The 2015 World Food Prize symposium is attracting leaders from more than 65 countries to Des Moines, Iowa, this week to discuss global efforts to alleviate hunger. Over 1,200 people—scientists, economists, policy makers and agricultural leaders—are registered to attend.
The annual three-day "Borlaug Dialogue" international symposium takes place Oct. 14-16. Other related events surrounding the symposium begin this week with the annual Borlaug Lecture Oct. 12 at Iowa State University. The lecture will be delivered by this year's winner of the World Food Prize, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed of Bangladesh.
The World Food Prize is the agricultural equivalent of the Nobel Prize and is given each year to recognize the efforts individuals who have improved the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.
This year's symposium theme is "Borlaug 101"
The World Food Prize was founded by the late Dr. Norman Borlaug, a native Iowan and plant geneticist credited with saving a billion lives through his work developing disease-resistant wheat varieties. Known as the "Father of the Green Revolution," Borlaug received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970.
This year's symposium theme is "Borlaug 101: fundamentals of global food security."
Ken Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation, based in Des Moines, explains that "To celebrate the 101st anniversary of the birth of our founder, Norman Borlaug, and in view of the unprecedented challenge we face to sustainably and nutritiously feed the 9 billion people who will inhabit our planet by the year 2050, our conference has gathered together an outstanding 'faculty' of speakers—international leaders, experts and scientists for this three-day 'course' on achieving global food security."
Many timely ag-related topics on the agenda
On Oct. 13, the daylong Iowa Hunger Summit will take place, focused on food insecurity issues in Iowa and abroad. More than 600 people will attend representing local food banks, churches and other organizations and agencies. Attendees will hear from speakers and will participate in workshops sharing ideas on programs and local efforts to fight hunger in Iowa and elsewhere.
Attendees will learn about life-saving sweet potatoes and innovative micro-financing efforts in developing countries. They'll hear how Ebola-ravaged African countries are rebuilding their economies a year after the epidemic hit; an assessment of efforts to achieve global food security by the year 2030; and discussions on sustainable agriculture, building soil health and soil and water conservation efforts in developed and developing countries.
Empowering the world's women farmers is a key theme
A key theme of this year's World Food Prize conference is how young girls and women can help drive innovation to lift families from poverty and hunger, particularly through an education built around science, technology, engineering and math.
"That message is demonstrated by this year's World Food Prize winner Fazle Hasan Abed of Bangladesh, who transformed his post-war reconstruction initiative into the world's largest non-governmental development organization," says Quinn. "BRAC is credited with helping 150 million people find pathways from poverty."
BRAC discovered that women need to be "agents of change" in development efforts, Abed says. "Only by putting the poorest, and women in particular, in charge of their own destinies, will absolute poverty and deprivation be removed from the face of the earth."
BRAC, formerly known as the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee, helps poor families, those living on less than $1.25 a day. The program gives participants a "productive asset" such as goats, a dairy cow or hybrid seed, a weekly stipend, a small savings account and intensive training and support.
Additional highlights of the program:
• An array of speakers focused on inspiring girls and young women to pursue education and careers in STEM. Keynote address to start the conference on Oct. 14 will be delivered by Chelsea Clinton, vice chair of the Clinton Foundation. Sheryl WuDunn, Pulitzer Prize Winner, banker and co-author of "A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity," is also a keynote speaker.
• U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack will lead "The Secretary's Roundtable," a discussion of open data for agriculture and nutrition.
• H.E. Florence Chenoweth, Minister of Agriculture of Liberia, will follow up on her 2014 presentation on the Ebola crisis and its impact on agriculture.
• Howard G. Buffett, chair of the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, will lead a panel discussing the case for conservation agriculture and restoring African soils.
• David MacLennan, CEO of Cargill, will give his perspective on changes needed to feed the global population by 2050. Jim Borel, vice president of DuPont; Robert Fraley, chief technology officer for Monsanto; and Cory Reed, vice president of the Intelligent Solutions Group of John Deere are among other representatives of agribusiness who will speak at this conference.
• The presentation of the 2015 Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application will be presented to Eric Pohlman, co-founder of the One Acre Fund. He is recognized for his work with micro-financing for small-holder farmers in East Africa.
• The Global Harvest Initiative will release its annual GAP report. The "2015 Global Agricultural Productivity Report: Building Sustainable Breadbaskets" will be presented by a panel of experts from industry, agriculture and government who will discuss this year's findings.
• DuPont will host a first-of-its kind "Seed Security for Food Security" forum, a day-long meeting on Oct. 13, as a side event at the WFP conference.
• Ray Offenheiser, president of Oxfam America will deliver the keynote address "Beyond Seeds, Soil and Tractors: Empowering a Food Secure World," at the Oct. 13 Iowa Hunger Summit. Oxfam will hold another side event October 14 looking at promising approaches to ag production that could deliver benefits to small-holder farmers and the environment.
• Truth about Trade & Technology, an organization that believes it's more important than ever for farmers to speak out and work together to feed the world, will hold its annual Global Farmer Roundtable discussions on Oct.13-14. TATT is bringing 14 farmers from 14 different countries to the 2015 World Food Prize event to participate in this panel discussion.
• Organized farm tours near Des Moines are available to all attendees and will take place the afternoon of Oct. 16, arranged by the Iowa Soybean Association.
The 2015 World Food Prize will be formally presented to Sir Fazle Hasan Abed at a ceremony and dinner at the Iowa State Capitol the evening of Oct. 15. Attendance is invitation only as space is limited. The entire evening's ceremony will be presented live on Iowa Public Television.
For more information about the World Food Prize and this week's activities, visit worldfoodprize.org.