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The Borlaug Blog

The Borlaug-Ruan Internship

By Rachel Ganson
Borlaug Ruan International Intern
Rachel Ganson

My first morning as a Global Youth Institute participant, I quickly learned two things about food security and agricultural sustainability: first, there was an overwhelming amount of information I did not know; second, learning about and addressing these issues would be a lifelong passion. Throughout the weekend, I was continually inspired by the legacy of Dr. Borlaug, who identified his vision of a hunger-free world and selflessly dedicated his life to this noble pursuit. Six years later, my own sense of purpose and passion is renewed whenever I reflect on Dr. Borlaug’s words, “Food is the moral right of all who are born into this world.”

As a Borlaug-Ruan Intern in Hyderabad, India, I engaged directly with individuals denied their basic moral right to food while researching the effect of increased female income on household. Through both my research and daily interactions, I gained a more holistic understanding of the issues that cause poverty and hunger—gender, socio-economic status, education and health care, to name but a few. I also had the privilege of learning alongside outstanding researchers, whose guidance and support enhanced my understanding of the complexities of food and agriculture policy. It is indeed necessary to address food insecurity from all angles, but my time as a Borlaug-Ruan Intern affirmed the particular importance of holistic, well-formed policy approaches to improving access to nutritious food.

I was not immediately committed to pursuing a career in food and agricultural security, though. When I first enrolled at the University of Notre Dame, I intended to pursue medicine. My food policy interests related mainly to the impact food security has on nutritional status and overall health.  However, courses in the social sciences engaged me more than the hard sciences, and I quickly realized my calling was not medicine. Around this same time, I attended the World Food Prize Symposium for the third year in 2013, where I had the honor of hearing former President Grimsson of Iceland speak about marine sustainability in Iceland and their fish trade with Nigeria. Shortly after President Grimsson’s remarks, I heard Tony Blair and Howard Buffett discuss the nuanced impacts of well-intentioned foreign aid in developing countries, both good and bad. I began looking more closely at the role global politics and international relations play in developing solutions to food insecurity. This shift inspired my eventual decision to study political science, concentrating in international relations and incorporating food and agriculture policy in my coursework whenever possible.

I also sought opportunities to study international food policy beyond the classroom. My time as a Borlaug-Ruan Intern provided a strong foundation for rigorous academic research, which enabled me to pursue independent research projects that informed my academic understanding of international relations and global affairs. I travelled to Iceland to study the drying technology President Grimsson had discussed and learn more about the Iceland-Nigeria trade relationship. I also had an intense desire to return to Indi, and spent one summer interning with the Centre for Civil Society, a think tank in New Delhi, where I researched potential points of entry for street vendors in small-business food supply chains. At Notre Dame, I also completed a senior thesis project on international law and Mediterranean fisheries. The concept for the thesis developed after my research in Iceland, and combined both my academic interest in international law and policy and my passion for food justice and sustainability.

As a recent graduate, I am currently seeking opportunities which allow me to continue engaging in food policy. After my gap year, I plan to attend law school in order to further ground myself in the policy-making process. Ensuring all individuals are food secure is a moral duty, and this should be recognized in both international and domestic legal systems. I look forward to the challenges ahead and know I will continue to find inspiration in the life and vision of Dr. Borlaug. His legacy is one which we are all invited to participate in, and together we will feed the world.

09/25/2017 10:14 AM |Add a comment
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