Going Beyond the Seed and Toward Big Impact
The 2018 Borlaug Dialogue celebrated the global health and nutrition achievements of World Food Prize Laureates Lawrence Haddad and David Nabarro. I was invited to join one of the nutrition panels, and, in my remarks, I stated that these two global health leaders had transformed the nutrition landscape and the global community’s response to prioritizing nutrition action.
Like Norman Borlaug, Dr. Haddad and Dr. Nabarro brought governments and national institutions to the forefront, while also enabling civil society, the private sector, donors and the research community to work together and drive action at scale. As a result, they changed the lives of millions of people around the world, with the impact on millions more to be seen in the coming years.
Their story, and Dr. Borlaug’s legacy, remind us of an important lesson. For all the billions of dollars spent on research and innovation to fight hunger and malnutrition, improve agricultural productivity and strengthen food systems, it’s not merely the tool or technique that saves the day, or lives for that matter.
What we learn from Dr. Borlaug is that the demand creation, adoption and acceptance of evidence-based solutions ultimately determine the true impact and value of research and innovations. For Dr. Borlaug it was going well beyond the seed. It was achieving the greatest impact possible through the widespread deployment and utilization of evidence and research-based outputs, and working directly with individuals who determine how, and if, the world is fed and nourished – farmers, mothers, business people and policymakers.
I am fortunate to have had a front-row seat to see this work in action.
My father, Abdul Mujeeb Kazi, a scientist who directed CIMMYT’s Wheat Wide Crosses Program for almost three decades, worked hand-in-hand with Dr. Borlaug and the team of CIMMYT researchers in Mexico to bring forth and build on the Green Revolution. Those of us who grew up in the shadows of Dr. Borlaug and these scientists, knew of their dissatisfaction with the status quo, impatience with naysayers and big bureaucracies, and unrelenting drive to do more and do better. The message on the CIMMYT grounds was clear: Exploit all that research and innovation have to offer to solve hunger, and then swiftly ensure human impact, at scale, is achieved. If you couldn’t invest in and achieve the latter, the former was pointless.
Ensuring evidence-based approaches and solutions reach the vulnerable and yield impact at scale are the ultimate measures of success in my own work alongside prominent public health, nutrition and agricultural institutions and leaders, and now in my role as Executive Director of No Wasted Lives, a global coalition dedicated to ending wasting in 50 million children worldwide.
To finish the job on hunger, malnutrition and poverty, we must support enabling policy and civil society mechanisms, share knowledge and technical expertise in useful and actionable ways, build domestic capacity to deliver responses, and empower countries and communities to lead and achieve success on their own terms.
We should exponentially deploy the knowledge, tools and evidence available today. By impacting policy decisions, integrating solutions and innovations into country-led systems, bringing new and diverse voices forward, and ensuring communities are front and center to guide the work ahead, we can end hunger and malnutrition in our lifetime. The task is certainly formidable, but we must stay the course, and deliver on the commitment to achieve a just, prosperous and equitable world for all. As Dr. Borlaug stated in his 1970 Nobel Peace Prize Acceptance Speech: “Let our wills say that it shall be so.”
Watch Nabeeha’s tribute to the 2014 World Food Prize Laureate, Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram, and get a glimpse into life at CIMMYT alongside some of the giants of agriculture. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a-k823oDHQ8