BHEARD students reflect on the 2017 World Food Prize (Part 2)

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.

Jean Bosco Shingiro, pictured below, is a Rwandan studying food science at Michigan State University.

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It was a pleasure to be a participant in the 2017 World Food Prize. Different people from different corners of the world gathered to talk about food, and how to get out of poverty through food production, management and consumption in effective ways. International leaders, farmers, famous scientists, students and NGOs were among the participants. Each participant was talking one language, “food,” which is important for the future of an increasing world population.

It was an unforgettable experience to explore the clean and quiet city of Des Moines, the headquarters of WFP. At the end of the event, I realized that I did not know much about Dr. Norman Borlaug, who did tremendous work during his career. He was an exemplary scientist and friend of farmers and youth. It was therefore an opportunity to learn more about him, his work and his principles, which can be a light to my research and future work helping farmers get out of poverty.

WFP was a place to get updates on science and new technologies in the agricultural sector. Various scientists have revealed how science is an important tool to fight hunger. These days, we are confronting food scarcity due to crop diseases, postharvest losses, consequences of climate change, etc.; hence, science is one of the solutions. Nowadays, research in crop breeding is being applied to produce crops resistant to diseases and climate change.

I attended a panel-led discussion on “Getting technology to smallholder farmers.” One of the panelists indicated that breeding or gene editing can be used to destroy aflatoxin in certain crops, an achievement that can reduce postharvest losses and enhance food safety.

WFP is an international event, and thus a networking opportunity. It was a pleasure to represent my university and my country. I was able to meet people who have achieved a lot in their careers. It was a great pleasure to meet scientists from 2Blades Foundation, whose goal is to transfer knowledge and research results to farmers in a practical way.

It was important to see how hard-working people are recognized through awards in response to the great work they have done. The award for field research and application is interesting, because the criteria show that some people are using the principles of Dr. Borlaug to support farmers. It is a model to transfer knowledge and new technologies to farmers by working hand in hand with them. I was inspired by Dr. Zhenling Cui (2017 winner of the Borlaug award for field research and application), who believes that it is easy to provide the technologies needed by farmers when you know their challenges and wishes.

According to Dr. Jayson Lusk (2017 winner of the Borlaug CAST communication award), there is a growing divergence between urban eaters and rural growers, inequality and divergence in food preferences of the rich and poor, and diverging population trends in high- and low-income countries. He insisted that it is important to communicate the story in a way that appeals to urban and rural values. He also discussed the need for innovations to make food healthier and tastier.

I also learned that food security is composed of complex and linked elements on improved seeds, improved/new technologies, infrastructures, access to inputs and markets and extension services. I leaned that successful food security involves partnerships between farmers, governments, academia and entrepreneurs.

At the end of the event, I realized that malnutrition is becoming a serious issue to the world population in both developed and developing countries. It is therefore a concern to address for the future. When we work together, we can all speed up in a one-direction highway to get out of poverty.

Marina Tandoh is a Ghanaian studying food and nutrition at the University of Georgia. She's pictured below, right, with H.E. Olusegun Obasanjo, former president of Nigeria.

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It was a great privilege and honor to be among the BHEARD scholars attending this year’s WFP award ceremony. This week-long event has put me on a pedestal to initiate a drive toward ending global hunger, especially in developing countries like Ghana. As the theme of the symposium was The Road Out of Poverty, there couldn’t be a better way to end world poverty than to do it through agriculture.

I have been greatly inspired by the work of this year’s Laureate award winner, Dr. Adesina, who has upheld the vision of the late Dr. Borlaug to see the Green Revolution take hold in Africa. It was humbling and fulfilling to see Dr. Borlaug’s vision to end world hunger still living on several years after his demise. His tenacity and passion to see this through are most worthy of emulation.

The various dialogues that took place at the event were the most impressive part of the program, as experts in diverse fields in agriculture, nutrition, banking, etc., converged on one common platform to throw light on key areas in the drive toward alleviating world hunger. Some highlighted areas bordered on innovation, education, extension, sustainability, collaboration/partnership and support among various disciplines for a better outcome of development and food security. Much emphasis was placed on the need to develop agricultural knowledge and infrastructure among farmers through technical training, operational management, farm management, etc.

One profound statement by Dr. Adesina was the need to break down the complexity of agricultural science and research to make it more meaningful and implementable by local farmers. Other highlighted areas focused on the implementation of realistic intervention programs that must be tailored to suit the people within a specific geographical area, as well as to involve local stakeholders in such programs.

Through this event, I have come to appreciate the need to use existing tools and resources to the best of my ability, while identifying existing gaps/barriers to drive food security, as well as forming partnerships with other disciplines. Having this insight has made me more determined than ever to adopt practical steps to improve the livelihoods of people in Ghana through simple, practical agricultural activities or programs. The fact that without agriculture, we cannot effectively implement nutritional agendas has drawn my attention greatly, and redirected my focus to the need for using agriculture as the fundamental driver to achieve food and nutrition security.

The onus now lies on me to take up the baton handed down from my predecessors and to do better for my generation. Thus, with all the knowledge gleaned from this event and through my education as a BHEARD scholar, I am fully motivated and ready to step out and take every necessary step to drive the hunger-free-world agenda. I echo the words of Dr. Adesina, that through improved food production, storage, processing and marketing, “Africa can feed Africa!”

Anthony Macharia is a Kenyan studying agricultural and applied economics at Texas Tech University. He is pictured at the top of this story, second from right.

The 2017 WFP ceremony brought together agriculture and food security stakeholders from all over the world with one common agenda: how to feed the world’s ever-growing population, expected to reach 9 billion by 2050. Food should also be produced in ways that ensure minimum damage to the environment and natural resources. The role of technology in improving agricultural productivity, nutrient-rich foods and longer shelf life cannot be over-emphasized.

 The ceremony culminated with the award of the 2017 WFP Laureate to Dr. Akinwumi Adesina, current president of the African Development Bank. He was recognized for his work of over two decades as a champion for agriculture and food security in Africa. While working for the Rockefeller Foundation, AGRA and as minister for agriculture in Nigeria, he worked toward ensuring the expansion of agricultural production, combated corruption in the Nigerian fertilizer industry and increased the availability of credit services for smallholder farmers across Africa. Due to his contribution and passion toward ensuring Africa is food secure, he earned the nickname “Africa’s Norman Borlaug.”

In the wake of greater challenges in the world with respect to global peace, fragility and conflict, there is only one way to ensure peaceful, secure and sustainable nations: eradicating hunger and poverty in all its forms. This will require everyone’s individual contributions and efforts, in whatever capacity, in working toward achieving this noble course. 

 

 

 


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