by Kathryn McConnell
IIP Staff Writer
October 14, 2011
Washington — Former presidents John Agyekum Kurfuor of Ghana and Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of Brazil were jointly presented the 2011 World Food Prize October 13 in Des Moines, Iowa.
“Presidents Kufuor and Lula da Silva have set a significant standard for other leaders of the world to follow for what they did to increase food production and ensure their citizens, especially children, have adequate food,” said Iowa Governor Terry Branstad at the award ceremony at Iowa’s state capitol.
In 2000, world leaders gathered at the United Nations to adopt the goal of cutting in half poverty and hunger by 2015. Yet because of factors like rising food prices, extreme weather and political volatility, the number of people who suffer from chronic hunger has increased to 1 billion. Ghana and Brazil are exceptions to the backsliding trend; they are among the first countries to be on track to exceed the reduction of hunger goal due to the efforts of these two former presidents, according to the World Food Prize Foundation.
“I want to accept this [prize] in all humility not only for myself but for the people of Ghana,” said Kufuor at the ceremony. Kufuor, who served as president from 2000 to 2008, added that he wanted to dedicate the prize to the people, especially small farmers. “It has been on their backs that Ghana for a long time was the first producer of cocoa in the whole world.” As president, Kufuor prioritized national agricultural policies. Under his leadership, Ghana’s cocoa production doubled and production of food crops significantly increased. Ghana is now the world’s second-highest cocoa producer.
Kufuor also launched a program to give schoolchildren ages 4 to 14 at least one meal a day. The program boosted school attendance, especially among girls. By the end of 2010, more than 1 million schoolchildren had benefited from the program. During his term, Ghana became the first sub-Saharan African country to cut in half the proportion of people suffering from hunger.
Finally, Kufuor encouraged foreign investment in Ghana during his presidency. In part due to that effort, during his tenure, the country’s national economy quadrupled.
FOOD ON THE TABLE MEANS DEMOCRACY
Hunger “is the true war that all leaders need to wage, to fight for life,” said Lula da Silva, who served two terms as Brazil’s president, leaving at the beginning of 2011. He said lowering hunger is a tool for economic, scientific and technological development as well as for building democracy, adding “democracy is for us to actually be able to eat in morning, in the afternoon and at night.”
Lula da Silva brought together government, civil society and the private sector to focus on giving people greater access to food, boosting rural family incomes and increasing primary school enrollment. These initiatives became facets of one of the most successful food security policies in the world, according to the World Food Prize Foundation.
Brasil’s Bolsa Familia Program, started by Lula da Silva’s government, benefited more than 12 million families by guaranteeing them a minimum income and allowing them access to basic goods and services.
Specifically addressing hunger, in 2008 Lula da Silva started the More Food Program to boost family farm production. Another government program acquired food directly from local farmers and made it available to those who needed it through public schools, community restaurants and other organizations. A national program reduced child malnutrition by providing nutritious meals to children in all grades of public schools. By the time Lula da Silva left office, 93 percent of children and 82 percent of adults in Brazil were eating three meals a day.
This year marks the 25th anniversary of the World Food Prize, which recognizes individuals who have made breakthroughs to improve the quality, quantity and availability of food throughout the world. The ceremony coincided with the Borlaug Dialogue, a three-day meeting that drew more than 1,000 international leaders, including U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and Under Secretary of State for Economic, Energy and Business Affairs Jose Fernandez, to discuss agricultural development.
Kenneth Quinn, head of the World Food Prize Foundation, announced Kufuor and Lula da Silva as the winners of the 2011 prize at a June ceremony at the State Department.