By Edward Silva, former I-CAL participant
Wake-up time: 6 a.m. Today we are going to visit an egg processing facility, a rubber plantation and finish off the day with a visit to a network of tunnels used by the Viet Cong during the war. Had I written a formal diary a year ago during my experience with the U.S. Grains Council and the National FFA Organization’s International Collegiate Agricultural Leadership Program, which took place in Southeast Asia, it would have started like this. This journal would have attempted to cover nearly two weeks of visits, tours, and cultural exploration surrounding international agriculture and trade. Yet, it would have been a hard task because even a year later, I am still reflecting on my time in this program. I not only learned about the context of agriculture and trade between the United States and Southeast Asia, but I learned a lot about the impact and role I want to play in agriculture as I progress in my career.
Since my time with I-CAL, I have been fortunate to have participated in multiple experiences that have allowed me to continue traveling and gaining perspective on agriculture. During my undergraduate years at University of California, Davis I traveled to Lusaka, Zambia, to volunteer on and complete a project related to solar lighting for rural areas. I then hopped over to India and enjoyed my time learning about what turned out to be an incredible country and people. After returning, I was offered an internship with the U.S. Embassy in Brasilia, Brazil, where I worked on environmental, science and technology issues mainly focused on agriculture. Because of my I-CAL experience specifically, I was able to take each of these locations and experience them with a perspective that was all-encompassing and practical. I began to make comparisons between systems of agriculture across countries and could visualize the innovations that each system had, and also some they needed.
Recently, I was part of a three-person team that developed an innovative use for the solar light I previously took to Zambia. In response to a challenge calling for solutions to solve global food security, a team of colleagues and I got together and thought about how we could help agriculture while helping people better feed themselves. Thinking back to my time with I-CAL in Vietnam and Malaysia, I saw the importance of poultry among so many cultures. This got me thinking with my team about solutions related to this field and the potential impact it could have. So we put together a solar-powered LED light that can be used to stimulate egg production year-round. This helps poor farmers increase their food supply, and the light runs off renewable energy that is extremely adaptable. In short, our idea is one of five finalists, out of 110 teams, and we are now headed to Berlin, Germany, to compete for $10,000! Check out our project here. I am thankful for the opportunity that FFA, I-CAL, and the U.S. Grains Council have given me and the perspective that continues to shape and define my future. Wish us luck in Berlin.