Wednesday, October 13, 2010

World Food Prize symposium begins

The World Food Prize symposium begins today in Des Monies. Experts and advocates on agriculture from around the world will meet in Iowa to talk about solutions for the small farmer.

The event will also award this year's World Food Prize. The Prize is given to people who help to increase food production in developing countries. This year, the prize will be given to Heifer International president Jo Luck and Bread for the World president David Beckmann.

From this Associated Press article that we found at Google news, writer Micheal Crumb presents what will happen at the symposium.

Their problems will be the focus of this week's World Food Prize symposium, as agriculture officials from around the world gather to talk about what can be done to fight hunger. As many as 60 farmers are expected to join agriculture officials from the U.S., Afghanistan, Pakistan and Liberia, said Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize Foundation, which hosts the annual conference in Des Moines.

Former U.S. Secretary General Kofi Annan is scheduled to give the keynote address Thursday, when the foundation will give its World Food Prize to the presidents of Heifer International and the Christian advocacy group Bread for the World in recognition of their efforts to fight hunger. Heifer International provides families with food- and income-producing animals, such as sheep, while Bread for the World presses U.S. lawmakers to support anti-hunger policies.

The goal for the conference is to find ways to provide smallholder farmers with technology "so they can get the most out of their land, not to just feed themselves but to become produces who are growing food for others in their country and their society," Quinn said.

"It's become clear that smallholder farmers play a critical role in the global food supply," he added.

But Howard Buffett, whose foundation runs research farms in Illinois and South Africa, said technology isn't always the answer. Western-style farming, which relies heavily on expensive fertilizers and equipment, may not work in poor countries, he said.

"People want to provide a silver bullet solution and there aren't any," said Buffett, who is scheduled to speak Wednesday. "It's not easy to do and you can't take technology, better seed and fertilizer and think that's going to solve the problem."

He said smallholder farmers need what he called "basic types of intervention," such as cover crops, conservation-based tillage systems and very basic farm equipment. They also need help improving soil fertility to stop "slash-and-burn" farming.

"They will farm a few acres for a few years and then get no more production because there is no soil fertility left and they will chop down and clear three to four more acres to farm on," he said. "We need to do this in ways that will improve food security and agriculture and be good for the environment."

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