Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Food Security: Two world Outlooks, A World Apart

This week I attended two main conferences: The World Food Prize (WFP), and 'From Commodity to Community', the 13th Annual Community Food Security Conference (CFSC), with a buffer conference between them the Third Iowa Hunger Summit (IHS). (#foodprize, #csfc) I saw two movements unfortunately a WORLD APART. The first, the CFSC, was attended by 800 passionate activists. Seventy percent of them in their 20's, dungaree and tee shirt wearing, with a passion and energy level that was exhilarating. The second, the WFP, was attended by 950 gray haired, three piece suited, corporate or governmental officials. The sessions were educational, stimulating with a call to action clearly stated. What was missing was the passion of the CFSC. What was missing from both was the missed opportunity for cross pollination between the two. When I had heard the CFSC was being held immediately before the WFP I expected this was done to foster this. However, I was severely disappointed.

There were many areas of common goals between the conferences and their attendees. They both agreed that within 40 years the world population will increase 50% and the need for food will therefore double ( to take into account those living in Hunger now). That this increase needs to be done in a sustainable manner. That women were the key to success (give women: 1-Educational access {the most important}, 2-Economic equality with men, 3-health access, and 4-Political equality with men). That agricultural improvements need to be done in a sustainable manner. Climate change will significantly hinder the ability to meet the world food demand.

There were some serious areas of conflict. Simply put those attending the CFSC felt all solutions needed to be bottom up, while the WFP attendees felt the solutions need to mostly be top down (however they felt bottom-up needs to be incorporated). The CFSC attendees were violently opposed to genetically modified organisms (GMO), while the WFP attendees were it's prophets. They each have their own research the one that shows GMO's are nothing but pure evil while the other has their research that GMO's are manna from heaven. If only there could be more dialogue and sharing of those studies. There was more talking past each other then to each other. However, I did feel that the WFP attendees were more open to bringing in the CSFC people then the other way around.

Those attending CSFC complained of lack of access to the discission makers both in the US and abroad. Yet hardly any of them stayed on (actually in talking to over one hundred of them, most didn't even know anything about the WFP meeting - A failure of the CSFC to inform their members), to interact at the WFP conference. There were many world discission makers at the WFP. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsak, eight Ministers of Agriculture, several former heads of state and multiple CEO's of the most important corporations in Big-AG-Biz.

The big shining light was Dr. Gebisa Ejeta, the WFP winner, in his talk at Iowa State on Monday to kick off the WFP meeting. He talked about the importance of Ag. extension type programs to get small farmers into the 21st century through education while also needing the large Ag-Biz to be the structure over this agricultural revolution.

So I hope that there is more dialogue between the dungarees and the three piece suits. We need both to move this forward and to have any chance of solving the loaming food and climate crisis.


  1. With only a half-day of the official WFP conference completed, it may be a bit early to write it off as a passionless reunion of gray-haired bigwigs; although, I totally agree with the need to better integrate both the approach and audience of the CSFC & WFP conferences. I may be a bit biased, but I think the Iowa Hunger Summit made great strides in doing just that this year. The morning session on urban ag and food security was organized and moderated by the CSFC, which also did a great job of encouraging attendees of their conference to attend the hunger luncheon.

  2. When I went to the World Food Prize event and symposium a few years ago, it was by invitation only and it cost a bundle.