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.
Bill Gates calls himself an “impatient optimist.”
Would that we all shared his optimism and, especially, his impatience.
They are marching again in Alabama with no less passion than the civil rights campaigners of the 1960s.
In the new initiative to end hunger through agriculture development, an old African proverb is lighting the way: If you want to go fast, go it alone. If you want to go far, go together.
Before the calamitous earthquake, Haiti was in the news for another tremor: the global food crisis of 2008.
Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution, stands as a monument to how one determined individual can make a huge difference in the fight against hunger. But he often stressed that it took an army of individuals, with a unity of purpose, to win the war.
In 2003, while reporting in the famine fields of Africa, I met an American aid worker who suggested I expand my research on global hunger: “You should look into hunger in America, too,” she suggested.
His travels may take him to Ethiopia, Malawi, Lesotho or to the far corners of Ireland. His meetings may be with heads of state, parliamentarians, budgetary bean counters or with farmers and school children. His missions may range from promoting new conservation tilling techniques to considering the role of breast pumps in improving infant nutrition in Africa.
They were listening in the hills of Rwanda a year ago when a new American president, this one with African lineage, took the oath of office. Minutes into his inaugural address, Barack Obama stirred their hopes:
“To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow, to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.”
Given the carnage of the first decade of the 21st Century, the humanitarian front would seem an unlikely source for a beacon of light. But here it is, shining through the gloom:
Where grassroots clamor is raised, wonders follow.
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.
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?
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.