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World Food Prize Recipients Call For Investment In Agriculture In Developing Countries

The 2010 World Food Prize recipients say despite the economic situation “it’s no time for the United States to back off a historic pledge to invest in boosting the production of the world’s poorest farmers,” the Des Moines Register reports (Brasher, 10/14).

David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, and Jo Luck, head of Heifer International, received the prize on Wednesday during the World Food Prize Foundation’s annual conference, Bloomberg/Businessweek reports (Bjerga, 10/13). “The World Food Prize, which carries a $250,000 award, is given each year to recognize advancements in increasing or improving global food supplies and expanding access to food. Normally the award goes to a scientist. This year the prize’s foundation decided to recognize the work of nonprofit organizations that are making a difference for poor farmers,” the Des Moines Register writes.

“This has got nothing to do with the deficit. This is a rounding error in the deficit,” said Beckmann, who is a minister and economist (10/14). In an interview at the conference, Beckmann said price increases for corn, wheat and soybeans could exacerbate world hunger, according to Bloomberg/Businessweek. “One immediate effect is likely to be an increase in the number of undernourished people in the world,” he said Beckmann (10/13).

In an interview with the Des Moines Register, Beckmann said he would like U.S. food aid to be reformed so that aid can be purchased in the region it is needed and not in the U.S. as is currently required. “You can often do more good, get better help to people, and quicker help to people who are desperately hungry, if you use locally grown food, but we don’t do that very much because we’re beholden to the interests of half a dozen shipping companies,” he said (Brasher, 10/13).

Luck, who served under Bill Clinton when he was governor of Arkansas, “said that helping farmers overseas increase their productivity will lift people out of poverty, discourage child trafficking and prostitution, and help combat terrorism,” the Des Moines Register notes. She said that if aid is provided in the appropriate way, it would not foster developing country dependence on donors. “She cited the work of Heifer, which works to teach poor people self-reliance through animal husbandry. ‘Give them a few resources, give them a few animals and some training and you can’t hold them back,’ she said. ‘They may not all be a millionaire, but they’re going to be successful,'” according to the newspaper.

The piece includes a Q&A with Luck and Beckmann. The viability of solving global hunger and the relationship between aid for farmers and local poverty are among the issues discussed (10/13).

Also at the conference, Howard Buffett, a Berkshire Hathaway Inc. director and World Food Program ambassador, said a “‘Brown Revolution’ to improve soil quality is more important to African agriculture than new seeds and fertilizers,” Bloomberg/Businessweek reports. “Africans who farm plots of less than 3 acres (1.2 hectares) will need tailored solutions that may be different from the ‘Green Revolution’ that boosted crop yields in Asia, Howard Buffett, 55, said.”

“Food security is complicated, agriculture is complicated,” he said. “Simply distributing seeds and fertilizer, if that’s the plan, will fail long term.” In an interview after his speech, Buffett said erratic food staple prices are “‘a pretty scary thing’ to poorer populations that spend almost all of their income on food … A stronger agriculture infrastructure will protect against higher prices, he said.” To integrate farmers into the global market, the focus must initially be on basic elements, such as agricultural education, literacy and infrastructure investment, he said (Bjerga/Frye, 10/13).

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