By Agri-Pulse staff
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WASHINGTON, June 21 – The World Food Prize named John Agyekum Kufour, former president of Ghana, and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, former president of Brazil, winners of the 2011 World Food Prize in a ceremony at the U.S. State Department today. The former presidents were honored for creating and implementing government policies that alleviated hunger and poverty in their countries.
“President Kufuor and President Lula da Silva have set a powerful example for other political leaders in the world,” said Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize, in announcing the laureates. “Thanks to their personal commitment and visionary leadership, both Ghana and Brazil are on track to exceed the UN Millennium Development Goal 1 – to cut in half extreme hunger before 2015.”
The World Food Prize was founded in 1986 by Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, recipient of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize, and endowed with a $10 million gift from Des Moines, Iowa businessman John Ruan’s Family Trust in 1990. Since then, The World Food Prize has honored outstanding individuals who have made vital contributions to improving the quality, quantity or availability of food throughout the world. Ruan’s son, John Ruan III, has served as the chairman of the World Food Prize since 2004.
“The battle to end hunger was Dr. Borlaug’s lifelong pursuit, and remains one of the great challenges of our day, requiring both a worldwide commitment to innovation and investment in agriculture,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. “All too often, we take the food we consume at breakfast, lunch, and dinner for granted. The World Food Prize gives us an opportunity to pause and reflect on the challenges ahead of us in feeding the world.”
Vilsack said that alleviating hunger was “not simply an economic or political issue, it is a moral issue” and asked the young Food Prize Laureates in the room to continue looking for solutions to the complex challenges ahead.
U.s. AID Administrator Rajiv Shah said President Kufuor and President Lula da Silva “set the gold standard for presidential leadership in tackling the global challenges of poverty and hunger.”
Under President Kufuor's leadership, Ghana became the first sub-Saharan African country to cut in half the proportion of its people who suffer from hunger, and the proportion of people living on less than a dollar per day, on course to meet UN Millenium Development Goal 1. Continuing Ghana's tradition of stability, President Kufuor prioritized national agricultural policies: Ghana saw a reduction in its poverty rate from 51.7 percent in 1991 to 26.5 percent in 2008, and hunger was reduced from 34 percent in 1990 down to 9 percent in 2004.
A guiding principle for President Kufuor during the entirety of his two terms as president of the Republic of Ghana (2001-2009) was to improve food security and reduce poverty through public- and private-sector initiatives. To that end, he implemented major economic and educational policies that increased the quality and quantity of food to Ghanaians, enhanced farmers' incomes, and improved school attendance and child nutrition through a nationwide feeding program.
President Lula da Silva made it clear, even before he took office as president of Brazil in 2003, that fighting hunger and poverty would be a top priority of his government. More than 10 government ministries were focused on the expansive Zero Hunger programs, which provided greater access to food, strengthened family farms and rural incomes, increased enrollment of primary school children, and empowered the poor. Zero Hunger very quickly became one of the most successful food and nutritional security policies in the world through its broad network of programs, including: the Bolsa Familia Program; the Food Purchase Program; and the School Feeding Program.
Over the eight years of his administration, President Lula da Silva's commitment and vision achieved dramatic reductions in hunger, extreme poverty and social exclusion, thereby greatly enhancing the lives of Brazil's people. During his tenure, UN Millennium Development Goal 1 was exceeded as Brazil reduced by half its proportion of hungry people, with 93 percent of children and 82 percent of adults eating three meals a day, and also reduced the percentage of Brazilians living in extreme poverty from 12 percent in 2003 down to 4.8 percent in 2009.
These two leaders will be formally awarded the World Food Prize at the 25th Anniversary Laureate Award Ceremony at the Iowa State Capital on October 13, in conjunction with the Borlaug Dialogue international symposium in Des Moines, Iowa, themed “The Next Generation: Confronting the Hunger Challenges of Tomorrow.”
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