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International 4-H History Continuum

Youth development around the world has long been a priority in the US 4-H program dating back to the early1900s. Now, with encouragement from National 4-H Council and generous sponsorship from the US private sector, it is poised to expand its role in global economic development.

Four-H became a global youth movement very shortly after its creation in the US. Foreign government officials visiting the US, and American government officials loaned to overseas agricultural institutions began to stimulate international interest in the strong, positive impact youth could have on increasing agricultural production.

Gertrude Warren, Roy Turner and C. B. Smith - all officials in USDA's Club office - are often credited with nurturing the development of youth work overseas by advising government leaders and providing educational materials. 4-H-type youth development programs began springing up around the globe; at its peak, about 103 such organizations flourished in 82 countries outside the US on all continents. Canada 4-H led the expansion starting in 1913 (some say 1905). The idea jumped to Europe when Swedish 4-H began in 1918, closely followed by England-Wales Young Farmers Clubs in 1921. By 1928 the movement spread to Oceana with Junior Farmers Clubs in New South Wales; West Australia Junior Farmers Clubs started up in 1935. The expansion in Central/South America and the Caribbean began in 1939 with both 4-C in Haiti and 5-V in Venezuela. Korea 4-H brought the concept to Asia in 1947 and Japan 4-H continued in 1948. Though Africa was the last to join the worldwide advancement of youth development programs, led by Young Farmers of Kenya in 1949 and Ethiopia 4-T in 1956, all programs were based on the US 4-H model. Interestingly, there are over 250 varieties of clover in the world and at least 48 organizations use it as a symbol. Today, we believe that the two latest countries to join the push for youth participation in economic development are Iraq and Mongolia.

4-H international exchanges were officially initiated in 1948 with the International Farm Youth Exchange (IFYE - now International 4-H Youth Exchange), when 17 US delegates visited seven European countries and six Europeans came to the US. The program actually had its beginnings in 1947 when ten young farmers, six from England and four from Germany, visited and lived with 4-H and FFA families in the US. Over the next 40 years, other 4-H international programs were developed as a result of those first exchanges. What started as a cultural exchange of farm youth broadened to a multi-dimensional series of educational programs that involved technical assistance and specialized training.

To strengthen rural youth programs in Latin America and the Caribbean, the Inter-American Rural Youth Program (Programa Interamericano para la Juventud Rural) was developed during the 1950s by the Inter-American Institute of Agricultural Sciences (Instituto Interamericano de las Ciencias Agricolas) of the Organization of American States, and the American International Association for Economic and Social Development (AIA). IICA contributed its expertise in agricultural development and AIA provided the administrative management, rural youth program specialists and financial resources. The purpose of AIA was to initiate development programs, then to turn them over to other institutions for continuation. Thus, in 1958 the responsibilities of AIA for PIJR were transferred to the National 4-H Club Foundation (now National 4-H Council). The program was operated through an office of the Foundation in Jan Jose, Costa Rica.

The purpose of PIJR was to cooperate with government institutions and private organizations, to develop effective educational programs and to develop and strengthen private support entities in these countries similar to National 4-H Foundation. PIJR phased out in 1975, at which time National 4-H Foundation helped persuade IICA to create a youth section (CAJIR) to coordinate youth programs in Latin America and the Caribbean similar to PIJR.

Somewhat based on the IFYE model, the Brazil 4-H Peace Corps program brought the Peace Corps to Brazil. Beginning in 1961 and for the following ten years, 4-H Peace Corps projects were active in Brazil, El Salvador, Uruguay, Venezuela, and Malaysia. Four hundred and fifty volunteers worked with programs similar to 4-H in these countries through contracts between Peace Corps and National 4-H Foundation (now Council).

Up to this time, participants in 4-H international programs were older, mostly alumni. To involve younger people enrolled in 4-H, the IFYE Ambassador program (initially called 4-H

Member Exchange and then Teen Caravan) was started in the early 1960s.

To serve yet another element of 4-H - volunteer and professional staff - the Professional Rural Youth Leader Exchange (PRYLE) was started in 1962 for both Americans and participants from other countries. It provided a two-to-four month experience in the US or another country. International Extension 4-H Travel Seminars provided two-to-three week opportunities for volunteers and professionals to travel to other countries, observe youth programs, talk with leaders and youth, and experience another program and culture firsthand.

In the mid-1960s the International Agricultural Training Program (ATP) was initiated with Japan, which sent150 young Japanese farmers to the US for a two-year practical training program. ATP continued until 1983 and included trainees from Korea, the Philippines, the Republic of China, Poland and a few other European countries.

The Youth Development Program, also involving older 4-H alumni, was developed in 1967 in response to the expressed need in developing countries for longer-term practical assistance. YDP delegates worked 18 months with in-country staff to help recruit and train leaders, develop educational materials, conduct camps and training sessions, and expand the reach and impact of youth programs. YDP started in Botswana and spread to nine other countries in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Asia.

Involvement of younger 4-H members was also enhanced with the development of a special exchange with Japan. Jointly sponsored by US 4-H and the Labo International Exchange Foundation in Japan, an exchange for Japanese and American youth began in 1972.

Following several years of negotiation, started as early as 1962, an exchange with the Soviet Union was initiated in cooperation with the US Department of State. An exchange, the Young Agricultural Specialists Exchange Program (YASEP), got underway with the Soviet Union in 1976 and continued for four years. A group of 4-H'ers visited the People's Republic of China in 1982. That same year a delegation from the US Department of Agriculture, the National Association of State Universities and Land-Grant Colleges, and National 4-H Council visited China to explore areas of cooperation between China and the US 4-H program.

As other priorities overtook 4-H and the Federal Extension Service, and US private sector support to international programs became harder to secure, National 4-H Council was no longer able to fund and administer exchanges and to support the youth development initiatives of other countries. Today, while 4-H international exchanges still provide cross-cultural experiences for young people, most of the activity is funded at the state level. The IFYE Foundation of the USA, founded in 1997 and an outgrowth of the IFYE Alumni Association of the USA, also contributes significantly.

The States' 4-H International Exchange Programs (S4-HIEP), established in 2004, currently administers the variety of 4-H international experiences available. S4-HIEP is governed by a Board of Directors comprised of 4-H Extension professionals from across the US. Exchanges are coordinated in participating states by 4-H Youth Development Centers of Cooperative Extension at Land Grant Universities. Twenty-three US states and one Canadian province currently participate in States' 4-H International Exchange Programs.

Now, with international agendas and economic issues again increasingly capturing worldwide attention, National 4-H Council is nurturing a global initiative to coordinate and stimulate development of youth education programs around the world. National 4-H Council recently convened the "First International 4-H Executive Conference" to explore the potential of a global 4-H partnership. Nine country or regional organizations were invited as "founders" or "framers" of this proposed consortium: Canadian 4-H Council, Finnish 4-H Federation, Costa Rica Foundation of National 4-S Clubs, Korea 4-H Association, Republic of China National4-H Club Association, Rural Youth Europe, Jamaica 4-H Clubs, 4-H Tanzania and 4-H Ghana. Following a pilot program in Tanzania, the partnership anticipates a second step as expansion into Korea and the rest of Asia. Founding partners of this initiative are the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Cargill, DuPont, Motorola Foundation and Nike Foundation. Additional sponsorship for the initial Conference came from Novus.

Is this a "new dawn" for 4-H international programs? Not necessarily; maybe a renewal of interest in the potential worldwide impact of youth development, an idea which was born more than 100 years ago with the creation of 4-H in the United States.






Compiled by National 4-H History Preservation Team.


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