Reflections on the 2014 World Food Prize & Borlaug Dialogue

Posted by on October 28th, 2014 | 0 Comments »

By Margaret M. Zeigler, Executive Director

This year’s events in Des Moines during the annual World Food Prize and Borlaug Dialogue drew an enthusiastic and energetic audience from around the world. Over 2,000 participants came together to celebrate the work of the Laureate, Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram, who has contributed so much to fulfilling the dream of the World Food Prize founder, Dr. Norman Borlaug—ending hunger, improving agriculture, and sustainably meeting the world’s need for food, feed, fiber and fuel.

Dr Rajaram and MZ

Just prior to the start of the week’s events, I was honored to join Dr. Rajaram and Ambassador Ken Quinn on Monday October 13, for an intimate dinner and conversation at the home of Iowa State University President Steven Leath. With a humble and gracious spirit, Dr. Rajaram exemplifies a commitment to humanitarian and scientific principles, and is dedicated to nurturing the next generation of agriculture scientists and young leaders who will help end hunger and poverty.

Dr. Rajaram gave a speech at Iowa State that evening to a large crowd of students and residents of Iowa, and interacted with graduate student from all over the world as they shared poster competition results of their agricultural research in Uganda.

Dr Rajaram and StudentsLecture Rajaram 2

On Wednesday of that week, the Global Harvest Initiative (GHI) launched our 5th annual Global Agricultural Productivity Report® (GAP Report®). We were joined by the Assistant Secretary of State, Ambassador Charles Rivkin, Ambassador Islam Siddiqui, Dr. Victor Villalobos, Director General of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation in Agriculture (IICA), and many other notable leaders and partners who work to end hunger and improve agriculture. Our board of directors and consultative partner organizations and over 300 attendees were also with us, and 75 viewers participated via webcast from 20 countries including India, Italy, Honduras, Canada, Sri Lanka, and throughout Europe.

Amb. Rivkin

The launch of our GAP Report and it’s central message of productivity, food and nutrition security, and inclusive value chains continues to resound, not only at the World Food Prize in Des Moines, but in many venues and policy centers around the world. This year’s report provided a special focus on the success of India, as the country has achieved great gains in agricultural productivity. Since the first Green Revolution in the 1960’s, India has established new systems of grain, dairy, fish and horticulture production that are transforming the Indian agriculture sector. The report also focused on the need to invest in more innovation, proven science-based technologies, and expand the knowledge base to farmers of all scales in order to raise productivity, not only in India, but across the globe. The GAP Report features many case studies of such innovation from India that provide clear examples of how food and agriculture systems can become more inclusive and sustainable. To dig deeper into the report findings, I was joined by a panel of experts, including Dr. Dilip Kulkarni of Jain Irrigation, Dr. Keith Fuglie of USDA, Dr. Tom Hertel of Land O’Lakes, and Jesus Madrazo, GHI’s board chair and Vice President at Monsanto.

MZ on stage with panelists

Later that afternoon, I participated in a panel in the opening afternoon session of the Borlaug Dialogue, moderated by Sir Gordon Conway, a member of the Council of Advisors for the World Food Prize. Other panelists included Dr. Shenggen Fan, Director General of IFPRI, Dr. Leo Abrusseze of the Economist Intelligence Unit, and Mark Sadler of the World Bank. We explored and debated different approaches meeting the critical challenge of agricultural productivity, and how we must harness political and scientific leadership to feed the world by 2050.

One of the highlights of the week was our GHI panel of member companies and experts on precision agriculture. On Thursday afternoon, GHI leaders shared experiences and knowledge about the role of “big data” and precision agriculture to reduce costs for farmers, improve yields of livestock and grains and other crops, and to conserve water and soil and energy resources. Kerry Preete of Monsanto, David Gephardt of Land O’Lakes, John May of John Deere, and GHI board member, Claudia Garcia of Elanco helped explain the power of using precision agriculture and data analytics to improve productivity. We are grateful to David Muth of AgSolver who served as an excellent and knowledgeable moderator for the panel.

The week culminated in the Laureate Ceremony at the Iowa State House during a festive ceremony where Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram was awarded the World Food Prize. He was celebrated for his contributions and partnership with Dr. Norman Borlaug to provide improved varieties of wheat to help feed India, Pakistan, and many other wheat producing nations around the world. Julie Borlaug, Dr. Norman Borlaug’s granddaughter, and other leaders such as Barbara Ekwall of FAO, Ginya Truitt Nakata of the Inter-American Development Bank, and Andre Zandstra of CIAT joined me and Ann Steensland of GHI at dinner that evening as we renewed friendships and strengthened partnerships to work together in our common endeavor—forging solutions to feed the world!


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