The World Food Prize ceremony honoring Dr. Ejeta culminated a nearly week-long symposium where worldwide business leaders, political officials and others who work on issues of hunger and food security gathered ... to share their work and learn what each other is doing in the area of research and humanitarian efforts.
One of the presenters was Bill Gates, founder of
Microsoft Corporation. But he came to
the Symposium in his role as co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to promote sustainability and productivity in the fight against hunger in impoverished nations.
Bill Gates: Now’s the time. The world food crisis has forced hunger higher on the world’s agenda. From NGOs to the G8 to African Heads of State – there is a rush of new commitment.
But there is also a problem.
The global effort to help small farmers is endangered by an ideological wedge that threatens to split the movement in two.
On one side is a technological approach that increases productivity.
On the other side is an environmental approach that promotes sustainability.
Productivity or sustainability – they say you have to choose.
I believe it’s a false choice, and it’s dangerous for the field. It will block important advances. It can breed hostility among people who need to work together. And it makes it hard to launch a comprehensive program to help poor farmers.
We certainly need both productivity and sustainability – I believe we can have both.
Many environmental voices have rightly highlighted that there were excesses in the original Green Revolution. They warn against the problems of too much irrigation or fertilizer. They caution against the consolidation of farms that could crowd out small-holders.
These are important points, and they underscore the crucial fact that the next Green Revolution has to accommodate these things and in that sense be even greener than the first. It must be guided by the needs of the small-holder. It must be adapted to local circumstances, and understand how to make it sustainable for the economy and the environment.
There is no reason for so many farmers to be so hungry and so poor.
Poor farmers are not a problem to be solved; they are the solution – the best answer for a world that is fighting hunger and poverty, and trying to feed a growing population.
If farmers can get what they need to feed their families and sell their surplus, hundreds of millions of the poorest people can build themselves a better life.
It will take passion and focus and a sustained sense of urgency. It will take a willingness to put aside old divisions and come together behind this cause.
We have the ability to build these tools. We know what needs to be done. We can be the generation that sees Dr. Borlaug’s dream fulfilled – a world free of hunger.