(Top L-R) Aleyna and Nathan
(Bottom L-R) Meherunnesa and Emmanuella

Beginning October 17th, four of IRIS’s YES students were invited to be a part of a solution for world hunger.

Aleyna (Turkey), Nathan (South Africa), Emanuella (Nigeria), and Meherunessa (Bangladesh) joined high school students, academics, scientists, and world leaders from around the world in Des Moines for the 2013 World Food Prize.

The World Food Prize selects exceptional high school students to participate in its three-day Global Youth Institute (GYI) program.

During the program, students engage in activities, meet with mentors and peers, listen to panels, and present their research findings on food security and agricultural issues to experts and leaders in the field.

This year’s panels were made up of international experts and scientists, including the President of Iceland and Senator Tom Harkin.

But it was Cardinal Peter Turkson’s speech that was a source of encouragement for Emmanuella.

“He called us students diamonds,’”  she said.

“He saw the potential in us.”

Part of the program’s focus is engaging students in activities that offer solutions to the food crisis.

Nathan packaging food for Kids Care International Outreach.

One of Aleyna’s favorite parts of the program was a food packaging activity.

Participants packaged food for Kids Care International Outreach. The food will be shipped to groups such as local food banks or disaster relief organizations.

“I had a blast knowing the packaged food items would put a smile on the hungry around the world,” Aleyna explained.

Aleyna felt the activity brought the program participants together to express “the common passion of making an impact.”

The YES students also participated in the program’s Oxfam Hunger Banquet.  Students were randomly assigned to either a low-class, middle-class, or upper-class category. A student assigned to the low-class category had to sit on the floor and eat rice with their hands, while a student assigned to the upper-class category was served a three course meal.  The goal was to make students aware of global hunger disparity.

The activity made an impact on Aleyna, who was assigned as a middle-class farmer.

“I realized the importance of appreciating our blessings, while working on decreasing the impacts of hunger all around the world.”

The heart of the Global Youth Institute program is the student presentations. Students get the chance to share their personal research on agricultural and hunger issues with experts in the field.

Aleyna and other GYI students discussing food security with 2013 World Food Prize Laureate, Dr. Robert Fraley.

All of the YES students presented research on issues affecting their home countries

Aleyna discussed how climate change affects areas in Turkey, including the Black Sea and Mediterranean. In her research, Aleyna concluded Turkey is unable to take full advantage of the country’s agricultural richness due to climate change.

Meherunnesa focused on Bangladesh’s lack of food security. She believed improving education in Bangladesh would decrease poverty and raise farmer’s crop yield.

“As the culture of education advances, the chances of great improvements in these areas will be great. As more and more  people make an effort, I think it is going to be possible to ensure food security in Bangladesh,” Meherunnesa said in her research.

Emmanuella meeting with H.E. Akinwumi Adesina, the Nigerian Minister of Ag & Rural Development.

Emmanuella highlighted transportation and distribution tactics vital for agricultural success.  She noted Nigeria’s lack of infrastructure and poor methods for storing food as barriers to improving the country’s agricultural yield.

“When farmers gain access to good storage facilities, stable government policies, credit facilities, proper education and good road networks, availability of food would increase,” Emmanuella explained.

Nathan compared and contrasted the wide range of demographics in South Africa that influence the agricultural system.

Nathan also pointed out how climate change affects South African farmers, and what organizations and government programs should do to address it.

As the three-day program wrapped up, the YES student’s drive to continue the fight against hunger did not.

“As a student, this was an opportunity for me to think deep about what I want to do in future. It was an educational experience,” Emmanuella reflected.

The experience undoubtedly influenced all four YES students.

“I knew representing my country in such an important platform was the kind of chance that could be rarely found,” Aleyna said.

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