Hannah Mescher, a senior at Kuemper Catholic High School, recently presented her research essay on “Food Shortage in Madagascar” at the Iowa Youth Institute.
Hannah is a daughter of Patrick and Wendy Mescher of Carroll.
She pitched her essay to fellow Iowa students and a trio of experts during a Zoom session. Session mentors included Keegan Kautzky, Senior Director of World Food Prize Global Youth Programs and Partnerships; Dr. Ajay Nair, associate professor in the Department of Horticulture at Iowa State University; and Shallee Keenan, Global Events Manager at Kemin Industries.
Hannah composed her essay as part of a double-credit composition course at Saint Louis University (Strategies of Rhetoric and Research). She is now eligible to receive a $1,000 scholarship to the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Iowa State University. She will also have the opportunity to learn about other World Food Prize Foundation programs, including the Global Youth Institute and the Borlaug-Ruan International Internship Program.
She wrote in her essay that the situation in Madagascar, a large island in the Indian Ocean off the southeast coast of Africa, is dire: “The Malagasy people live in the eighth poorest country in the world . Madagascar has struggled for food and security for hundreds of years. From an isolated island with little government structure and positive control to its erratic weather patterns and widespread erosion, Madagascar has been a disadvantaged country on many levels. Because agriculture is the backbone of the Malagasy way of life, weather is an extremely important component and affects daily life. With unpredictable cyclones, torrential winds and heavy rains, farmers struggle to maintain a stable harvest, which hurts farm workers and the market. Without a plan to better manage these storms, the people of Madagascar will continue to suffer. These cyclones will never stop, but there are better ways to respond that will not only support the Malagasy people but also the surrounding countries and many countries that help Madagascar with labor and financial aid.
She observed, “While this project would be labor intensive and time consuming and not without difficulty, overall it would benefit everyone involved. At first, the majority of aid would come from outside resources, but as research and development begins to take off, the Malagasy people will be able to contribute. They would become more knowledgeable about the process of improving biotechnology and all other equipment and chemicals that would provide continuous progress towards an ideal, self-sufficient system. The familiarity gained would give all of Madagascar the ability to adapt to obstacles and take advantage of Madagascar’s strengths. This, coupled with educating young people, will build morale and create a more motivating overall system that will build on itself and ultimately ensure the sustainability of Malagasy people.
Mescher originally became interested in Madagascar because of its exotic culture and because it is a popular tourist destination.
She said she decided to attend the Iowa Youth Institute partly because she planned to attend Iowa State this fall, but also because she thought it would be a great opportunity to learn more about agriculture internationally and hear the views of others.
“There were a lot of people who, through their research, incorporated a lot of their own opinions, values, and even first-hand experiences with farming,” she said. “It was really interesting to listen to them and the constructive criticism they had for me in my own research.”
At Iowa State, Mescher plans to major in agricultural communications, a branch of agricultural education. She said she would love to work with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach in programs like 4-H and Ag in the Classroom “so I can share farming with younger audiences and really engage them.”
At Kuemper, she was a member of the National Honor Society, the Student Council, and the group LIFE (Living in Faith Enthusiastically), and participated in individual talks. She also participated in community service and church activities through Kuemper. In the Carroll FFA area, she served as an officer for two consecutive years, participated in multiple leadership and career development events from the sub-district to the state level, reached the top 10 in fruit sales three consecutive years, helped out at many community events, and was voted for a state officer position this spring.
She recently returned from a week and a half of service with a team of students and adult chaperones in the Honduras Kuemper Mission.
“In Honduras, we built and furnished two houses, assembled and delivered bags with essential household items and even extra toys and blankets, had the opportunity to enter their classrooms and homes and communicate with them individually,” Mescher said. “I initially went there just because I thought it would be fun, but I couldn’t have imagined how much the trip really affected me.”
Mescher wrote her essay before Mission Honduras, but said the trip deepened her understanding of the plight of those most in need.
“The experience has definitely made my writing feel a lot more real,” she said. “It gave me an idea of how these Third World citizens really live and how improvements in water quality, crops and other aspects of agriculture would really transform their lives.”