BHEARD students reflect on the 2017 World Food Prize (Part 1)

Nine BHEARD scholars attended the 2017 World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa, in October.

Nine BHEARD scholars attended the 2017 World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa, in October.

BHEARD (Borlaug Higher Education for Agricultural Research and Development) is named after Dr. Norman Borlaug, an American biologist, humanitarian and Nobel laureate who has been called “the father of the Green Revolution.” Borlaug founded the World Food Prize (WFP), which recognizes the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.

A few of the BHEARD scholars who attended WFP shared their thoughts about the experience. Read more reflections here.

Eric Owusu Danquah is a Ghanaian studying plant, soil and microbial sciences at Michigan State University (MSU). He's pictured below, left, with the 2017 World Food Prize Laureate, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina.

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My first encounter with WFP was in 2011, when former president of Ghana John Agyekum Kufuor was named Laureate. It was therefore exciting and welcoming news to be selected by BHEARD to be part of World Food Prize 2017. It was an opportunity to meet with the powers that be in global agriculture and food production.

I had read and studied about the Green Revolution, but WFP gave me the opportunity to learn more about Dr. Borlaug and his contribution. I started with a breakfast discussion with DuPont on food security. It became obvious from the interaction that food security achievement is linked to seed germplasm conservation and security. Also, the panel discussion on securing African farming with youth drew my attention to the fact that Africa has the advantage of so many youths in each country. With encouragement and knowledge, a lot of youths can secure jobs in agriculture.

Two parts of WFP impressed me. The first was awarding the Laureate, Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, at the Iowa State Capitol. The laureate’s speech taught me the need for perseverance and dedication to the pursuit of technologies to address food production in the face of climate change.

I was also impressed by the award for field research and application, endowed by the Rockefeller Foundation, which was awarded to Dr. Zhenling Cui. As a young research scientist with an interest in sustainable food production in the face of climate change, the 2017 Laureate and Cui have inspired me to give my best.

As Dr. Adesina said in his speech: “We will arise and feed Africa. A day is coming very soon when the barns of Africa will be filled, when all of its children will be well fed. When millions of smallholder farmers will be able to send their kids to school. Then you will hear a new song across Africa. Our lives are better!”

This statement continues to linger in my memory and inspires me to give my best in sustainable food production. It also gives me the sense of urgency to do my part to fill the barns of Africa – at the very least with yams, the crop I am currently researching for my thesis.

I am inspired to face the challenges of fighting hunger in Ghana and the rest of Africa. Inspired by a popular saying of Dr. Borlaug, I want to develop new technologies and “take it to the farmer.”

Florence Lwiza is a Ugandan studying agricultural economics at Kansas State University. She's pictured below, right, with John Dramani Mahama, former president of Ghana, second from right, and fellow BHEARD students.

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WFP was the first event I attended in the U.S. where people from academia, research, donors, government institutions and the private sector came together to address critical issues facing global food security and nutrition. I attended the main event, the international symposium, where different panelists presented the work their organizations were doing, the results they had achieved and the challenges they face in promoting food security.

It was interesting to listen to debates with divergent views from panelists and attendees, and eventually come to a common position. I learned about the policies used in different parts of the world to support farmers’ access to agricultural technologies, financing and markets. The key message I got from the symposium was for all actors to promote and practice agriculture as a way out of poverty, and not a way to manage poverty.

I also attended the side events, where I learned about the work different organizations were doing from presentations and from informational materials that they circulated. The most interesting discussions I participated in were about building resilience so that households that are out of poverty do not fall back into poverty when faced with shocks such as droughts. Apart from the side events, there were a number of social gatherings where I had the opportunity to network, create new friendships and bond with fellow BHEARD scholars from other universities.

The highlights of the event were the award ceremonies for field research and application and the 2017 Laureate. Learning about the journey that the Laureates have gone through to reach a level where they are recognized was inspiring. I learned that it does not matter how you start – do what you can to improve the lives of the people around you. It also does not matter how many times you fail – believe in your ideas and innovate to make them work. For me, the sky is the limit. I may not become a WFP Laureate, but I will do what I can to fight hunger and to pass on the Borlaug legacy in my home country.

Juma Magogo is a Kenyan studying agricultural education and communications at Texas Tech University. He's pictured below, second from right, with fellow BHEARD students and Jeanie Borlaug-Laube, daughter of Norman Borlaug, center.

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My participation in WFP 2017 was very fundamental in reinstating my desire to join the fight to end global hunger. In this fight, each one of us has a role to play and it is only through these concerted efforts that we can make this world a better place to live. Through my interaction with the 2016 WFP Laureates and Mrs. Jeanie Borlaug Laube, daughter of Dr. Borlaug, it became apparent that we have a collective responsibility to reduce hunger, poverty and revitalize communities. In this discourse, we need to follow the footsteps of Dr. Borlaug in being persistent, innovative and able to communicate with any person in any culture and in any situation. In addition, we need to possess desired leadership qualities and conduct quality field research and application.

I was very impressed and inspired during the award ceremony, in which Dr. Adesina was installed as the 2017 WFP Laureate. His journey toward recognition is awakening young scholars from developing nations. The pathways which led to his pinnacle achievement are walkable, but require resilience and determination. Following the footsteps of Dr. Borlaug, he refused to be constrained in his approach to problems by conventional wisdom. Dr. Adesina has been at the forefront of galvanizing the political will to transform African agriculture through initiatives to. expand agricultural production; thwart corruption in the agricultural input industry; and exponentially increase the availability of credit for smallholder farmers across the continent.

Dr. Adesina has been heralded as the “African Norman Borlaug.” I am now more devoted to walk these paths in the fight against global hunger. As Dr. Borlaug said, “Food is the moral right of all who are born into this world."

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