Project earns Emerging International Engagement Award

April 30, 2018
"Our Common Home: A Youth-Based Approach to Food Security" has earned the Emerging International Engagement Award.

This news item originally appeared in CFAES Monthly, April 2018. The School of Environment and Natural Resources is one of the Ohio State partners on this project. 

"Our Common Home: A Youth-Based Approach to Food Security" has earned the Emerging International Engagement Award.

The award was established by Ohio State's Office of International Affairs and the Office of Outreach and Engagement to recognize faculty and staff who have engaged in exceptional international outreach and community service projects.

Recipients of the Emerging International Engagement Award have demonstrated outstanding promise in international outreach and engagement with the development of a relatively new initiative that has shown short-term results and has the potential for long-term impact, achievement, and scholarship.

The award-winning program came to fruition out of common challenges facing the sister cities of Columbus, Ohio, and Accra, Ghana. These issues included food insecurity, climate change, and youth disengagement. The vision was to connect the two communities through urban gardens cultivated by youth, along with cross-cultural exchanges, to mutually improve urban food security, promote climate resilient systems and positively develop youth.

An interdisciplinary team of faculty, staff, and students from Ohio State started this project by using a community development model to identify pre-existing capital across social, cultural, and natural dimensions that informed which community partners to engage and where to locate the gardens.

Two barren plots of land at YMCA facilities in Columbus and Accra have been revitalized into urban gardens. Intentionally structured youth activities were designed using 4-H's Positive Youth Development model to nurture life and livelihood skills in youths through trained, caring adult mentors. Youths engaged in the project were also guided by pre-existing youth gardening curriculum to teach climate-resilient gardening techniques appropriate for each geography.

Approximately 50 youths have been engaged at both sites so far, experientially learning new skills. The Sister City relationship enhanced the impact of this project by also enabling an exchange visit in order to build cultural awareness and competency towards addressing the issues of climate change and food security. Three young girls and two adult men, representing 4-H Ghana and Greater Accra YMCA, visited Columbus and surrounding areas August 2017.

Community Partners Involved: YMCA of Central Ohio and North YMCA, Ghana YMCA and Greater Accra YMCA, 4-H Ghana, Greater Columbus Sister Cities International.

Ohio State Partners Involved: 4-H Youth Development; Department of Agricultural Communication, Education, and Leadership; Mershon Center for International Security Studies; Center for African Studies; School of Environment and Natural Resources; Franklin County Extension; Initiative for Food and AgriCultural Transformation (InFACT); Collegiate 4-H.