ankara, Edinburgh to Brisbane, I have never found myself in a rural farm setting except during occasional visits through school fields trips or weekend escapes.

 

Furthermore, during my school years, the focus on agriculture, but also plant sciences in general, was minimal.

 

Looking back my interest really emerged, yet perhaps unknowingly, when learning about the October Revolution of 1917 and its battle cry of ‘Peace, Land and Bread’ and the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) in my respective history and geography classes.

 

Through looking at agriculture and food security through a political lens, the broader scope of its significance in shaping world events was a perspective milestone.

 

Innovation: As I went on to do my undergraduate degree in biotechnology honours at the University of Edinburgh and participated in the John Innes Centre International undergraduate summer school, the necessity of investment and innovation in research for improved crop varieties, agri-tech and cultivating practices became evident.

 

However, the impact of this research and technological developments, can only do so much without correct implementation – which I gained hands-on experience with in co-founding a project regarding developing aquaponic systems in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

 

Therefore, I highly advocate for policy which fosters innovation but moreover higher accessibility of these developments amongst small-holder farmers including from marginalised groups and developing societies.

 

Education: Ultimately, underlying this successful implementation, is education.

Education is key in most aspects of achieving food security.

 

To introduce new technologies and develop agriculture there needs to be education provided to those producing the food but also among consumers.

 

There is a strong disconnect in understanding the practices, research and policies involved in bringing food from the fields to our plates.

 

Drawing from my own education system, I can see the multiple gaps which may have discouraged interest, as well as created distrust in the form of new agri-tech, amongst other students.

Therefore, the way we are taught about agriculture needs to be reshaped.

 

Agriculture cannot only be presented as a traditional practice belonging to a rural, countryside setting- which is steering individuals away.

 

It needs to be presented in a way to ensure political stability and alleviating poverty, in questions of high-tech but also economic impact from automation, and as an incorporation of sustainable cities through urban agriculture.


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