The Iowa Hunger Summit: What is Africa’s Gain? By Abdallah el-Kurebe

“…Moving from Green Revolution to the Gene Revolution,” Dr. Borlaug

As the UN World Food Day approaches, organizations across the globe are warming up for the October date in preparation for discussions and other activities aimed at tackling global hunger.

The World Food Prize Foundation is prepared to host the 2013 edition of The World Food Prize. The annual series of events is held to commemorate with the UN World Food Day. Better known as “The Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture” created in 1986 by Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and “Father of the Green Revolution,” Dr. Norman E. Borlaug.

It is the world’s most prestigious gathering for improving food security, enhancing agriculture and nutrition, and reducing hunger and poverty globally. This year’s Borlaug Dialogue conference will launch a year-long Centennial Observance of Dr. Borlaug’s birth, with special focus on biotechnology, sustainability and climate volatility.

This is a symposium that gathers international leaders and thinkers for high-level “conversations” on critical issues in fighting global hunger. This October, global leaders like former Prime Minister of Great Britain, Tony Blair; current President of Iceland, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson and President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Cardinal Peter K. A. Turkson will attend the event.

At the event, three distinguished scientists – Marc Van Montagu of Belgium, Mar-Dell Chilton and Robert T. Fraley of the United States will share the 2013 World Food Prize for their independent, individual breakthrough achievements in founding, developing and applying modern agricultural biotechnology. Their research has made it possible for farmers to grow crops with improved yields, resistance to insects and disease, and the ability to tolerate extreme variations in climate such as excessive heat and drought.

“The revolutionary biotechnology discoveries of these three individuals – each working in separate facilities on two continents – unlocked the key to plant cell transformation using recombinant DNA. Their work led to the development of a host of genetically enhanced crops grown by 17.3 million farmers worldwide on 170 million hectares around the globe. Over 90 percent of these are small resource-poor farmers in developing countries,” according to 2013 Borlaug Dialogue and Global Youth Institute.

Exceptional array of global leaders, experts and scientists will take diverse set of viewpoints to the Dialogue. Of great note is that Nigeria’s Kanayo Nwanze, who is the President of the UN’s International Fund for Agricultural Development will be there.

From the African Continent, Nigeria’s Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, Akin Adesina and Malawian Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Peter Mwanza will attend the Iowa Hunger Summit.

Though Africa’s representation to the Summit is rather infinitesimally small, one important thing remains that two relevant personalities (Ministers of Agriculture) will be there to listen to scientists.

Africa should strategically be a beneficiary of the upcoming Summit because the thematic subjects of biotechnology, sustainability and climate volatility are all important to the plight of the continent.

By 2050 the world’s population will rise to 9 billion and to satisfy demand, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) has predicted that food production will need to increase by 70 percent. This has serious implications for developing countries, particularly the African continent where land and water resources are increasingly being degraded and depleted. This is therefore, the place of recent advances in agricultural science.

With Biosciences for Farming in Africa (B4FA)’s entry into Africa, a pace has been set for small, medium and big time farmers in the continent to minimize losses in their farms. B4FA is an independent programme specifically designed to encourage informed discussion about the potential application of biosciences and genetics for farming in Africa.

B4FA, apart from training over 160 Journalists in the fundamentals of modern agricultural biotechnology developments and science journalism, is sponsoring eight journalists, two each from Nigeria, Tanzania, Uganda and Ghana to the Iowa Hunger Summit.

Africa will gain positively from the Summit that will “explore how new technologies and farm management practices, from improved seeds to better extension, are enabling farms to be more resilient to the impacts of climate change and how they will continue to adapt in the future.”

Africa’s Nigeria is the most populous of the 54 countries with a population of nearly 160 million people. As at the present, the per capita income is less than a Dollar per day. This signifies the state of poverty of a country that is threatened by food insecurity. By 2050, this figure might triple and which gives a veritable reason for concerted efforts for mass food production.

Expectedly therefore, African governments should sponsor her scientists to the event that would enhance their knowledge of the ‘improved’ science of Mass Food Production. This will be a big gain for the continent, no more; no less. Over the last 60 years, the science of molecular genetics, which is also referred to as New Genetics, has opened up uncommon opportunities for shaping the future of agriculture, industry, medicine and environment protection.

Africa will gain enormously at the 2013 Borlaug Dialogue symposium, which will focus on the nexus of three subjects that are central to the global challenges we face in the 21st century: Biotechnology, sustainability and climate volatility, aside from honouring Dr. Borlaug’s passionate belief in science.

Abdallah el-Kurebe is B4FA Media Fellow and can be reached at [email protected]

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