This week Purdue University hosted the meeting of the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development. The board is appointed by the President and advises the United States Agency for International Development on agriculture and higher education issues involving food insecurity in developing countries.
The 2-day meeting concluded Wednesday night with a panel discussion moderated by Purdue President Mitch Daniels. His opening question was for USAID Acting Administrator Al Lenhardt.
“Are we winning the war today against world hunger and to the extent we are can we still be winning at 8 or 9 billion people on the planet,” Daniels asked.
Lenhardt responded by saying the short answer is “we’re winning, but there is much more to be done. We are achieving great numbers in terms of reducing extreme poverty. We’ve cut it by a half in the last 15 years and by a billion plus people. In terms of nutrition for children 12 million more children are now receiving nutritious foods.”
That has led to a reduction in children with stunted physical and mental growth. And Lenhardt says there has been a lot of progress when looking at the Millennium Development Goals of the last 15 years.
“On the other side of that coin we’ve still got a lot of work to do. This is not finished. In fact, 1.3 billion people are still in abject poverty, dealing with extreme poverty to the point where every day is a challenge. I’ve seen it personally and I’ve seen it various places around the world both in Africa, Southeast Asia, where people are pushed to the very brink of survival.”
Lenhardt is also the former U.S. ambassador to the United Republic of Tanzania.
Peter McPherson, president of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities said he’s optimistic although we don’t have the technology yet to produce the sustainable food that will be needed as soon as 15 years from now. What is needed to get to the point where the world can be fed?
“It will be many little things and work with many crops,” he explained. “I was intrigued by the report here at Purdue of sealed containers to prevent insects from eating grain. Post harvest loss is a big thing. But I think that universities like Purdue, the public universities in this country, not just the land grants but perhaps a disproportionate role in creating this technology is critical.”
McPherson was formerly USAID administrator and president of Michigan State University. Also on Daniels’ panel were Brady Deaton, chair of BIFAD and chancellor emeritus of the University of Missouri and James Morris, former executive director of the United Nations World Food Programme and now president of Pacers Sports and Entertainment.
Hear more of the panel discussion here:Daniels panel on world hunger
Purdue is a key partner with USAID in a number of food security and related programs. The board typically meets in Washington, D.C., but recently began a program to meet at university campuses of board members to increase public awareness of the partnership between U.S. universities and the government in providing technical assistance to developing countries. Gebisa Ejeta, a Purdue distinguished professor of agronomy and 2009 World Food Prize laureate, has been on the board since 2010, when he was appointed by President Barack Obama. Ejeta recently was reappointed to second term.