The current problems in our world today are almost too many to list: food security is coming under attack, rural and urban poverty and inequality is at an all-time high and the environment is quickly buckling under the weight of the human footprint.
The Future Agro Challenge is dedicated to solving these on-going problems by bringing the important players together to create a much-needed positive change in the world. Education has a big role to play in producing this impact. Our schools seem to be under so much pressure to achieve literacy and numeracy outcomes and as a result kids are not being taught the fundamentals. Children all over the world need to understand that agriculture is not just farming; it is a sustainable way of life.
Agriculture provides everything we eat, use and wear on a daily basis, but so few children (and adults) truly understand our basic dependence on this one industry. With only a small part of our global population living on farms, or having any connection to rural areas, many children do not understand how their food gets from the farm to their plates, or how much work is involved to get that food. We need balanced education about farming so we can appreciate where food and fibre comes from and the importance of sustainable and secure agriculture for a growing world population. By 2050, there will be 9 billion people on the planet who will need to be fed and clothed by agriculture – does that not in itself tell us we need our kids learning about this industry?
The worldwide demand for agricultural university graduates outweighs supply. Given today’s economic climate, employment opportunities for young people with expertise in the food, agricultural, natural resources and related science and engineering sectors are expected to remain strong well into the future. Four major factors will shape the market for university graduates in the next five years: macroeconomic conditions and retirements; consumer preferences for nutritious and safe foods; food, energy and environment public policy choices; and global market shifts in population, income, food and energy.
We need to embed agriculture in our school learning curriculums from kindergarten and ensure we have students continue to postgraduate research in agriculture. We could be risking our global future food and economic security through neglecting the continued research and development of an education sector that is vital to life all over the world.
There is no doubt agriculture suffers from image problems, often viewed as an inferior and non-academic profession. However, agriculture is an industry that supports hundreds of thousands of jobs and makes a significant contribution to the global economy. Indeed, agripreneurs are leading some of the most innovative and exciting inventions and ideas that our world has currently ever seen!
This is all very academic, but if we keep it simple; agriculture is fun for kids. They get to learn with animals and plants, with computers, machinery and technology. The sky is the limit for children when you combine agricultural education with a passion for living sustainably.
Agriculture offers work in cities, the country, laboratories, offices, paddocks or flying drones and driving high tech machinery and equipment. It is a diverse, challenging, innovative, and exciting area.