By Supriya Kumar
At a ceremony held today in Washington, D.C., two former presidents were announced as recipients of the 2011 World Food Prize for their roles in creating and implementing government policies to alleviate hunger and poverty in their countries. For the first time in the World Food Prize’s 25-year history, the prize has been awarded to two former heads of state – the former president of Ghana, John Agyekum Kufuor and the former president of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.
The 2011 World Food Prize Laureates John Kufuor and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva. (Photo Credit: WFP)
World Food Prize President, Kenneth M. Quinn, made the announcement, stating that the organization recognized the importance of political leaders in the global fight against hunger. He said that both recipients had set “powerful examples” for other leaders in the world. Under President Kufuor’s presidency, Ghana became the first-sub-Saharan African country to cut in half its proportion of people suffering from hunger and poverty, and achieving the number one UN Millennium Development Goal. And, under president Silva’s policies, 93 percent of children and 82 percent of adults in Brazil can now eat three meals a day.
USAID Administrator, Rajiv Shah, also in attendance, said that the two winners personify the reality that “political leadership at the highest levels make the biggest difference” in establishing effective policies. He spoke of the importance of broader partnerships and discussed USAID’s upcoming projects in collaboration with the US Department of Agriculture that will focus on crop resilience to climate change as well as global child malnutrition. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, Tom Vilsack, joined him in speaking about future initiatives and emphasized the need for the future generation to take up this fight against global food insecurity. He explained that this is not simply an economic and political issue, but it is a moral issue, and the next generation needs to understand and overcome this grave challenge.
The recipients will receive their awards in October, at the 2011 Borlaug Dialogue, taking place in Des Moines, Iowa later this year. Matching Secretary Vilsack’s words, the theme of the dialogue will focus on the next generation and the steps necessary to address the hunger challenges of tomorrow. Click here for more information about the World Food Prize’s 2011 Borlaug Dialogue and stay tuned for information about Nourishing the Planet’s participation at the Dialogue.
Supriya Kumar is a research fellow with the Nourishing the Planet project.