President Barack Obama speaking at the Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security. Copyright: The Chicago Council on Global Affairs
Tommy Tobin, a student at Georgetown University and member of Universities Fighting World Hunger (UFWH), got the opportunity to hear world leaders in food security speak at last week’s Chicago Council Symposium in Washington D.C. Here’s the story he shared with UFWH on why he’s inspired to help solve hunger.
The world is changing. Not only is the population projected to rise to 9 billion by 2050, but food security is now being recognized for its moral, economic, and security implications. Yes, food security. No longer relegated to social policy discussions or economic conversations, food security and its sister issue of nutrition are being transformed into major agenda items for the international community. The G8 certainly has a lot on its plate, but the Symposium challenged the members of the international community to create real partnerships to fight poverty, ameliorate hunger, and promote the economic vitality of agriculture, especially for small-holder farmers.
World leaders, non-profit advocates, government and business innovators, and even a rock star were on hand to usher in a new era of global action against hunger and malnutrition. Rarely have I been so excited about the possibilities of anti-hunger action, but never before had I shared in my excitement with President Barack Obama, Bono, or Secretary Hillary Clinton. Palpable enthusiasm hummed from the auditorium to the atrium as each speaker discussed the importance of food policy and global agriculture on the eve of the G8 Summit. This Symposium marked the announcement of a concrete government commitment to channel development funds into possibly their most effective anti-poverty use: agriculture. The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition is far from unbridled optimism, but instead is a $3 billion initiative that aims to create partnerships with the private sector, advance nutrition, and support gender equality.
Population growth and increased demands on the food supply will focus the attention of the international community on the burgeoning populations, societies, and economies of Africa. Josette Sheeran of the World Economic Forum invited Symposium participants to dream, asking when attendees foresaw Africa feeding not only itself but the entire world. 30 years? 20 years? 10?
Surprised, I soon learned that the world will simply not be able feed itself without the small-holder farmer, who desperately needs the knowledge, tools, and capabilities to successfully bring crops to market. Sitting in panels, I felt tremendously encouraged that high-ranking government officials from across the world were coming together with business leaders and non-profit professionals to seriously address the pressing issues of global hunger and nutrition. Secretary Clinton described the modern face of hunger, which all too often is a woman’s face, eating last and eating least in a family.
I soon learned I had much to learn. I wondered what students could do: what can young people do to assist the New Alliance and aid global agriculture? The Symposium answered, giving examples such as Digital Green and its CEO Rikin Gandhi, who works to harness the principles of American Idol to improve the extension system of agricultural education in India. As a student, I could also easily see the impact of mobile phones on farming, creating new means for knowledge transfer.
In the months and years ahead, I will continue to learn about the issues of global hunger, poverty, and nutrition as a student with the confidence that millions of individuals around the world will have more to eat as a result of the policies announced at the Symposium.
Written by Tommy Tobin, Student at Georgetown University and member of Universities Fighting World Hunger