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Worldwatch Institute Convenes 15th Annual State of the World Symposium in Washington, D.C.
Event highlights innovative next steps to create an environmentally sustainable food system, improve food security, and alleviate hunger and poverty
WASHINGTON - Worldwatch
Institute's 15th Annual State of the World Symposium, convened today,
brought together leading thinkers for a targeted dialogue focused on
agricultural development, hunger, and poverty alleviation. The symposium
occurred in conjunction with the release of Worldwatch's flagship
publication, State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet,which outlines 15 proven, environmentally sustainable prescriptions for alleviating hunger and poverty.
Keynote speakers and panelists included: Kathleen Merrigan, Deputy
Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture; David Beckmann,
President, Bread for the World; Hans Herren, President, Millennium
Institute; Meera Shekar, Lead Health & Nutrition Specialist with the
Human Development Network at the World Bank; Sara Scherr, President and
CEO, Ecoagriculture Partners; Catherine Alston, Cocoa Livelihoods
Program Coordinator, World Cocoa Foundation; and Stephanie Hanson,
Director of Policy and Outreach, One Acre Fund.
sub-Saharan Africa to the U.S.-are the first stewards of the land
because they understand the importance of sustaining the world's natural
resource base," said Merrigan. She addressed an audience that included a
broad variety of international stakeholders, from agricultural
policymakers and nongovernmental representatives to members of the donor
and funding communities. "Our soils and land, our water, our
biodiversity are central to long-term farm productivity. And it is this
understanding that drives farmers to be some of our best innovators. The
ability of small-scale farmers with limited capital to farm in
sustainable ways improves not only their own productivity but also
benefits all of us."
Worldwatch's Nourishing the Planet project (www.nourishingtheplanet.org), which produced this year's State of the World
report, gathered its findings during a 15-month tour of agricultural
innovations, researching projects on the ground in 25 sub-Saharan
African countries. Representatives from two of these projects
participated in the symposium: Edward Mukiibi, co-founder and Project
Coordinator of Developing Innovations in School Cultivation (DISC) in
Uganda, and Sithembile Ndema with the Food and Natural Resources Policy
Analysis Network (FANRPAN) in South Africa.
State of the World 2011 highlights projects
like 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 integrating indigenous vegetable gardens as well as
information about nutrition, food preparation, and culture into school
curricula to teach children how to grow local crop varieties that will
help combat food shortages and revitalize the country's culinary
traditions. An estimated 33 percent of African children currently face
hunger and malnutrition, which could affect some 42 million children by
2025. But many youth are moving away from agriculture and rural regions
in the hope of finding work in urban areas.
"School nutrition programs shouldn't simply feed children," said Mukiibi.
"We must also inspire and teach them to become the farmers of the
future and revitalize the vegetables and traditions of our culture.
Ensuring that the next generation of farmers is well versed in local
biodiversity and sustainable growing practices is a huge step toward improving food security."
Africa's FANRPAN is focused on another frequently neglected audience:
women. The organization uses interactive community plays to engage women
farmers, community leaders, and policymakers in an open dialogue about
gender equity, food security, land tenure, and access to resources.
Because women in sub-Saharan Africa make up more than 75 percent of
agricultural workers and provide 60-80 percent of the labor to produce
food for household consumption and sale, it is crucial that they have
opportunities to express their needs in local governance and
decision-making. FANRPAN's entertaining and amicable forum makes it
easier for them to speak openly.
In addition to spotlighting these and other successful agricultural innovations, State of the World 2011: Innovations that Nourish the Planet
draws from the world's leading agricultural experts to outline major
successes in preventing food waste, building resilience to climate
change, and strengthening farming in cities. The report comes at a time
when many global hunger and food
security initiatives-such as the Obama administration's Feed the Future
program, the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), the
United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), and the Comprehensive Africa
Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP)-can benefit from new insight
into projects that are working today to alleviate hunger and poverty in
an environmentally sustainable manner.
international community has been neglecting entire segments of the food
system in its efforts to reduce hunger and poverty," said Danielle
Nierenberg, co-director of the Nourishing the Planet project. "The
solutions won't necessarily come from producing more food, but from
changing what children eat in schools, how foods are processed and
marketed, and what sorts of food businesses we are investing in."
report provides a roadmap for increased agricultural investment to more
effectively target projects that are empowering farmers to lift
themselves out of hunger and poverty.
"Bread for the World is calling on Congress to make U.S. foreign
assistance more effective in reducing hunger and poverty around the
world," said Rev. Beckmann. "Reforming foreign aid will
allow developing countries to reduce hunger and help poor people to
build a better future for themselves and their communities."
locally raised crops to school children, for example, has proven to be
an effective hunger- and poverty-reducing strategy in many African
nations, with strong similarities to successful farm-to-cafeteria
programs in the United States and Europe. Efforts to prevent food waste
are also critical. "Roughly 40 percent of the food produced worldwide is
wasted before it is consumed, creating large opportunities for farmers
and households to save both money and resources by reducing this waste,"
said Brian Halweil, Nourishing the Planet co-director.
The findings of State of the World 2011 will
be shared in over 20 languages with global agricultural stakeholders
that include government ministries, policymakers, farmer and community
networks, and the increasingly influential nongovernmental environmental
and development communities.
Institute and the Nourishing the Planet project are gratefully
supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, as well as
additional foundations, governments, and institutions including the
Rockefeller and Surdna Foundations, the United Nations Foundation, the
Goldman Environmental Prize, the Shared Earth Foundation, the Wallace
Global Fund, and the Winslow Foundation.
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The Worldwatch Institute is an independent research organization recognized by opinion leaders around the world for its accessible, fact-based analysis of critical global issues. Its mission is to generate and promote insights and ideas that empower decision makers to build an ecologically sustainable society that meets human needs.