With more than 6.5 million American youth actively involved in 4-H, it’s not unusual to think of 4-H as an “All-American” tradition – and that’s OK, but there’s more to the story. The fact is, it is estimated that more than 7 million youth in 80 countries around the world are 4-H’ers. Now, thanks to the efforts of a man from Arizona, the mountainous Asian nation of Nepal has joined the 4-H family.
Kirk Astroth, director of the Arizona 4-H Youth Development program within University of Arizona’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, spent August and September 2014 in Nepal teaching local youth development professionals the finer points of creating a 4-H program and laying the groundwork for three members of the Nepal National Youth Federation to attend the 1st Global 4-H Summit in South Korea. As a result, the group in January received official government recognition for the Nepal 4-H national organization.
On March 31, Astroth received recognition of his own – earning both the Volunteer of the Month and Volunteer Spirit of the Year awards from Winrock International. Winrock is an international organization that works to empower the disadvantaged, increase economic opportunity, and sustain natural resources. Winrock sponsored Astroth’s volunteer assignment to Nepal through its USAID-funded Farmer-to-Farmer program. Astroth is the first to receive the Volunteer Spirit of the Year in 10 years. Winrock revived the honor to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Farmer-to-Farmer program.
Astroth spent eight days training 20 adults in the fundamentals of 4-H, positive youth development, problem-solving, leadership, communications, and marketing as a part of a master train-the-trainer program. He even replicated an award-winning Arizona 4-H project.
“After we’d had a conversation about how it was hard to get kids involved these days, I took my adult class outside (in Kathmandu) to do the ‘Rockets to the Rescue’ activity,” he said. “We quickly attracted a group of about 200 kids who were absolutely intrigued about what we were doing and wanted to participate. I kept telling my adult learners to take notice—kids are eager to learn.”
Youth in Nepal face far greater challenges than youth in the United States, Astroth said. They face major unemployment and lack resources, educational training and opportunities, and dismal prospects for the future – the average adult makes less than $2 per day and even agricultural production is contracting. “Planes are full of young Nepali men leaving the country to find work,” he said.
Nepal is not Astroth’s first experience with building international 4-H clubs – he worked in Latvia and Lithuania to re-establish their organizations shortly after the fall of the Soviet Union.
“That was 20 years ago,” he said. “Technology has changed, but the hopes and desires parents have for their kids haven’t. People still want what is best for their children so they can succeed in life. Nations still view children as the hope for the future.”
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) is the home of the National 4-H Headquarters, which provides federal leadership to the 4-H youth development program.
NIFA’s mission: Invest in and advance agricultural research, education, and Extension to solve societal challenges. NIFA’s vision: Catalyze transformative discoveries, education, and engagement to address agricultural challenges. For more information, visit http://nifa.usda.gov/.