The Green Revolution comes in many shapes, sizes, and colors. With the World Food Prize conference this week in Iowa, Norman Borlaug’s legacy continues through the efforts of the people and programs honored there, and it turns out that Borlaug’s call to help the hungry has turned into a variety of voices and a chain of helping hands.
One of the co-winners of the World Food Prize, David Beckman, finished his speech to a gathering at Iowa State University Monday night by saying we all need to “give a damn” if we want to end poverty and hunger. The Lutheran minister and President of Bread for the World pointed out that it takes individual activism to enact the big political efforts that help those in need. For example, schools in the hills of Mozambique get built because a member of Congress in the United States worked tirelessly ten years ago to enact debt reduction for impoverished nations. He urged a green revolution that comes in the form of organizing, persuading, and legislating to give people the means to help themselves.
The other co-laureate, Jo Luck, took an organization that sounds more like a 4-H group from a Midwestern town, Heifer International, and led it to prominence as a globally effective resource for the poor and hungry. The organization has helped over 12 million families lift themselves out of poverty, and even though her movement is massive, her green revolution sustains itself with grassroots activities. Donors in one country provide a water buffalo for a women’s group in Nepal; they eventually make enough to send starter money to a needy group in China. The “heifer revolution” comes in the form of bees, trees, rice, and even silkworms. As one African participant said, when the system flows smoothly, it is like “living waters in the heart.”
The Borlaug CAST Communication Award winner, Dr. Akin Adesina, travels the world and organizes United Nations committees, but like Beckman and Luck, he knows that the real global revolution occurs at the grassroots level—the smallholder farmers. He is passionate about the African Green Revolution, and a prestigious prize only spurs him on in his “mission to ensure that all Africans have access to better food and nutrition.” He went on to say, “When we improve the lives of African farmers, all Africans will benefit.
Borlaug’s Green Revolution succeeded due to scientific discoveries and practical applications. As demonstrated at this year’s World Food Prize forum, huge organizations, political groups, and big companies certainly make an impact, but smallholder farmers may hold the key to the ultimate success of the movement to end hunger. The green revolution may take many forms as it evolves, but in the end, it comes down to hands—hands that are discovering, working, helping, and passing on the gifts of food production. Dan Gogerty, October 12, 2010