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World Food Prize Symposium To Give Out Award, Focus On Issues Facing Smallholder Farmers

Global agriculture officials and as many as 60 farmers from around the world this week at the annual World Food Prize symposium in Des Moines, Iowa will focus on the challenges facing small farmers, the Associated Press reports.

Kofi Annan, the former U.N. secretary-general, “is scheduled to give the keynote address Thursday, when the [World Food Prize Foundation] will give its World Food Prize to the presidents of Heifer International and the Christian advocacy group Bread for the World in recognition of their efforts to fight hunger.” Heifer president Jo Luck will split this year’s $250,000 prize with David Beckmann, head of Bread for the World (Crumb, 10/13).

“We tend as a nation to be privately generous and publicly stingy,” Beckmann said, whose organization “lobbies lawmakers to address issues of poverty and hunger,” Radio Iowa reports. Luck said hunger programs should go further than just providing meals. “If we keep spending money just to give them food and not thinking how to empower them to improve their own lives, we’re really wasting our own resources,” she said. “We’ve got to think beyond that. We have to be planning how to provide them with the resources and the education for them to take over their own lives and become self-reliant” (Curtis, 10/13).

As for the symposium, World Food Prize Foundation President Kenneth Quinn said the aim “is to find ways to provide smallholder farmers with technology ‘so they can get the most out of their land, not to just feed themselves but to become producers who are growing food for others in their country and their society,'” according to the AP.

“People want to provide a silver bullet solution and there aren’t any,” said Howard Buffett, whose foundation runs research farms in Illinois and South Africa. “It’s not easy to do and you can’t take technology, better seed and fertilizer and think that’s going to solve the problem.” Buffett, who is scheduled to speak at the symposium on Wednesday, believes smallholder farms need “‘basic types of intervention,’ such as cover crops, conservation-based tillage systems and very basic farm equipment,” the AP writes.

“Jeff Raikes, chief executive officer of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said a combination of high-tech and low-tech solutions are needed to help smallholder farmers.” Raikes will speak at the symposium on Thursday. “He said high-tech research has helped develop 50 drought resistant varieties of corn … As an example of a low-tech solution, Raikes cited development of a triple-layer storage bag for cowpeas, a legume grown in parts of Africa and south Asia. The inexpensive bags boost farmers’ income by blocking the development of weevil larvae that eat dried cowpeas. In the bags, the crop can be preserved for months and, in some cases, more than a year,” according to the news service (10/13).

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