Photos reveal world's hunger
From The Des Moines Register
Nov. 17, 2013
By Michael Morain
Each of us gets about 40 chances to accomplish our goals in life.
At least, that’s how Howard G. Buffett figured it after someone once told him that over the course of their working lives, most farmers get about 40 growing seasons, 40 chances to improve on every harvest.
Buffett is the oldest of Omaha billionaire Warren Buffett’s three kids, and he farms 1,200 acres in central Illinois. He also runs a charitable foundation, which has given away more than $500 million to alleviate hunger. The work has taken him to some 130 countries around the world, and he often pulls out his camera to photograph the folks he meets along the way.
More than 120 of those photos — some happy, some haunting — are now on long-term display in “40 Chances” at the World Food Prize Hall of Laureates. The show opened to the public on Saturday and explains the World Food Prize mission in a way that words cannot.
WFP Foundation President Kenneth Quinn helped arrange the exhibition and explained it this way: “You know, I worked for Gov. Ray. We saw refugees in terrible straits. We brought the pictures back, and it sent an electric current through our state in 1979. The pictures bring home the individual human being suffering. That’s what really can communicate — when you see a child, a person, a mom. You see anyone who is suffering from lack of food, from lack of water, from the conflict that’s going on around them. You see the pain in one person’s face and you extrapolate it out to a million or more, and you see what needs to be done. That’s the power of photography.”
He walked a lap through the gallery and pointed out a few of the images that stuck with him. A woman from Mozambique with a baby on her back and bananas on her head. A shirtless U.S. military vet, whose bony ribs revealed his gnawing hunger. A boy with an assault rifle in Ethiopia, where people fight over access to water.
Quinn pointed to a portrait of another boy, from China, who was shoveling rice into his mouth with chopsticks. “Here’s someone who looks like he’s hungry, but he also looks like he has some hope,” he said.
Buffett’s photo show coincides with his new book, “Forty Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World,” which has become a best-seller since he launched it last month at the annual World Food Prize symposium. His dad described it in the foreword as a “guidebook for intelligent philanthropy.”
It “could have been a vanity book to chronicle his philanthropic work,” a Wall Street Journal reviewer wrote. But “it’s more than that. Howard Buffett has figured out a way to tell 40 stories about hunger, farming, poverty and war, while delivering a readable account of a formidable challenge.”
And more stories will soon be told. Last month the World Food Prize teamed up with the Howard G. Buffett Foundation and former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s African Governance Initiative to announce a new 40 Chances Fellows program, which will award four $150,000 grants to young adults with business plans to lift up communities in Rwanda, Liberia, Malawi or Sierra Leone.
The applications are due at the end of May, and the winners will be announced during next fall’s symposium.