Travel and Transformation: Looking Back on AfricaShare
Unlike Toto, we didn’t bless the rains in Africa but rather were blessed by them. These blessings came in several forms, from impressing upon us the power of education to igniting our passions, which motivated us all to improve and impact the future.
Getting Educated on Education
We travelled to Malawi and South Africa to learn about agricultural practices abroad, and along the way we experienced the culture, learned the history of the areas we visited and quickly discovered that this trip would change us for the better. In Malawi, we learned of the high schooling costs, which results in only 66 percent of the population having the ability to read. This will greatly hinder the potential of the Malawian economy, because half the population is under the age of 15. At our next stop in South Africa, we learned of apartheid education policies which allowed persistent unequal access to education. We walked away knowing our access to education in the United States is a privilege we shouldn’t take for granted.
Contributing Unique Perspectives
Since each member of our group came from a unique background, we all had different passions that were brought to life throughout our journey. Fellow Emerging Leader Katriel Marks, for example, was inspired by the successes and opportunities for development in Malawi. Being able to experience 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, showed us firsthand the power of education when combined with the opportunity of receiving a dairy cow. This seemingly small experience allowed for one household to send their eight children to school and improve the nutrition of their friends and family.
Global Food Challenge university ambassador Frank Montabon, associate professor of supply chain management at Iowa State University, was intrigued by the Fruitways apple processing plant and its supply chain components. Specifically, we learned the differences in American and South African apple production and the challenges that come with exporting the commodity. As an international affairs major, I was most intrigued by our visit to the U.S. Embassy in Johannesburg. The presentation by the Foreign Agricultural Service was especially fascinating because we were able to learn how officers work to improve agricultural trade between South Africa and the United States.
Coming Full Circle
The learnings of each day were accumulated in a nightly debrief, which allowed the team to reflect together. These daily learnings accrued in the inspiration for personal improvement, with everyone hoping to help the world in different ways. Lisa Benton-Short, professor of geography at The George Washington University, saw the importance of her continuing to teach to impress upon students the diversity of the world we live in and the positive ways we can contribute to it. Emerging Leader Sarah Vater, on the other hand, was inspired to contribute through a fundraiser for the children’s home we volunteered at in Cape Town. Seeing the lack of resources at the home, she was inspired to ally with local initiatives driven to help marginalized youth. Personally, I was inspired to continue my education to better equip myself to assist global communities.
While I don’t have an abundance of money to donate, I do have the resource of time. The trip ignited my interest to work with the Peace Corps. On June 16, each student, university professor and Land O’Lakes staff member walked into an airport, and on June 28, each walked out of that same airport as an enhanced version of themselves. We each left having learned bounds about not only our world but also ourselves. We now not only know about the importance of education, but we left with amplified passions and motivations to help our world and the people in it.
© 2018 Land O’Lakes, Inc.