‘The health of the poor is the wealth of the poor’: A little film for a big World Food Day and World Food Prize

The prevention and control of agriculture-associated diseases from FILM for SCIENCE in AGRICULTURE on Vimeo.

To honour World Food Day today, celebrated every year on 16 Oct in honour of the founding of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations on this date in 1945, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) invites you to watch a 3-minute film about a new research to reduce agriculture-associated diseases.

Delia Grace is a veterinary epidemiologist and food safety expert with ILRI, one of 15 CGIAR centres working for a food-secure world. Grace leads the ‘agriculture-associated diseases’ component of a CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health. The latter, led by the International Food Policy Research Institute, was started in 2012 to investigate the links between agriculture, nutrition and health in poor nations.

Here is Grace on just what ‘agriculture-associated diseases’ are, and why they matter.

The health of the poor is the wealth of the poor.
In hungry countries, most people cannot get enough nourishing and safe food. A third of humankind still grows their own food or buys local food in local markets. But the foods poor people grow, buy and eat often make them sick, and can even kill them.

Food-borne disease is the most common illness in the world.
Milk, eggs, meat and vegetables are especially dangerous. Yet these superior foods provide the world’s poorest two billion people with essential nutrients they need to grow, develop and be healthy and productive.

In addition, more than half of all human diseases are transmitted to people from farm and other animals.
These diseases include those like TB and AIDs, which are catastrophic in the developing world. And every six months, another new disease jumps from animals to people.

In 2012, the A4NH research program was started to investigate the links between agriculture, nutrition and health in poor nations. A4NH scientists aim  to find ways to lower people’s risk of disease from food farming, food markets and foods, while increasing agriculture’s benefits.

Health problems rooted in agriculture need solutions that start on the farm.And end with safe food in every household.

About World Food Day and the World Food Prize
The annual celebrations for World Food Day help to raise awareness of the issues behind poverty and hunger. In the US, the associated events include bestowal of the World Food Prize on individuals who have contributed the most to the world’s food supply. Along with former British prime minister Tony Blair and others, ILRI’s director general, Jimmy Smith, is in Des Moines, Iowa, today to participate in the World Food Prize Laureate Award Ceremony  and Borlaug Dialogue.

The World Food Prize was founded by Norman Borlaug, a CGIAR scientist at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), in Mexico, whose work on high-yielding and disease-resistant wheat varieties led to the Green Revolution and his winning the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970.

The winners of this year’s World Food Prize—Marc Van Montagu, Mary-Dell Chilton and Robert T Fraley—made independent breakthroughs in agricultural biotechnology that have made it possible for farmers to grow crops that give greater yields, resist insects and disease, and tolerate extreme climates.

ILRI takes pleasure today in celebrating their achievements, as well as in honouring the following thirteen CGIAR scientists who have received the World Food Prize since the CGIAR’s Borlaug established the award in 1986:

  • 1987: MS Swaminathan, improved wheat and rice varieties in India, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
  • 1988: Robert Chandler, improved tropical rice varieties, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
  • 1990: John Niederhauser, control of potato late blight, International Potato Center (CIP)
  • 1995: Hans Herren, pest control for the cassava mealybug, International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
  • 1996: Henry Beachall and Gurdev Khush, rice breeders, International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)
  • 2000: Evangelina Villegas and Surinder Vasal, development of Quality Protein Maize, International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT)
  • 2001: Per-Pinstrup Andersen, food-for-education programs, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
  • 2002: Pedro Sanchez, restoring fertility to soils, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)
  • 2004: Monty Jones, developer of New Rice for Africa (NERICA), International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
  • 2005: Modadugu Gupta, promoter of acquaculture and architect of the ‘blue revolution’, WorldFish Center (WorldFish)
  • 2009: Gebisa Ejeta, sorghum breeder, International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT)

Borlaug Symposium recommends stronger linkages between crop and livestock production to empower Africa’s smallholders

Household takes refuge from the rain in central Malawi

Women and livestock shelter from rain in Malawi. Livestock production can empower Africa's small-scale producers (photo ILRI/Mann)

Over 100 government leaders, academicians, donors, farmers and politicians meeting in the Borlaug Symposium, a senior-level gathering of global agricultural decision makers, held in Addis Ababa this past July,  recommend that agricultural programs in Africa use linkage opportunities offered by livestock production alongside food crop farming to enhance the productivity and value addition of  Africa’s agricultural sector.

Among other recommendations, the Symposium calls for greater support to address the extension needs of pastoralists to help them develop and maintain their livestock-based systems saying that well-coordinated livestock and food crop production programs are essential if Africa is to achieve a ‘green revolution’ of its agricultural sector.

Many households in Africa largely depend on mixed farming systems that grow crops and keep livestock to meet food and income needs. Livestock play an especially important role for Africa’s pastoralist populations, most of who are dealing with the effects of climate change while relying on livestock to sustain their livelihoods. Strengthening livestock development has a direct impact on many of these pastoralist households and other smallholder households in mixed farming systems.

‘Livestock is such an important source of income, actual and potential, for smallholders that we cannot ignore ways to improve the linkages between crops and livestock,’ said Christopher Dowswell, the Executive Director – Programs, of the Sasakawa Africa Association.

The Sasakawa Africa Association is a Japan-founded group that seeks to apply green revolution principles to meet the changing needs of extension and the constraints to improving smallholder productivity in Africa. The association organized the Borlaug Symposium from 13-14 July in Ethiopia and brought together ministers of agriculture from 10 countries, academicians from African agricultural universities,representatives of bilateral donor agencies, private foundations, agribusinesses farmers and politicians. Carlos Seré the Director General of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) attended this year's event.

The Symposium also recommends efforts to address the challenge of smallholder’s access to commercial markets to enable them to profit from agriculture by, for example, organizing them into farmer organizations or as outgrowers to larger private agribusinesses specialized in export crops.

‘The value chain examples [shared in this symposium] illustrate that there is considerable scope for smallholder farmers to capture more of the total value added, after production, than they have before,’ said Dowswell.

The meeting also highlighted the need to reach women farmers with productivity-enhancing technologies, and to incorporate them in appropriate research and extension programs while at the same time seeking to correct the disadvantaged position women in Africa face that restricts their access to land and other production resources. It also encourages greater stakeholder participation in mechanizing smallholder agriculture,  agricultural education and for more economic investment in the agricultural sector.

The Symposium was held to honour the life and achievements of Dr Norman E Borlaug, who died in September 2009 and was a co-founder of the Sasakawa Africa Association. It was attended by among others former US President Jimmy Carter who, with Dr Borlaug and Ryoichi Sasakawa, helped to establish the Sasakawa-Global 2000 program in 1985 to strengthen Africa’s agriculture. The symposium also launched the Sasakawa Fund for Extension Education in Africa and highlighted some key agricultural developments in the continent.

You can read more about the Borlaug Symposium 2010 and its recommendations at: http://saa-borlaug-symposium.org/?page_id=54.

More information about the Sasakawa African Association can be found on: http://www.saa-tokyo.org/english/

Livestock researchers in Nairobi honour Heifer President JoLuck, co-winner of the ‘Nobel for Food’

From ILRI with love

The World Food Prize, known as the ‘Nobel for Food’ (no Nobel Prize exists for agricultural science), was created in 1986 by Norman Borlaug, who himself won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970 for his work creating high-yielding crop varieties estimated to have saved more than 1 billion lives from famine. The World Food Prize honours those who improve the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world. A co-winner of this year’s World Food Prize, announced on 16 June by US Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton, is Jo Luck, president of the popular American charity Heifer International, which provides farm animals to needy families, who then ‘pass on’ the gift of subsequent offspring to others in need.

Speaking in a seminar held in her honour at the Nairobi campus of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), where she served as a member of ILRI’s Board of Trustees between 2002 and 2005, Jo Luck reflected on her life that was a preparation for the role she now plays. ‘All the time I was learning what has brought me to this road. My experiences as a teacher and as a parent taught me how to recognize both the strong and the weak and how to bring people together and empower them by listening and learning from them,’ she said.

‘I represent many people who are receiving this award through me and I hope to honour and represent them properly,’ she said.

Those lucky enough to meet Jo Luck are struck immediately, and almost physically, by the depth of her energy and passion. Her ability to quickly tell a moving story that inspires people to make a difference in the world has more in common with, say, Oprah Winfrey (who has interviewed Jo Luck on her show) or Bill Clinton (who Jo Luck used to work for) than with other heads of charitable or development organizations.

The results of much of Jo Luck’s life’s work can be seen in communities in the developing world. Since joining Heifer in 1992, she has vastly up-scaled Heifer’s programs, which provide food- and income-producing animals to poor families, and helped broaden Heifer’s agenda, which now includes improving livelihoods through education and community development as well as animal husbandry.

With skilful management and superb communications abilities, Jo Luck built innovative educational initiatives that link grassroots donors in rich countries to recipients in developing countries. This not only brought new (and renewable) resources to poor farmers in developing countries but also gave Americans much better understanding of global hunger and poverty issues. As a result of her efforts, both the scope and impact of Heifer International have grown throughout Africa, the Americas, Asia, the South Pacific and Central and Eastern Europe. At least 10 million families, including 1.5 million families in 2009 alone, have been helped both to put nutritious food on their own tables and to feed others.

Carlos Seré, ILRI’s Director General, said that recognition of Jo Luck’s work with Heifer International ‘shows not only that a committed individual can make a difference in addressing global poverty and food insecurity, but also how much livestock matter and to how many people—animals help some one billion people to sustain their livelihoods and helps many of those to escape poverty.’

‘Jo Luck has impacted world poverty through gifts of livestock’, Seré said. ‘Cows, sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, camels and other farmed animals provide poor households with a means of livelihood, with sustenance and with the regular income needed to educate their children, enabling them to finally escape the poverty trap.’

But Jo Luck emphasized that gifts of animal stock, however welcome, are not enough. ‘Livestock production cannot be made sustainable without understanding the environment,’ she said. And this is where she believes researchers, policymakers, government officials and others need to come together. ‘We need to ensure not only that the animals poor people depend on are healthy and productive but also that this livestock productivity can be sustained over the long term without harming the environments of poor communities.’

Jo Luck has worked with ILRI and other groups to bring about closer collaboration between experts and local communities. Such collaboration, for example, is at the heart of a Heifer-run East African Dairy Development Project being conducted in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. ILRI works with Heifer on this project along with TechnoServe, ABS-TCM and World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). ILRI researchers are providing technical advice on such matters as improved breeding and feeding and are monitoring and evaluating the project as it goes along. This project, which is creating dairy ‘hubs’ in the three countries, is helping 180,000 households to participate in, and profit from, a booming dairy industry in East Africa. By joining forces, the partners in this project aim to help one million people, mostly poor rural farmers, double their incomes in the next few years.

The key to such collaboration, Jo Luck says, is simple. ‘We work directly with the people we mean to serve. We listen to them and learn from them. They make their own decisions about what works best for them. We then seek the resources that will let them fulfil their goals.’

Jo Luck will receive the 2010 World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa, on 14 October this year. Both she and her co-winner, David Beckmann, President of Bread for the World, another American grassroots organization working to end world poverty and hunger, will make presentations at the event, as will ILRI Director General Carlos Seré and other leading heads of international development work.

For more information about Jo Luck’s work with Heifer please read this related article.

In the following two short video interviews, Jo Luck discusses 'how livestock catalyze community development' and 'delivering livestock research that makes a difference'.

The World Food Prize website has further information about the Laureate Award Ceremony and Borlaug Symposium.