Emerging Leaders to See Ag in Action in AfricaShare
Saturday, June 16, will mark a life-changing day for the 2018–19 class of Emerging Leaders in the Land O’Lakes Global Food Challenge program. At that time, the 10-member group of college sophomores will travel to Lilongwe, Malawi, for the first leg of its 10-day trip to Africa. The group will travel to South Africa for the second half of the trip. In addition to learning about agricultural practices, the students will experience the languages, cuisine and cultural practices of each country.
“When the students go to different villages, it’s important for them to be able to say ‘hello,’ ‘goodbye’ and ‘thank you’ in that particular language, because they’re working to build trust and goodwill,” says Brandi DeVries, community relations manager and Global Food Challenge Program manager, Land O’Lakes, Inc., who will be accompanying the group.
In Malawi, the students will attend a briefing with the government about its agricultural priorities, government strategies, ag policy and how the work of Land O’Lakes International Development (an independent nonprofit, affiliated with Land O’Lakes, Inc.) links with that policy. They will also visit Thanthwe Enterprises, a modern farming operation that partners with the Malawi Strengthening Inclusive Markets for Agriculture (MSIKA) project, a development project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and implemented by Land O’Lakes International Development. Thanthwe Enterprises combines raising livestock with raising crops, including tomatoes, sweet peppers, onions and lettuce.
The group will also visit the Chitsanzo Dairy Farmers Cooperative, which was a partner of a previous project implemented by Land O’Lakes International Development. The cooperative members’ combined herd has grown from 98 dairy cows in 2008 to 356 dairy cows today, and the co-op has expanded from selling only raw milk locally into producing yogurt for more distant markets. Also on the agenda is a visit to the processing factory of Mwaiwathu Tomato Producers and Marketing Cooperative — an all-female group with 92 members that takes tomatoes from its members and processes them into jam.
The final day in Malawi will include a visit to the Limbe Leaf Tobacco Company, one of the country’s leading tobacco processors. The group will see how the harvested tobacco is taken to auction, including a visit to the auction floor to see how it is purchased for export.
In Pretoria, South Africa, the students will learn about the Grain SA organization and the program it administers, linking small-but-ambitious farmers with mentors. The mentors, who own larger operations, help these smaller farmers select the right seed and crop inputs to expand their yields. The Emerging Leaders will also learn about the roles of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Foreign Agriculture Service in South Africa.
At AfricaBio, an independent nonprofit stakeholders’ association, the students will see how farmers are using biotechnology to grow more corn. In test plots, this type of seed was found to produce higher yields with less stalk borer insect damage than a comparable traditional corn seed.
The group will travel from Pretoria to Cape Town, where it will sort and pack food for a large nonprofit organization, the Ark City of Refuge, which cares for more than 1,000 live-in homeless people.
Finally, the students will learn about Villa Crop Protection, a Land O’Lakes, Inc., partner company. Students will see the value chain of cereal operations, including wheat and canola. And, they’ll meet with farmers to learn about how they are using Villa’s crop protection products.
“The experiences the Emerging Leaders will have will familiarize them with the differences between subsistence farmers, developing farmers and commercial farmers in Malawi and developing farmers in South Africa,” says DeVries. “Everyone is also responsible for debriefing with the larger group each day to talk about what they’ve learned.”
© 2018 Land O’Lakes, Inc.