Now in its 30th year, the World Food Prize’s Borlaug Dialogue remains an important forum for the exchange of ideas between some of the world’s brightest minds on food security and development issues.
On Oct. 18, the day’s events began with a panel discussion among field researchers calling for teamwork across disciplines.
Bram Grovaerts of CIMMYT discussed outreach needs for farmers in sub-Saharan Africa who struggle with aflatoxin issues in their grain.
Andrew Mude of the International Livestock Research Institute described his organization’s work to develop an index-based insurance program using a farmer-submitted database of over 120,000 photos to assess range conditions.
Eric Pohlman of the One Acre Fund spoke about training needs for rural communities to provide reliable fertilizer and storage for small farms.
Kenyan researcher Charity Mutegi said post-harvest losses have been as high as 40 percent. The researchers called for improved storage facilities in the hardest-hit farming regions as well as investments in the agricultural supply chains of developing nations.
Industry leaders also weighed in, including Liam Condon, head of the crop science division at Bayer AG.
Condon said that in a time of climate change and other challenges, farmers and industry need to “stand up for science and innovation in farming.”
Biotechnology and the intensification of farming methods has benefited some, but not all farmers. Condon said companies need to try to make sure all farmers, even small producers in Africa, can benefit from new technology.
He said the planned merger of Bayer and Monsanto “gives us the ability to generate more innovation faster” and that innovation is “the big motivating factor” behind the merger.
James C. Collins, executive vice president of DuPont, also spoke of the need for innovation in agriculture to feed a growing world.
Collins said the challenge for agriculture is “How do we make healthy, affordable food available and affordable for everyone?”
He cited three necessary ingredients to accomplish this goal: innovation, education and communication.
Collins also discussed biotechnology’s ability to improve crops, including drought-resistance, disease-resistance and development of healthier oils.
Ponsi Trivisvavet, president of Syngenta Seeds, spoke of her company’s work to help farmers in developing nations through improved hybrids and crop protection.
She emphasized the need to measure progress and provide access to data.
Discussing Syngenta’s open data initiative, Trivisvavet said, “This is a company-wide approach for us, but we know it will help us improve technology for everyone. It should encourage collaboration and help build trust.”
A graduate of Muscatine High School in eastern Iowa, Jim Yong Kim, president of the World Bank Group, discussed many development issues facing the world today.
Kim spoke of the challenges of what has been termed the Fourth Industrial Revolution, noting most recent increases in productivity due to advances in artificial intelligence and robotics have not been met with job growth.
He presented figures showing much of the developing world, but also large percentages of the developed world, are at risk of job losses due to the transition into a new service-based economy.
Kim also focused his presentation on the issue of children with stunted growth due to malnutrition. Studies have shown a child’s brain development is closely linked to nutrition. Stunting affects more than a third of Africa and South Asia, Kim said.
“Investing in young children supports economic growth,” he said.
H.E. Akinwumi Adesina, president of the African Development Bank, also discussed “brain matter infrastructure” in his address.
“Stunted children today lead to stunted economic growth tomorrow,” he said.