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.
The 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks is bringing back a rush of memories and emotions. Everyone it seems is recalling, with respect for the victims, where they were on that day when they heard or watched the horrific news.
With drought devastating farms from the Horn of Africa to the Panhandle of Texas, I journeyed to one of the frontlines of climate change to “chew the news,” as the Maasai say.
At 6:30 this morning, as the sun was coming up, Sanet Biketi walked out of his small house made of mud and sticks. Carrying a machete at his side, he headed straight to the edge of his maize field and said a prayer of thanksgiving for the arrival of harvest day.
Two scenes from the great African paradox of surplus and shortage – feast and famine – in the same country.
The promises made by the leaders of the rich world in L’Aquila, Italy, two years ago were supposed to stop what is now happening in the Horn of Africa. But those pledges haven’t been kept, and starvation is raging once again.
Vision. Strategy. Tactics.
These were the priorities that emerged at my table during a discussion about the role of U.S. universities, government agencies, NGOs, foundations and the African diplomatic community in advancing African development.
The Nigerian ambassador to the U.S., Adebowale Ibidapo Adefuye, tells an acerbic joke to illustrate the importance of good leadership.
This growing season in south-central Kenya has been a good test for the new drought tolerant maize varieties being bred in Africa. This is a semi-arid area, but this year they can drop the semi. Farmers report only three short periods of rain since the February planting time.
For some farmers in western Kenya, the hunger season I wrote about last week is coming to a mercifully early end. A new variety of bean is ready for harvest.
The hunger season is especially cruel this year.
Little brains were on the minds of some pretty big brains in the fight against hunger at the Chicago Council’s Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security this week.
Bill Gates came to the Chicago Council’s Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security with a confession. “I’ve never been a farmer,” he said. “Until recently, I rarely set foot on farm.”
I enjoyed the great privilege of giving my first commencement speech on Sunday, to the graduating class of the Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin. I had eagerly anticipated the ceremony, knowing that the passion to shape a more just world inspires young policy makers as mightily as it fuels journalists.
With many words in this column, we have discussed what not to cut from the federal budget. Namely, administration requests to fund agriculture development, especially in Africa, under the Feed the Future initiative and the Global Agriculture Food Security Program.
Here is the Yin and the Yang of development aid spending: In the U.S., it is on the chopping block, threatened by budget cutters sharpening their knives; in China it is on an expansion course, favored by a government seeking to accumulate influence and riches in the developing world, particularly Africa.
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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