Today, I had the privilege of hosting the seventh annual World Food Prize Laureate announcement ceremony at the State Department in Washington, DC. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of Agriculture (USDA) Tom Vilsack, and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah delivered remarks. In attendance were Ambassadors and representatives of non-governmental organizations, private corporations, and research centers arriving from as far as Bulgaria, Bahrain, and Burundi.
The event began with Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, President of the World Food Prize Foundation, announcing two deserving World Food Prize winners this year: David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, and Jo Luck, president of Heifer International.
Both winners have proven to be leaders in the fight to end world hunger. They will formally be presented with the $250,000 award in a ceremony this October 13 and 15 at the Iowa State Capitol (The World Food Prize organization is headquartered in Des Moines, Iowa).
In addition to announcing the award recipients, the event also marked a step forward in the Feed the Future Initiative, which recognizes the importance of food security implemented through a whole-of-government approach. In her speech, Secretary Clinton outlined the Feed the Future research strategy, which includes a new partnership between USAID and the USDA. She explained the mission of the Feed the Future Initiative, emphasizing its collaborative nature and saying, “We want to strengthen every link in the farming chain -- from improving the seeds that farmers plant in their fields to helping create thriving food markets to promoting nutrient-rich crops so people get the nourishment they need to thrive, especially mothers and children.”
In the second big announcement of the event, Secretary Clinton expanded upon a cornerstone of the Feed the Future strategy: investments in research and innovation. She noted, “In a few decades, the world's population will grow to nine billion people. If we are to feed all those people without leveling the forests, draining the aquifers, and depleting the soil of all its nutrients, we need science. There is simply no other way.”
The Secretary said that through Feed the Future, “We will support scientists working here in the United States, in international centers like the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research, and in local institutions in our partner countries. And we will fund projects along the entire research pipeline -- from advancing the frontiers of our knowledge and exploring cutting-edge ideas, to taking technologies that have already succeeded in the lab and testing them in the field.”
She also noted that population growth can be addressed through political cooperation. “We ask ourselves not whether we can end hunger but whether we will because it truly is a matter of political will and capacity,” she said.
USAID Administrator Shah built upon Secretary Clinton's theme of political will, saying that in creating the World Food Prize Foundation, Dr. Bourlaug was hoping to instill in people a desire for political advocacy and action. He said, “It really takes only one thing to end hunger and that is tremendous and consistent political will, and [Dr. Bourlaug] modeled that behavior throughout his career.”
USDA Secretary Vilsack wrapped up the event with a reference to the Biblical story of feeding the multitude with only two fish and five loaves of bread. He pointed out how sharing takes courage, but can lead to an abundance of resources.
“If there is an overriding theme to our discussion today, it's that all of the people we honor, dedicate, and remember have the power to remove the fear of sharing and in fact to inspire the need for sharing,” he said.
I was honored to take part in this event which sought to inspire, unite, and mobilize people from a spectrum of specialties in the collective effort to fight world hunger.
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