Remarks by Ambassador William Popp for N*Gen Season 3 Launch Event – USDA Vanilla Vines Visit

Remarks by Ambassador William Popp for N*Gen Season 3 Launch Event – USDA Vanilla Vines Visit

Good afternoon and thank you for being with us today to celebrate the launch of Season 3 of N*Gen, the “Next Generation” science show for kids. Now, I know we have many young people in the room.  Did you enjoy the tour? Have you learned something about vanilla farming? I certainly know a lot more than I did when I arrived!

Today we are here to launch the new N*GEN season and to learn about vanilla farming.  But we’re here because of the U.S. government’s commitment to the Ugandan people, including you, the young people in this country. And we want you to know the breadth of that commitment, which includes investments in Uganda’s agricultural future. We are also here to celebrate some of the youth already engaged in agricultural education through Uganda’s School-Based Agricultural Education program and to encourage more students, parents, teachers, and schools in Uganda – and throughout the world – to help protect our planet and contribute to global food security through responsible agriculture.

For those of you who are not familiar with N*Gen, this incredible show has gone from an idea during COVID-19 to a global success with millions of viewers.  In 2020, when COVID –19 forced schools to close worldwide, the U.S. NGO Peripheral Vision International (PVI), responded by creating an innovative academic tool, bringing to life the first Pan-African, STEM-based, children’s television show: N*Gen.

N*Gen, which stands for “Next Generation,” gives us an exciting way for kids of all ages–and even adults–to learn about agriculture, air quality, and conservation at home and in the classroom.  The show is designed to foster a culture of curiosity, discovery, and critical thinking while promoting girls’ empowerment and providing young people with the opportunity to see that a future career in STEM-related fields can be both interesting and fun.

The show’s first season was so successful that it is now airing on 44 networks in 17 African countries.  Here in Uganda, NTV aired individual episodes from N*Gen’s first season more than 156 times in 2021 that were viewed more than 100 million times. The show is now expanding globally and is on track to reach 50 million school children and five million teachers across 90 countries.  A significant amount of the almost $1 billion the United States invests in Ugandan communities aligns with N*Gen’s core mission to support sustainable agriculture, biodiversity, and build human capital, especially through investments in Ugandan youth.

Through the U.S. government’s decades-long collaborations to build a healthy, stable, and prosperous Uganda , we have fostered collaboration between the people of Uganda and many U.S. government agencies and programs, such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the U.S. Forest Service, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

Our collaboration with N*Gen is an exciting way for us to help provide ongoing learning opportunities for children and, in the case of the episode we are about to watch, to help viewers understand the complex dynamics and opportunities within agricultural value chains. This particular episode is exciting because it exemplifies Uganda’s unique potential for growth within the global vanilla market while also showcasing the opportunities within the agricultural space for youth to engage in exciting business opportunities.  Highlighted in this episode are partners of the Vines program, a five-year United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-funded project implemented by Catholic Relief Services (CRS).  The Vines program is designed to make Uganda the world’s next leading supplier of high-quality vanilla, with a goal of increasing exports from 50 Metric Tons to 350 Metric Tons per year by 2025.

The Vines program is working to transform the lives of more than 16,000 farmers, create over 15,000 new jobs, and strengthen at least 800 Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises as well as 25 processing companies to increase production, improve quality, and develop sustainable market linkages with U.S. and global vanilla companies.

Enimiro, the processing facility where we are today, is a private sector partner that buys directly from local farmers in this community and throughout the country, builds their capacity, and adds value to their crops through cutting-edge processing technology before exporting to Europe and the United States. Enimiro also employs young Ugandan agricultural experts and scientists and provides internship opportunities for those still pursing degrees in agricultural fields like horticulture and food science. Maybe one of you one day!

The United States is also working to support Uganda’s youth through the International Agricultural Education Fellowship Program, also implemented by CRS, that is establishing School-Based Agricultural Education and youth extension programs.  In fact, we have a few of our Fellows and a group of their students and co-teachers here today to learn more about the vanilla value chain and learn from agricultural technical experts about their jobs and career paths.

For the students, I hope you all enjoy the show and the agricultural opportunities showcased here today. To the teachers, I hope that you can integrate the N*Gen programming and accompanying educational materials into your curriculum.

Finally, I want to thank everyone who made the N*Gen show possible.  First to the PVI team, whose energy, creativity, and partnership helped bring this show to life and make it incredibly successful.  Sincere thanks as well to our partners like CRS, Enimiro, Gourmet Gardens, and the individual farmers and extension workers in this N*Gen episode, along with other partners like Mandulis Energy, and AirQo that supported us to create several episodes in Uganda this season.

We value our longstanding partnership with you.  Today is yet another example of a successful collaboration between the United States and the people of Uganda. Although the show is pan-African and watched globally, it is very fitting that we launch the third season here in Uganda, where it all began! Thank you all for being here!  And now, let’s sit back, relax, and enjoy the show!