Worldwatch Institute convenes 15th annual state of the world Symposium in Washington, D.C.


Source: Worldwatch Institute

Worldwatch Institute's 15thAnnual State of the World Symposium, convened today, brought together leadingthinkers for a targeted dialogue focused on agricultural development, hunger,and poverty alleviation. The symposium occurred in conjunction with the releaseof Worldwatch's flagship publication, State of the World 2011: Innovationsthat Nourish the Planet, whichoutlines 15 proven, environmentally sustainable prescriptions foralleviating hunger and poverty.

Keynote speakers and panelists included: Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy Secretary ofthe U.S. Department of Agriculture; David Beckmann, President, Bread for theWorld; Hans Herren, President, Millennium Institute; Meera Shekar, Lead Health& Nutrition Specialist with the Human Development Network at the WorldBank; Sara Scherr, President and CEO, Ecoagriculture Partners; CatherineAlston, Cocoa Livelihoods Program Coordinator, World Cocoa Foundation; andStephanie Hanson, Director of Policy and Outreach, One Acre Fund.

'Farmers-fromsub-Saharan Africa to the U.S.-are the first stewards of the land because theyunderstand the importance of sustaining the world's natural resource base,' saidMerrigan. She addressed an audience that included a broad variety of internationalstakeholders, from agricultural policymakers and nongovernmentalrepresentatives to members of the donor and funding communities. 'Our soils andland, our water, our biodiversity are central to long-term farm productivity.And it is this understanding that drives farmers to be some of our bestinnovators. The ability of small-scale farmers with limited capital to farm insustainable ways improves not only their own productivity but also benefits allof us.'

Worldwatch'sNourishing the Planet project, which produced this year's State of the World report, gathered its findings during a 15-monthtour of agricultural innovations, researching projects on the ground in 25sub-Saharan African countries. Representatives from two of these projects participatedin the symposium: Edward Mukiibi, co-founder and Project Coordinator ofDeveloping Innovations in School Cultivation (DISC) in Uganda, and SithembileNdema with the Food and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) inSouth Africa.

Stateof the World 2011 highlights projectslike Uganda's DISC program as a way to give a voice to farmers 'from the field'and to help them share their ideas globally. DISC, for example, is integratingindigenous vegetable gardens as well as information about nutrition, foodpreparation, and culture into school curricula to teach children how to growlocal crop varieties that will help combat food shortages and revitalize thecountry's culinary traditions. An estimated 33 percent of African childrencurrently face hunger and malnutrition, which could affect some 42 millionchildren by 2025. But many youth are moving away from agriculture and ruralregions in the hope of finding work in urban areas.

'School nutrition programs shouldn'tsimply feed children,' said Mukiibi. 'We must also inspire and teach them to become the farmers ofthe future and revitalize the vegetables and traditions of our culture.Ensuring that the next generation of farmers is well versed in localbiodiversity and sustainable growing practices isa huge step toward improving food security.'

South Africa's FANRPAN is focused on another frequentlyneglected audience: women. The organization uses interactive community plays toengage women farmers, community leaders, and policymakers in an open dialogueabout gender equity, food security, land tenure, and access to resources. Becausewomen in sub-Saharan Africa make up more than 75 percent of agriculturalworkers and provide 60-80 percent of the labor to produce food for householdconsumption and sale, it is crucial that they have opportunities to expresstheir needs in local governance and decision-making. FANRPAN's entertaining andamicable forum makes it easier for them to speak openly.

In addition to spotlighting theseand other successful agricultural innovations, State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet drawsfrom the world's leading agricultural experts to outline major successes inpreventing food waste, building resilience to climate change, and strengtheningfarming in cities. The report comes at a time when many global hunger and foodsecurity initiatives-such as the Obama administration's Feed the Futureprogram, the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), the UnitedNations World Food Programme (WFP), and the Comprehensive Africa AgricultureDevelopment Programme (CAADP)-can benefit from new insight into projects thatare working today to alleviate hunger and poverty in an environmentallysustainable manner.

'The international community has beenneglecting entire segments of the food system in its efforts to reduce hungerand poverty,' said Danielle Nierenberg, co-director of the Nourishing thePlanet project. 'The solutions won't necessarily come from producing more food,but from changing what children eat in schools, how foods are processed andmarketed, and what sorts of food businesses we are investing in.'

The report provides a roadmap for increased agriculturalinvestment to more effectively target projects that are empowering farmers tolift themselves out of hunger and poverty. 'Bread for the World is calling on Congress to makeU.S. foreign assistance more effective in reducing hunger and poverty aroundthe world,' said Rev. Beckmann. 'Reforming foreign aid will allow developing countries to reduce hungerand help poor people to build a better future for themselves and theircommunities.'

Serving locally raised crops to school children, forexample, has proven to be an effective hunger- and poverty-reducing strategy inmany African nations, with strong similarities to successful farm-to-cafeteriaprograms in the United States and Europe. Efforts to prevent food waste arealso critical. 'Roughly 40 percent of the food produced worldwide is wasted beforeit is consumed, creating large opportunities for farmers and households to saveboth money and resources by reducing this waste,' said Brian Halweil,Nourishing the Planet co-director.

Thefindings of Stateof the World 2011 will be shared in over 20 languages with global agriculturalstakeholders that include government ministries, policymakers, farmer andcommunity networks, and the increasingly influential nongovernmentalenvironmental and development communities.

Worldwatch Institute and the Nourishingthe Planet project are gratefully supported by the Bill and Melinda GatesFoundation, as well as additional foundations, governments, and institutionsincluding the Rockefeller and Surdna Foundations, the United NationsFoundation, the Goldman Environmental Prize, the Shared Earth Foundation, theWallace Global Fund, and the Winslow Foundation.

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