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.
Countervailing winds have been blowing across the global efforts to reduce hunger through agriculture development.
“We need to build warehouses! We need markets!”
As leaders of the world’s top industrial countries gather for the Group of Eight summit in Canada, they can look to the long-suffering hills of Rwanda to see the fruits – and vegetables — of their actions.
The challenge before us was laid out in all its daunting intensity:
For anyone who doesn’t “get” the moral and economic imperative of ending hunger through agriculture development, here’s another motivating imperative: security, both domestic and global.
Just back from Sudan, Rajiv Shah, USAID administrator, came to the Chicago Council’s Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security this morning with fresh evidence that food security is the key to national prosperity, regional stability and international peace.
As Rajiv Shah spoke at last week’s Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security, I thought about an image in his old office at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation before he became Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development. Hanging on the wall behind his desk was a photo of a child crouching in a blue wash bucket somewhere in Africa. Only her head was visible above the bucket’s rim.
Tell me about the girl, I asked.
The clamor begins just inside the door of Ridge Academy elementary school on Chicago’s south side. Short essays and drawings shout out to all those who pass:
“Many people are dying now because of hunger.”
The looming famine in Niger is a gripping reminder of the urgency of the task at hand: ending hunger through agriculture development.
From across the pond, amid the sniping and bickering of the current election season in the United Kingdom, comes a worthy idea: enshrining in law the nation’s commitment to provide a certain level of foreign development aid.
Earth Day was a green-letter day in the fight against global hunger.
It’s all the same really, the clamor over hunger, climate change and environmental preservation. The common goal: improve food production and nutritional quality to feed the planet’s ever-expanding and more prosperous population while adapting to climate change and protecting delicate eco-systems.
It was in the scary days of the Cold War when Norman Borlaug, a plant breeder from small-town Iowa, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970. An odd choice, perhaps, given the nuclear standoff at the time, but the Norwegian committee bestowing the award had a good reason.
A blunt reminder of the task at hand came from Europe this week, aimed at the powers-that-be in the Group of Eight leading industrial countries, also known as the G8:
“Declarations, commitments and speeches don’t feed hungry people.”
After the passage of the health care bill, doing the big and historic is again possible in politics.
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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