At World Food Prize 2017, Alliance & FAO Highlight Need for Rural Development in a Changing Food Security Landscape

October 20, 2017

Nathan Magrath, Alliance to End Hunger

World Food Prize Foundation President, Amb. Kenneth Quinn, addresses the audience at the launch of the 2017 SOFA Report.

“I have personally seen how rural transformation can increase nutrition, enable better education, empower women, and even help mitigate conflict.”

With these words, Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, President of the World Food Prize Foundation, opened one of two events co-hosted by the Alliance to End Hunger and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.  On the sidelines of the World Food Prize in Des Moines, IA, the Alliance and FAO teamed up to launch and amplify FAO’s flagship publication – “The State of Food and Agriculture 2017.” This year’s publication, provides analysis and insight into the increasingly complex agricultural demand environment that smallholder farmers in the developing world are facing.  Trends are explained, and strategies to build up rural-urban market linkages are discussed.

Launching SOFA 2017

The first event, held the morning of October 18, launched the SOFA 2017 report. Vimlendra Sharan, the Director of the FAO Liaison Office for North America, provided a concise overview of the report. “We need to ask ourselves how we will propel rural communities to power national economies.” He went on to explain that agroindustry can play a unique role in utilizing local resources and talent, while also possibly stemming rural-to-urban migration. But he also warned that there is a need to monitor this growth in order to protect smallholder livelihoods.

Agnes Kalibata, President of The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), provided keynote remarks. She noted that there are very practical strategies that can be – and are being – implemented to help smallholder farmers. She underscored the example of South Korean agricultural development, and the very deliberate policies their government undertook to invest in rural communities in order to build competition within the nation itself. Ultimately, Kalibata summed up her points by stating, “All we need to know is already being done somewhere. What we need to do is build up partnerships in order to make this information easier to spread.”

Agnes Kalibata, President of AGRA, addresses a packed room for the 2017 SOFA launch (Photo: Nathan Magrath/Alliance to End Hunger).

Ms. Kalibata’s address was followed by an expert panel led by Kimberly Flowers, Director of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Food Security Project. Panelists included USAID Chief Scientist Rob Bertram, John Deere Foundation President Mara Sovey Downing, and Sociedad Rural Argentina Director and farmer Santiago Del Solar.

The panel explored the findings of the SOFA report and the implications of its findings. Rob Bertram of USAID stated clearly, “Not focusing on and improving connections between urban demand and rural production will lead to us missing out on a key strategy to reduce poverty and improve rural livelihoods.”

Empowering Rural Communities

On the morning of October 19, the Alliance and FAO continued the discussion around SOFA 2017 with an event focused on how to ensure smallholder farmers and rural communities do not get left behind as demand for agricultural products changes.

Thursday morning panel (L to R): Ginya Truitt Nakata (moderator), The Nature Conservancy; John Ellenberger, Land O’Lakes International Development; Shaun Ferris, Catholic Relief Services; David Hong, One Acre Fund; Faustine Wabwire, Bread for the World Institute (Photo: Nathan Magrath/Alliance to End Hunger).

Among opening remarks Rev. David Beckmann, president of the Alliance to End Hunger and Bread for the World, urged participants and attendees from the corporate, non-profit, and academic fields to mobilize their organizations and work together to ensure that the United States remains a leader in international development. “In our own country, we need to make sure we remain committed, and do not falter, to support rural development.”  Rev. Beckmann explained that the work of the Alliance and Bread for the World has been essential, but that further partnerships to advocate for the poor and hungry of the world are critical, especially in a global food security environment stressed by conflict, climate change, and political complications.

Another panel was led by Ginya Truitt Nakata, Latin America Region Director for Lands Conservation at the Nature Conservancy. The panel was comprised of Alliance to End Hunger members and included John Ellenberger, Senior VP for Land O’Lakes International Development; Shaun Ferris, Director of the Agriculture and Livelihoods Program at Catholic Relief Services; David Hong, Global Senior Policy Analyst at One Acre Fund, and Faustine Wabwire, Senior Foreign Policy Analyst at Bread for the World Institute.

Click to access the 2017 State of Food and Agriculture Report.

Ms. Nakata led a challenging discussion with panelists around how to approach rural development in new ways, given that the international development community has been talking about many current issues for decades. Ms. Wabwire of Bread for the World Institute echoed these same concerns. “We must move beyond our need for ‘wakeup calls’ in global food security. We need to be more proactive, less reactive.”

To read The State of Food and Agriculture 2017 you can access the full report HERE. To learn more about Alliance to End Hunger members and how you can get involved, visit