The World Food Prize Foundation

The President's Blog

Right Action | Key Messages | Plans for 2020


Defining Right Action: Locally and Globally
Over the last few months, the World Food Prize Foundation (WFPF) is evolving our programs and practices in light of COVID-19. We are working to develop new directions for all of our activities through extensive research and consultation with many partners. 

Now, on the special day of recognition, Juneteenth and following so many recent examples and centuries of racial violence against the Black community, we face a call to action against racial injustice and police brutality in all forms, locally and globally. 

Dr. Norman Borlaug took a stand for the under-resourced, impoverished and hungry people of the world. Norm worked to leverage resources, technology and innovation to benefit the most vulnerable. With the highest rates of oppression, inequality and poverty among Black communities due to systemic racism in this country, Norm’s life inspires us to take up the charge for reforms in the U.S. and around the world. We know that systemic racism perpetuates the significant inequities in our food system. 

We are now embarking on a deep examination of our own performance, re-evaluating in every direction - diversity in our staff, our programs, our partners, our awards process and our audiences. We are working as a team to develop internal alignment to reflect external, right action in support of the voices of Black people, Indigenous people and People of Color. 

We are fully examining our involvement with institutions that uphold inequitable and racist systems as they exist today. We remain committed to building a diverse generation of agriculture and food security professionals in all sectors, public, private, academic and service. We will follow and amplify the voices and leadership of the underrepresented as we proceed to do more. 

Now is the time for us to identify our own right actions. In the words of one of our staff members, “the work is not ending, it is only beginning. Speak up. Show up. Take action.” That is our commitment at this monumental, defining moment for humanity in 2020.

Key Messages from Our Experts
Last week, we hosted a virtual 2020 Laureate Announcement. Dr. Rattan Lal, Distinguished Professor of Soil Science at The Ohio State University, was named as the 2020 World Food Prize Laureate. Almost 1,000 people registered from around the world to celebrate Dr. Lal and hear from him directly in the Digital Dialogue that followed. You can watch the two recordings of the events here.

Already, we knew the global food security community was focused on the resilience of food systems. The widespread impacts of COVID-19 magnify the urgency of the work needed to create long-term, healthier food systems. 

In the Digital Dialogue #2, our experts looked to the medium-to longer-term needs for reshaping the food system, especially as espoused in numerous global calls to action and open letters in circulation. Key takeaways from their insightful remarks appear below.

  • Structural Vulnerabilities 

    • Countries that rely on imports of goods like wheat are at risk because countries exporting those goods may stockpile during the crisis. 

      • “We need to revisit, revive and reboot our systems.” - Purvi Mehta - Head - Agriculture Development, Asia, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; World Food Prize Council of Advisors

    • Global efforts are focused on short-term responses to the crises, but we must be thinking about long-term impacts. We cannot return to a vulnerable food system we no longer accept.

      • “If there is one thing that the COVID crisis has demonstrated, it is just how fragile our systems are, but also how in each of our countries, we have extremely weak people among us who have been impacted the most.” - Agnes Kalibata - President, AGRA; Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General for the 2021 Food Systems Summit

  • Farmers’ Challenges

    • Labor-intensive industries have been hardest-hit by the COVID-19 crisis; farming and other food production services are heavily dependent on labor.

    • Future policy should reflect the many roles of farmers and incentivize them beyond food production. 

    • In disruption, food prices go up and benefit farmers, but negatively impact urban consumers. 

    • Ensuring that farmers have access to knowledge, capital and other resources is essential in building resilience. 

      • “The answer to getting information to farmers is the national agriculture research and the extension system. It cannot be a repetition of the old system that existed, we now have new technology.” - Ismail Serageldin - Emeritus Librarian of Alexandria; World Food Prize Council of Advisors

  • Investment, Innovation + Capacity Building 

    • Innovation is not always about big goals and projects; often it is applying known solutions to communities in need and “doing more with less.” 

    • High risk and long-term research efforts should see increased investments at this time to meet medium- to longer-term development goals. 

      • “The only way to get out of this is not by doing more of the same. We need to innovate ourselves out of this crisis. And innovation indeed really also means getting new food systems in place.” - Louise Fresco - President, Wageningen University and Research; World Food Prize Council of Advisors

  • Nutrition 

    • The most vulnerable, especially pregnant women and children, must have proper nourishment. 

    • Many systems, such as school lunch systems, have been halted due to COVID-19, depriving children all over the world from, potentially, their only nutrition source.

      • “If we could just make malnutrition contagious, something would happen! And that says a lot about government response.” - Per Pinstrup Andersen - Professor Emeritus, Cornell University; 2001 World Food Prize Laureate

Plans for the Remainder of 2020

Exploration of and action on these issues will continue for the 2020 Borlaug Dialogue. WFPF will provide a platform to further global action through cross-sectoral collaboration. The World Food Prize events in the week of October 12 will take place in a new, virtual format. We will take the opportunity to widen our scope and offer more interaction through breakout sessions and side events, a new plenary format that features increased accessibility for a broader audience. We will also offer a special Laureate Award Ceremony to fully honor and celebrate Dr. Lal. 

We are looking forward to offering engaging and dynamic programs this year. Stay tuned for more information on our plans by the end of the month. Until then, continue to Save the Dates - October 12-16!

06/19/2020 10:06 AM
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