Monday, September 1, 2008

Kofi Annan puts Wageningen UR on the map

Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary General and honorary Fellow of Wageningen UR.

The opening of the academic year at Wageningen UR was celebrated with the presence of Mr. Kofi Annan. The topic of discussion was “Feeding the World.”

Chairman of the Executive Board Aalt Dijkhuizen spoke of Wageningen UR’s domain:
  1. Food and food production (nutrition)
  2. Land use and planning
  3. Livelihood, lifestyle and society
The areas integrated form an excellent framework for tackling the issue of feeding the world.

Kofi Annan spoke of disproportionate price rises on staple foods, the 854 million people who do not have access to nutritious food, the 12% increase in underfed children over the last two years, and most importantly the neglect of agriculture developments on national and international levels in Africa.

“Today, the African farmer is the one who takes the highest risk herself,” Kofi Annan said. For in Africa the ancient lands are worn out leaving only 5% arable and irrigated. Thus, he introduced AGRA’s Soil Health Program (funded by the Rockerfeller Foundation) that aims to regenerate over 6 million hectares of farmland, by ways of developing resilient crops, improving soil fertility, making available affordable mineral rich fertilizers, providing agricultural education and adjusting policies to focus on smaller land areas. Thus, the ultimate goal is to “improve sustainability of small-scale farms to raise yield and income of poor farmers,” stated Dr Namanga Ngongi, president of AGRA.

Furthermore, Kofi Annan mentioned that the Worldbank recognized issues in agriculture sustainability by focusing the 2008 World Development Report on Africa’s Agriculture. The Worldbank refers to the “Three Worlds of Agriculture,” tailoring the agenda per area: agriculture-based (sub-Sahara), transforming (Asia) and urbanized (Latin America and the Caribbean).

The third speaker was Wout Dekker, CEO of Nutreco, a company specializing in fish feed and animal nutrition. He spoke of the Blue Revolution, in which a sustainable solution to depleting fish rates is choosing herbivore and omnivore fish, as opposed to e.g. carnivorous salmon, which become costly to feed.

Perhaps the most important part of his speech was that investments into new production systems and technology are needed but that we already know the problems of the decades to come, and that we must IMPLEMENT our current knowledge.

Finishing with Kofi Annan’s final remark: “What should we be doing?”

[Insert your own answer].

Just another brick(s) in the wall.