May 21, 2013

Live Blog - Chicago Council: A Discussion on “A New Science of Agriculture to Advance Global Food Security”

Danielle Nierenberg, co-founder, Food Tank

The Chicago Council Global Food Security Symposium continues with a panel discussion entitled, “A New Science of Agriculture to Advance Global Food Security," chaired by Dr. Barbara Schaal, dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Washington University in St. Louis.

Dr. Schaal noted after the first round of questions that, when it comes to changing agriculture and the food system, “science alone is not sufficient.” The variety shown in the panel members made it clear that there is renewed focus across public, private, and international organizations towards ending global food insecurity.

Begemann emphasized that, across sectors and organizations, “we all need to work together.” Other speakers stressed that the complex challenge of hunger requires a unique collaboration between different sectors, experts, and communities.

Dr. Mauricio Antonio Lopes, president of the Brazilian Agricultural Research Corporation, discussed three needs in addressing food and agriculture: more strategic thinking, more foresight, and better strategies to deal with challenges and changes of the future. Dr. Rob Horsch, deputy director of research and development for The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, echoed this need for strategic thinking and foresight, arguing that we must “start with what farmers need.” By engaging with the communities that the international community seeks to help, better strategies and programs can be developed to address the challenges of agriculture.

The measurement of this success, however, remains problematic; Dr. Cutberto Garza, provost and dean of faculties of Boston College, asserts that money is the main measure in terms of cost effectiveness, revenues, and other markers of agriculture, and instead, goals need to be redefined in terms of human wellbeing. Begemann stated that milestones are needed to monitor progress instead of having a single, final, future outcome.

Dr. Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, Chief Executive Officer and Head of Mission of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network, and Ren Wang, Assistant Director General of the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), both advocated for an increase in long-term, stable support and investment. Dr. Sibanda stated that investors need the confidence to make the long-term investments necessary to allow countries and organizations to address the larger challenges of hunger, with a focus on capacity-building and solutions that attract young people to agriculture.

There was also a discussion of the need for a shift in the paradigm surrounding food and agriculture research. Dr. Lopes first noted the difference between research that simply generates knowledge, and research that focuses on development. The paradigm of science “for” society separates these two ideas, when instead they should act in tandem. Dr. Sibanda also noted the difference between research for development and research in development - and the pronounced need for the latter. Science and society must be better integrated to comprehensively address the challenges of food and agriculture.

Food Tank will be live-blogging presentations from the Chicago Council on Global Affairs' Global Food Security Symposium.


The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


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| By Janet Fierro

Guest Commentary - Rural Niger Women find Opportunity and Hope through Innovative Business Model

When researchers set out to find natural ways to manage a crop-destroying pest in sub-Saharan Africa cowpea fields they knew the results could have significant positive impact on smallholder farmers. What they may not have expected was the significance of the cottage industry it inspired and the entrepreneurial spirit of the rural women of Niger who led it.