Two former presidents who led the drastic reduction of hunger and poverty in their countries were awarded the 2011 World Food Prize in a ceremony at the Iowa State Capitol building Thursday evening (click here for video).
John Agyekum Kufuor, former president of Ghana, and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, former president of Brazil, were honored for creating and implementing government policies that alleviated hunger and poverty in their countries. These achievements put Brazil and Ghana on track to meet or exceed the objectives of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals, making the two leaders model examples in realizing an end hunger and poverty worldwide.
Under President Kufuor's leadership, Ghana became the first sub-Saharan African country to cut in half the proportion of its people who suffer from hunger, and the proportion of people living on less than a dollar per day, on course to meet UN Millennium Development Goal 1. Continuing Ghana's tradition of stability, President Kufuor prioritized national agricultural policies: Ghana saw a reduction in its poverty rate from 51.7 percent in 1991 to 26.5 percent in 2008, and hunger was reduced from 34 percent in 1990 down to 9 percent in 2004.
A guiding principle for President John Kufuor during the entirety of his two terms as president of the Republic of Ghana (2001-2009) was to improve food security and reduce poverty through public- and private-sector initiatives. To that end, he implemented major economic and educational policies that increased the quality and quantity of food to Ghanaians, enhanced farmers' incomes, and improved school attendance and child nutrition through a nationwide feeding program.
President Lula da Silva made it clear, even before he took office as president of Brazil in 2003, that fighting hunger and poverty would be a top priority of his government. More than 10 government ministries were focused on the expansive Zero Hunger programs, which provided greater access to food, strengthened family farms and rural incomes, increased enrollment of primary school children, and empowered the poor. Zero Hunger very quickly became one of the most successful food and nutritional security policies in the world through its broad network of programs, including: the Bolsa Familia Program; the Food Purchase Program; and the School Feeding Program.
Over the eight years of his administration, President Lula da Silva's commitment and vision achieved dramatic reductions in hunger, extreme poverty and social exclusion, thereby greatly enhancing the lives of Brazil's people. During his tenure, UN Millennium Development Goal 1 was exceeded as Brazil reduced by half its proportion of hungry people, with 93 percent of children and 82 percent of adults eating three meals a day, and also reduced the percentage of Brazilians living in extreme poverty from 12 percent in 2003 down to 4.8 percent in 2009.
The World Food Prize was created in 1987 by Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr. Norman Borlaug, to recognize individuals who have contributed landmark achievements in increasing the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.