Dreaming to feed billions

2018-03-28 06:01
Marlese Bester Photo: Supplied

Marlese Bester Photo: Supplied

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Marlese Bester, a student in Plant Health Ecology at the Department of Plant Sciences of the University of the Free State has undertaken research parallel to food security.

With her current research she screens for resistance in sunflower and soybean cultivars against the fungus Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, using different inoculation techniques.

Marlese is a final year master’s student and has a passion for plant pathology and genetics. One could say her research will later contribute to food security.

She represented South Africa at the 2017 global Youth Ag-Summit (Yas) in Brussels, Belgium.

This was a opportunity for her to not only receive a world perspective on food security but also to personally contribute to alleviating this worldwide problem.

Selected by Bayer Crop Science to attend the summit, Marlese interacted with students from 49 other countries who were as enthusiastic and passionate as she is about feeding nine billion people by 2050.

“I had the opportunity to experience the world through their eyes. This was the type of motivation and energy I had never experienced before,” she said.

To be considered for the summit, Bester had to write an essay giving her views and ideas on feeding a hungry planet.

“I became aware of societies’ need for self-empowerment and believe that the world’s idea of aid is not ideal. Aid must be given in the form of pertinent education and intellectual improvement and not money which will only pull down economic systems.

“Aid should not be a continuous process aimed at changing you to be like me, but making you the best you that you can be where you are planted, building a durable foundation for a reachable goal,” Marlese explained.

She believes it is important to teach developing countries realistic agricultural practices that were not locally limited.

According to Marlese, a speaker who made an impact on her was Srinivas Rao, the host and founder of the popular podcast, the Unmistakable Creative.

“He said that if something is imperfect it means that there are possibilities. It stood out for me because South Africa has a lot of opportunities to grow, but we must not just keep on raising awareness, we must start taking action.”

She took this statement to heart.

During the summit, attendees were challenged to write down three things they would do to achieve the United Nations sustainable goal of reaching a state of zero hunger.

Back home, she started motiva­ting schools in Bloemfontein to plant vegetable gardens. She has already received seed from Starke Ayres; enough for ten schools to each start a vegetable garden.

The next Yas summit is sche­duled for 2019. If you are 18 to 25 years old and have a passion for agriculture and have innovative solutions for feeding the hungry planet, apply for this opportunity.

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