Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The Greatest Challenge in Human History

It was a great first day at the World Food Prize for the Borlaug Dialogue here in Des Moines with students! Over the next couple days the discussion will continue on "The Greatest Challenge in Human History;" feeding 9 billion people by 2050. Over the next three nights I will share highlights from the sessions at the Borlaug Dialogue highlighting key points from each area. I encourage you to continue the dialogue at home, in communities, and in classrooms around the world discussing the following points and statements.

Opening Ceremony The Borlaug Dialogue Ambassador Kenneth Quinn
  • Highlighted the Borlaug Centennial (Norman Borlaug's 100th Birthday)
  • 20 year anniversary of the youth institute as part of the Borlaug Dialogue
  • Theme for the week: Innovation, Intensification, and Inspiration
  • "You can't take it to the farmer if you don't have good roads."
Opening Keynote H.E.Kanayo F. Nwanze, President of International Fund for Agricultural Development
  • Sad but true statement, "There is a privileged world and the forgotten world."
  • Forgotten world = Rural areas
  • We must remember that "forgotten world" problems are our problems as well. "No one was concerned about Ebola when in forgotten world. Now that it is in the privileged world Ebola is receiving attention."
  • Forty percent of farms are abandoned in Sierra Leone due to fear of Ebola, Crops are rotting in the field.
  • Forty-five percent of children deaths are due to malnutrition.
  • Three keys to sustainable agriculture and yield increases:
    • Must take advantage of all science has to offer.
    • Need private and public entities alike to work together.
    • Individuals and institutions can not work alone. Partnerships must be created.
  • We must change the perception of farming so young people want to farm.
  • No amount of foreign aide or science will work unless we collaborate and work together.
The Borlaug Report: Assessing The Greatest Challenge, What are the trendlines? Are we on course? Kenneth Cassman, Professor of Agronomy at University of Nebraska-Lincoln
  • We are not on track currently to feed 9 billion by 2050, but we can get there.
  • Don't look at minimum food needed to feed 9-10 billion. Let's overshoot.
  • Since 2001:
    • Slowing rates of crop yield increases
    • Rapid expansion of crop production area
    • Increasing food prices
    • Accelerating CO2 emissions
    • Increasing global supplies of natural gas
  • We are reaching a yield plateau in the U.S.
  • How much food can be saved due to diet changes and waste pattern changes?
  • Food prices will likely increase quicker than energy (fertilizer) input costs.
  • In 2010 3.9 billion lived on $4/day or less than $1460/year.
  • We need big, open (public) data and it needs to be:
    • spatially dense
    • High Quality
    • Real-time and Historic Data
  • Big data is real. Monsanto paid $930 million for Climate Corporation (weather data).
  • Check out the following website for yield gap information:
The Borlaug Report: Critical Factors in Meeting The Greatest Challenge Moderator: Sir Gordon Conway, Professor of International Development at Imperial College London; Leo Abruzzese, Global Forecasting Director of Public Policy with Economist Intelligence Unit; Marc Sadler, Adviser on Risk and Markets with The World Food Bank; Shenngen Fan, Director General at International Food Policy Research Institute; Margaret Zeigler, Executive Director at Global Harvest Initiative
  • Sometime this month China will pass the U.S. in purchasing power.
  • Sometime within the week the U.S. will bypass Saudi Arabia in petroleum production.
  • We must extend our technologies and practices to all. We cannot keep some away from parts of the world.
  • Incremental changes won't cut it anymore. We need big changes to make things happen.
  • Big data has barely made an impact on agriculture compared to other business areas.
  • Precision Ag technologies are not just for industrialized countries. Anyone can use the principles.
  • We need better veterinarian service worldwide. We must invest and protect livestock.
  • Seven of the ten fastest growing economies are in sub Saharan Africa.
  • Production increases are leveling off and the rate of increase is falling.
Borlaug Report: Crop Intensification, Technology and Enviromental Sustainability Moderator: M.S. Swaminathan, 1987 World Food Prize Laureate; Robert Fraley, 2013 World Food Prize Laureate; Mark Rosegrant, Director at International Food Policy Research Institute; Hon. Dan Glickman, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture; Tjada McKenna, Deputy Coordinator for Development with USAID Bureau for Food Security
  • Another way to look at things: We need to double food production over the next 36 years.
  • Outlined five points from National Geographic "To Feed the World":
    • Freeze agriculture's footprint
    • Grow more on farms we've got
    • Use resources more efficiently
    • Shift diets
    • Reduce waste
  • You can have your own opinions, but not your own facts. We must look at what science says regarding GMO's and climate change.
  • Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are everywhere. Agriculture can learn from this.
  • How do we take it to the farmers?
    • Communication and modern technology
    • Cooperatives
    • Extension
  • We must increase yields everywhere. Not just here or there, but everywhere.
  • Priorities in Research:
    • Yield increase
    • Pest and drought issues
    • Water scarcity and quality
The Nutrition Gap Moderator: David Strelneck, Senior Advisor with Nutrient Value Chain; Navyn Salem, Founder and Director of Edesia Inc.; Katherine Pickus, VP at Abbott Fund; Tom Leech, Senior VP with Walmart; Bram Govaert, Director at International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center
  • There is a difference between feeding people to fill their stomachs and feeding people for energy.
  • Need to focus on providing healthier options with cost savings. Big issue with nutrition is affordability.
  • Those that are financially unstable often choose poor nutrition.
  • As we try to feed 9 billion people we have an excellent opportunity to link agriculture and nutrition together.
We closed the evening with time at the Hall of Laureates recognizing the recipient of The Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application. Dr. Bram Govaerts received the award for his work in Mexico with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center. He has worked side by side with farmers turning subsistence agriculture systems into productive and sustainable production units that allow smallholder farmers to escape hunger and poverty. global-agriculture-learning-center-logo.jpg

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