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Oxford Farming Conference reveals Breaking Barriers 2023 Scholars

Posted 15 November

“The Breaking Barriers Scholars represent a group of young people with the potential to thrive in the sector, and it is a privilege to provide them with networks, resources and opportunities exclusive to the programme that otherwise, they may not have access to.”

The Scholars with OFC Director and facilitator Navaratnam Partheeban, including Hakeem, third from right, and Faith, fifth from right.

The Scholars with OFC Director and facilitator Navaratnam Partheeban, including Hakeem, third from right, and Faith, fifth from right.

The Oxford Farming Conference has announced the recipients of its 2023 Breaking Barriers Scholarships.

The Breaking Barriers Scholarship, run in partnership with McDonald’s UK and Ireland, is a scheme to promote diversity and inclusion in the UK agriculture sector, and this year’s recipients include a current Harper Adams Masters student and a Harper Adams alumnus.

Scholars are chosen from applicants aged under 30-years-old who identify as Black or Person of Colour (BPOC), and will be attending the conference in January 2023, as it examines Farming a New Future.

As well as attending the conference, the Scholars will be taking part in a tailor-made pre-conference programme with events, mentoring and other support. The group recently met up in London to get to know each other – as well as discuss their hopes for both the project and their futures.

Their next event will be a trip to Essex in a few weeks’ time, where they will visit jam and preserves manufacturer Tiptree, a large dairy farm and a series of regenerative system farms.

OFC Director and facilitator Navaratnam Partheeban said: “Having an agricultural sector that attracts and retains a rich mix of people is vital if we are to futureproof our changing industry, but as it stands, it is the least diverse in the UK.

“The Breaking Barriers Scholars represent a group of young people with the potential to thrive in the sector, and it is a privilege to provide them with networks, resources and opportunities exclusive to the programme that otherwise, they may not have access to.”

This year’s Scholars with a link to Harper Adams are Faith Mohammed, a Masters Student studying Agricultural Sciences and Production Systems, and Hakeem-Abdul Ojo, who is employed as a procurement analyst based in London, having completed his MSc in International Agri-business and Food Chain Management.

Speaking after her Scholarship was announced, Faith said: “I was ecstatic. I recognize the significance of the Oxford Farming Conference in the industry, and I am looking forward to the experience, networking, and opportunities it will provide.”

Hakeem added: “I was elated. I recognise the significance of the Oxford Farming Conference in the industry and understand the importance of being in that kind of gathering.

“It is yet another opportunity to meet and network with strategic industry stakeholders. I look forward to the experience.”

Both Hakeem and Faith are originally from Nigeria, and each speaks warmly of their studies at Harper Adams.

Faith – whose studies are supported by the Marshal Papworth programme - said: “A visit to my grandfather's farm at a tender age made me understand the benefit of agricultural production and its impact on food security.

“This motivated me to enrol in the MSc programme at Harper Adams University, where they have research on sustainable agriculture, practical teaching, and top-notch lecturers that are experts in their field.

“At Harper, I could see machines and equipment that I had previously only read about.

“The staff, students, and alumni are all friendly, approachable, and helpful. The learning environment is conducive, and many opportunities are available to students. Harper Adams is a wonderful place to be, and I am grateful to Marshal Papworth for this opportunity.”

And Hakeem – whose friendships forged at the University led him to co-found an Ag-Tech business in Nigeria with a  fellow Harper alumnus - added: “I found Harper through personal research. I wanted a university that aligned with my goals. So, I did the research myself and found the university online.

“The International Agri-business and Food chain management course has a curriculum that fits all the required modules and case studies you would need to succeed as an Agri-business professional. I didn’t find that in other specialist universities.”

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