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Wants or needs? The role that young people can play in developing a country

By Joshua Rice

My colleague Molly Frendo and I visited Bangladesh last month to consult on how to improve agricultural training in that country. Our hosts in the Department of Youth Development asked us to identify youth empowerment needs in the agriculture sector and outline the resources and interventions needed to close gaps and steps for implementation.

Program development is an aspect of my job that I am passionate about. I enjoy identifying a need or missing element within a community and then constructing programs to address them. I follow a four-step process: identify, develop, facilitate and evaluate.

Sometimes during this process, I have to remind myself that the program elements must meet the needs of the audience and that just because I am passionate about a certain issue or topic, it may not fit or be required in the program. I have to give the target audience what they need and leave my personal passions to the way side. Ask yourself the following: Am I offering programs that youth in my community need or am I offering programs that I know a lot about and is a personal passion?

I knew the difference between a want and a need prior to my travels to Bangladesh, but once I arrived they helped me to develop a better understanding by putting theory into practice. A want is something that you would like to have but ultimately something that you could live without. A need is something that you must have and is vital to survival or sustainability.

When we arrived in Bangladesh, the people we met with didn't tell us that they wanted to develop a 4-H program in Bangladesh, they told us that they needed it. They were following habit No. 2 of Stephen Covey’s "7 Habits of Highly Effective People" -- Begin with the end in mind. They are developing purposeful programming to meet the needs of the people within their communities. They are meeting the needs -- not just the wants.

Bangladesh is a young country, and many of the people that we met told us that Bangladesh is 200 years behind the United States in almost everything. While in the United States some youth view the type of smart phone they are going to use as the most important issue that they will face, in Bangladesh youth worry about the food they eat and how they will learn the skills that they need to find a job once they turn 18. It's a different mind-set.

Here are some differences by the numbers:
  • Land mass: 56.9 million square miles (about the same as Iowa)
  • Population: 157 million (Iowa has about 3.1 million)
  • Average annual income in Bangladesh: US$1,200. In Iowa, it's US$50,500
  • Average family size in Bangladesh: 5-6. In Iowa: 3
Some of the Bangladeshis' primary concerns are: the rapidly growing population, the availability of resources and jobs, and creating a stable economy of thriving young entrepreneurs.

Bangladesh is facing some big challenges to development and advancement. The people I met in the Department of Youth Development understand that one of the keys to success and innovation is investing in youth and giving them the skills and tools they need to become agricultural entrepreneurs. They have identified the problem and outlined their desired outcomes and now they are developing programs that will help to shape the way that youth view their role in developing communities and feeding the rapidly growing population of Bangladesh. Many thanks to Winrock International, and USAID's Farmer to Farmer program for sponsoring this trip.

Reflecting on my travels in Bangladesh has impacted me in many ways. Reflecting on the new programs I'm working on, I'm asking myself, "Are we always offering the right programs at the right place and the right time? Are we taking time to do an impact study and community needs assessment before we begin our programming? What are the needs of our communities -- not merely the wants? How can we use 4-H resources to create a better Minnesota while preparing future generations?

While the problems of Minnesota are different from Bangladesh they are also similar.  The answer to prosperity and growth lies in the hearts and minds of our youth. Are we doing everything in our power to make sure we are preparing them for success?

-- Joshua Rice, assistant Extension professor and Extension specialist, science of agriculture

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  1. Yeah you are right!! young people can change the country easily by their work. I am sure that it would be better to encourage to young people for coming to work for their country. For that personal development is more important.


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