My Moment of Great Disruption
Roger Thurow, senior fellow with the Chicago Council's Global Agricultural Development Initiative, gave a TEDxChange talk in Seattle on April 3. He recounts his experiences in Ethiopia during the famine and explains why the international community needs to invest in smallholder farmers.
Bread for the World’s new Hunger Report raises the stakes right from its very first sentence:
“2011 is a time of opportunity to achieve lasting progress against global hunger and malnutrition.”
There’s plenty of numbers-watching going on in Washington D.C. and other world capitals these days. Mainly, the numbers with currency symbols in front of them, the numbers in government budgets.
Hidden hunger was brought out into the open in a big way this week – and so was a promising solution.
Throughout this past summer, in the long-suffering hills of western Rwanda, legions of farmers toiled at their sloped plots. With hoes and axes, they crafted flat, wide terraces and a simple water-management system that would keep valuable topsoil in place.
It is lamentable that the deep and persistent economic woes in the U.S. and Europe are breeding a certain dangerous myopia in international development affairs.
Speaking on a panel earlier this year, I was outlining the gathering momentum in the fight against hunger: The push of the Obama administration to create Feed the Future, the commitments of the G8 and G20 leaders to increase support for agriculture development, the greater involvement of philanthropists, corporations, universities and humanitarian agencies.
To honor this year’s winners of the World Food Prize, this column will go easy on the outrage and heavy on the inspire.
We – “we” being the rich world — asked the poorest countries to draw up comprehensive agriculture investment plans and tell us which were the highest priority projects to boost food production. Do that, we informed them, and we will help finance the projects from a new multi-donor trust fund called the Global Agriculture Food Security Program, or GAFSP.
Listen to these African voices:
“As our governments take action, we need the international community to do its part as well. A green revolution in Africa depends on locally driven solutions plus reliable donor support. Neither ingredient is sufficient on its own – both are indispensable.”
In Rwanda earlier this summer, I visited a rural project with the lyrical name, IBYIRINGIRO. It means “hope” in Kinyarwanda, and trumpets this slogan: “that in which we have faith for a better tomorrow.”
“Today a hoe. Tomorrow a tractor.”
In Africa, the Way to an agriculture revolution has long been clear. The original Green Revolution in Asia, in the 1960s and ‘70s, provides the classic roadmap.
It is no coincidence that a neighbor of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa here is Embrapa, the Brazilian agricultural research corporation. For Embrapa was one of the main players engineering the green revolution in Brazil.
In the Bungoma Chemist shop, where you can get almost everything you need to battle a cold, de-worm your cattle or fertilizer your crops, something revolutionary is now on sale.
It’s maize harvesting time in western Kenya. Tearing the husks off her corn, Jentrix Mesache can hardly believe her eyes – or her ears.
Roger Thurow’s book will tell the story of the vital importance of proper nutrition and health care in the 1,000 days window from the beginning of a woman’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday.
The 1,000 days period is the crucial period of development, when malnutrition can have severe life-long impacts on the individual, the family and society as a whole. Nutritional deficiencies that occur during this time are often overlooked, resulting in a hidden hunger. It is a problem of great human and economic dimensions, impacting rich and poor countries alike.
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In The Last Hunger Season, the intimate dramas of the farmers' lives unfold amidst growing awareness that to feed the world's growing population, food production must double by 2050. How will the farmers, Africa, and a hungrier world deal with issues of water usage, land ownership, foreign investment, corruption, GMO's, the changing role of women, and the politics of foreign aid?
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Roger Thurow and Scott Kilman, award-winning writers on Africa, development, and agriculture, see famine as the result of bad policies spanning the political spectrum. In this compelling investigative narrative, they explain through vivid human stories how the agricultural revolutions that transformed Asia and Latin America stopped short in Africa, and how our sometimes well-intentioned strategies—alternating with ignorance and neglect—have conspired to keep the world’s poorest people hungry and unable to feed themselves.
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