Brief Highlights from Chicago Council Symposium 2013

Posted in: Uncategorized- May 22, 2013 No Comments

I had a chance to attend the Chicago Council Global Food Security Symposium 2013, Capitalizing on the Power of Science, Trade and Business to End Hunger and Poverty, Washington DC, on Tuesday, May 21st.  There was a good mix of both public and private as well as academia.  USAID administrator Raj Shah opened the forum and Secretary of Agriculture Vilsack gave a brief speech at the end.

Fighting hunger and food insecurity is complex problem.  Pieces of it may be relatively easy but overall it is a very complex problem that requires lots if input from both public and private companies and partnerships.  You need to bring everyone to the table, government policy makers, business, scientific researchers, energy policy, climate scientist, environmentalist, food companies, transportation, storage, markets and of course farmers.   I am going to concentrate on the farmer.

Dr Sibanda made some great points when she said there needs to be understanding of aspirations of farmers.  Lot of farmers in Africa but best to identify those that really want to farm and concentrate on them.  Then there needs to be assessment of their goals and what assets they already have in place.  Then need to talk with them about what they need.  Really common sense but important points.  Other point she made is many times policy makers are not included in the conversation or pilots.  They are key to get buy-in and should be included.  Other point she made is to tie aspirations and goals of farmers on local level with national agricultural goals and then get policy makers involved.  If you can match up these things then can really make changes.

Some other points.

Complex systems.  There are complex problems that require lot of smart people working long term.  Need global strategies

Its not just agriculture but health and nutrition.

Women are important.  Need to get them involved and help them as play important role in the family.

Trade.  Regional trade needs to happen and is being done informally for example in East Africa between Kenya, Uganda, Rawanda but need more.

Access to markets.   Farmers grow for themselves. So they are not going to waste money or effort unless they can sell their produce.  But roads, storage, after harvest processing and access to markets are all impediments.

If farmers have the knowledge and information they’ll use it but key is to get them the information they need to make informed decisions.

Need stable food prices so farmers and government can plan and implement.  Need to reduce speculation in food prices.   Feed as fuel adds to the fluctuation in price   Without stable prices societies are vulnerable to food price shock.  People are suffering.

Got to look at the time horizon in implementing changes.  For example getting smallholder farmers to increase output will take years.  What can be done now, like putting transportation and storage in place to be ready when output increases.

No real talk about how to build markets for farmer or really feasibility or likelihood of pulling small holder farmers into international value chains.

The problem is vast, small improvements have been made but there is a long way to get all the pieces in the puzzle working together, sharing ideas and knowledge, partnering and listening to farmers.  Can’t take eye off what farmers need as they are key.

Below are copies of the Agenda.  You may also want to review the Twitter hashtag #globalag   FoodTank also provides good information about the Symposium


Chicago Symposium 2013 Agenda pg 1

Chicago Symposium 2013 Agenda pg 2

Chicago Symposium 2013 Agenda pg 3

Chicago Symposium 2013 Agenda pg 4



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