By Shannon Benner, CEO, 4-H Canada
The 4-H story in Canada began over a century ago, and the organization has grown into one of the country’s most respected youth movements - bridging generations and building deep community roots in the agricultural sector. From Canada’s east coast to its west coast, we are uniquely positioned in the agricultural community, through our well established programs and grassroots networks. We are fortunate to have many partners that support our work.
The secret of why this grassroots movement has been so successful in engaging youth is that it didn’t start as an organization or policy, it started as a fundamental belief that young people needed support to succeed both on, and off the farm. It was a belief that recognized the equal importance of building character, responsibility, confidence and empathy in addition to skill mastery.
The result of this philosophy, which can be traced to Ohio in the United States, is now a global 4-H movement of nearly 7 million young people in more than 60 countries. These are caring, responsible and contributing young people who effect change in the world around them.
We believe that 4-H youth from around the world are uniquely positioned to play an important leadership role in alleviating world hunger because of the work they already do in sustainable agriculture and food security. That is why, in the fall of 2014, over 70 4-H nations congregated in Seoul, Korea to participate in the first Global 4-H Network Summit.
The summit focused on evolving 4-H’s world class positive youth development approach, looking at drivers of growth in agriculture, addressing global issues through the youth lens and showcasing 4-H programming from around the world. One of the major outcomes of the summit included the formation of the Global 4-H Board, which I have the privilege of chairing. The Summit also saw as an outcome a commitment by leaders to see global 4-H membership grow to 25 million by 2025.
Recently, this diverse group of 4-H board members came together at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto for an in-person Global 4-H Board meeting. They used this opportunity to discuss ways to equip and empower young people to meet urgent local, national, and global issues, including sustainable agriculture and food security.
The global 4-H community also formally asked 4-H Canada to be the host of the next Global Summit in July of 2017. 4-H Canada’s Board of Directors had passed a motion the day before to approve this request. 4-H Leaders and members from around the world will join us in Ottawa for a celebration of Positive Youth Development.
Convening the international 4-H community at events like the global board meeting and the highly anticipated 4-H Global Summit is invaluable to strengthening the 4-H movement and empowering youth.
Our current and future youth members, who belong to generation Z, have the potential to create innovative and world-changing solutions to the biggest challenges we face in as a planet. We need to tap into this potential, particularly as we have the advantage of being a global youth organization. The skills that our youth are developing today are essential to solving the world’s problems. 4-H can and must support youth in this journey.
4-H Around the World
- 4-H is one of the largest youth organizations in the world.
- Independent 4-H programs can be found in all corners of the globe—from North and South America to Africa to Asia.
- There are over 70 independent, country-led 4-H programs around the world.
- Worldwide, there are nearly 7 million 4-H’ers.
Paul Larmer, Chief Executive Officer at Semex Alliance and President and Chairman of the Board for the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. For more photos from the 4-H Global Board meeting visit our flickr page.