Andreas Huebers from the Berlin ONE office recently got a chance to interview Roger Thurow, Wall Street Journal reporter and author of Enough: Why the World’s Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty. You can check out our Policy Team’s review of the book here.
Your book “Enough“ describes the global food crisis as consequence of political failure. What, in your opinion, are the most important political actions necessary to overcome that crisis?
Political will is most important…the will among the world’s leading politicians and statesmen to make a major assault on hunger. They must reverse the neglect of agricultural development in the developing world, particularly in Africa. Investment in rural development and agricultural production has declined drastically over the past two decades, leaving the farming infrastructure in wretched shape in many countries. Also, as we point out in the book, Europe and the U.S. must get their policies right, namely that their agricultural subsidies don’t harm the farmers in the developing world and create trade imbalances.
As part of an American initiative, the G8 decided to invest $20 billion in agriculture. Do you think this is the right approach?
This is the first step in reversing the neglect of agriculture development. First, the G8 governments must actually deliver the money that they have promised. Then, as we say in the book, there must be a policy framework that allows these investments to flourish.
How do you think we should channel resources in order to effectively contribute to an improvement of global food security?
The investments would be best tailored to help the small farmers who make up the majority of the population in many African countries. So many farming programs that we take for granted in the U.S. and Europe have fallen into grave disrepair in Africa: agricultural research, extension services to carry information to the farmers, irrigation systems, rural roads, market structures…The best investments, as we illustrate in the book, are those that bring incentives to these farmers to grow as much food as they can and then market any surplus production.
Are there positive examples – even in times of a food crisis – that demonstrate ways of overcoming the crisis?
One of the most positive examples is the life of Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution and Nobel Peace Prize winner, who recently died at the age of 95. He showed how determined individuals can make a huge difference in the fight against hunger. He also showed us that boosting agriculture production and reducing hunger in a time of increasing population is possible. He gave the world the knowledge and the tools, and the moral imperative to attack hunger.
We have other positive examples in the book, such as Eleni Gabre-Madhin who has established the Ethiopia Commodity Exchange to increase the marketing opportunities for Ethiopian farmers. And we describe how other individuals, be they in churches, corporations or community organizations, are making a difference in reducing hunger.