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Luyanda Middleton: Leading Food Security with Plant Health and Climate Action

Luyanda Middleton: Leading Food Security with Plant Health and Climate Action

Ladderworks is a publishing platform of diverse picture books and online curriculum with the mission to empower over a million kids to become social entrepreneurs. Our current series features interviews by our interplanetary journalist Spiffy with inspiring Social Entrepreneurs, Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Builders, and Changemakers who are advancing the UN SDGs. 

Hey, friends! It's Spiffy, back again on Planet Earth with an eye on entrepreneurs making the world a more equitable place! I have a great interview to get your week started. Today, I’m excited to cruise around with Luyanda Middleton, the founder of Hope is Green. Are you ready to be inspired? 

Spiffy: Thanks for joining me, Luyanda! Tell me, what challenge are you addressing through your startup?

Luyanda: Thanks for having me, Spiffy! Starting my garden was a hobby that turned into a passion. I first started at home and then began supporting more community members to start backyard gardens. The initial challenge was to ensure food security, but then I realized that organic farming was beneficial to the environment. I started my research on plant boosters and this piqued my interest in climate change. I was eager to know about the drought's history and find a way for farmers, women, and other groups to adapt to the climate change era. The truth is, we cannot reverse the clock, but it is important we learn to maintain the situation in our hands—discovering that has been my purpose.

Spiffy: What an insightful journey and purpose! What motivated you to tackle these particular challenges?

Luyanda: If plants could speak, what would they say? Would they tell me what excited me as a girl seeing my mom chopping spinach and thinking that new leaves could grow from the stem when inserting the cuttings into the soil? I was eager to discover what other elements of the environment play a big role in our lives. I started my organic garden which welcomed worms, beetles, and ants to the party. I found a gem in organic farming and how a well-managed organic garden saved costs and could provide food security. I was also motivated by Dr. Joanne Chory from the Salk Institute, who believes plants are our greatest hope in the climate change era. I read Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, which fueled my interest in environmental consciousness.

Spiffy: Tell us more about how you or your organization are working towards a more equitable world.

Luyanda: Last year, I volunteered at two non-governmental organizations, COSPE and PELUM. Both organizations are aimed at promoting ecological land use in Eswatini, climate justice, local adaptation, and women empowerment. My greatest discovery was that women were at the forefront of the fight against climate change. I am also in the beginning stages of starting a YouTube channel.

Spiffy: Tell me about a recent organizational milestone or initiative. What impact does that make on your community or audience?

Luyanda: Recently, I was selected to be part of the UNICEF Adolescent Advisory Group in my country. I am also going to be attending the ALAMAU conference in South Africa. These opportunities will allow me to gain a bigger world perspective and help me share stories that the world needs to hear. As part of the UNICEF Youth Advisory in Southern Africa, I hope to learn what it really means to be a catalyst of change. I do not believe communities, especially those with water shortages and those with less food, need heroes. From my experience, to help people you need to show them how they can help themselves. The most sustainable change occurs when everyone is involved. 

Spiffy: Please share an experience when you faced failure and didn't give up. What did you learn from it?

Luyanda: I thought bringing people from different backgrounds and trying to motivate them through a WhatsApp group to provide training on climate change would be easy. I created a group of six teenagers from my country, and I tried to challenge the status quo that youth in our country do not care about agriculture and other industries. The first few weeks went smoothly, and my goal was to use my savings to organize our meeting. One by one, people started dropping out of the group. I realized that my approach had been wrong. I did not give up, and today, although only three of us remain, I occasionally circulate opportunities in the group. I am also learning techniques for team building. More than anything, I want my team to be intrinsically motivated.

Spiffy: Thanks for speaking with me today, Luyanda—it’s been an honor!

Luyanda is a bubbly teenager and currently an IB1 student at Waterford Kamhlaba. She is a Rise Global Winner, alongside her 97+ friends. She is a former volunteer at COSPE and PEPLUM, and a 2022 GCY alumna. She is part of Period Eco Warriors, UNICEF RAAG. She is passionate about making a positive environmental impact to alleviate food insecurity via plant health and climate change action. She hopes to pursue a career in climate science and technology geared toward environmental impact. (Nominated by Rise of Schmidt Futures. First published on the Ladderworks website on April 26, 2023.)

The views and opinions expressed herein are those of the interviewee and do not necessarily reflect those of Ladderworks LLC.

© 2023 Ladderworks LLC. Edited by Lindsey Brannon. Spiffy’s illustration by Shreyas Navare. For the Ladderworks digital curriculum to help K-3 kids advance the UN SDGs, visit Spiffy's Launchpad: Creative Entrepreneurship Workshops for K-3 Kids and their caregivers here.