The World Food Prize Foundation

The Borlaug Blog

Our Decade Of Action Requires A Rural Renaissance, Starting With The Farmer

By Paul Schickler
Chair, World Food Prize Council of Advisors

From October 20 to 22, leaders, educators and youth who share a passion for agriculture will gather again at the International Borlaug Dialogue to recommit to a decade of action. The Dialogue began more than 20 years ago as a forum to celebrate scientific advancements and forge partnerships to help improve agricultural productivity and farmers’ lives. In recent years, the convergence of seismic societal shifts and climate change realities added compounding factors requiring a more resilient food supply. Today, our mission has never been more urgent – together, we must continue to elevate innovations and inspire action to sustainably increase the quality, quantity and availability of food for all.  

Several  years ago, the Foundation expanded its focus from improving productivity in developing communities to delivering a positive, more sustainable food system. We believe that through improved access to nutrition, gender equity, water quality and soil health, rural communities around the world can thrive. The Laureates selected during this period embody these ideals, especially this year’s Laureate, Shakuntala Haraksingh Thilsted, whose groundbreaking research and innovation in holistic, nutrition-sensitive approaches have improved the balance between nutritious food and resilient ecosystems, while improving the livelihoods of millions of vulnerable people across the globe.

Appropriately, last year the Borlaug Dialogue focused on resilience. In 2021, we will recommit to bold action. While the challenges we face are clear, and meaningful advancements have been made, more must be done to achieve our mission – and fast.

For the hundreds of attendees who return to Des Moines, Iowa, each year (in-person and virtually), the Dialogue offers much more than the name implies. Through the strong engagement last year, new partnerships were forged and advancements in policies, programs and innovation were highlighted. For example, responding to climate realities and social pressures, bi-partisan U.S. senators introduced the Growing Climate Solutions Act to enable farmers and foresters to participate in carbon markets in support of climate-smart practices. At the Dialogue, we explored even further how we could collectively break new ground to strengthen food systems. Corporations, NGOs and now start-ups are working together to expand and invest carbon-smart programs across mainstream agriculture. And we can help maintain the momentum this year.

As part of this year’s Dialogue, Land O’Lakes CEO Beth Ford and I will explore how a rural renaissance can revitalize global food and ag systems, starting with the farmer. The fact is the strain on farming communities is universal. While the specific challenges may vary, we’ve seemingly left rural communities behind even while advancing science and technology to improve productivity. Urgently, we must ensure equity in education and access to opportunities for all people – and reinvest in broad infrastructure to facilitate remote education; access to professional, health and mental health services; job opportunities and more.

 A decade ago, the Borlaug Dialogue posed three critical questions:

  • What are the most pressing future challenges that the global community will face in fighting hunger and poverty?

  • Who will be the next generation of leaders to confront such challenges and how do we best prepare and develop these leaders?

  • What are the next generation of technologies, methodologies, models and solutions to overcome such challenges?

In 2021, we recommit to this decade of action through 2030. While the path has been long, the answers are now clearer – and together we will succeed in our mission. Because we must.

I look forward to hearing about the incredible steps being taken during this year’s Dialogue. See you on October 20

09/08/2021 8:00 AM
© 2024 The World Food Prize Foundation. All Rights Reserved.