From field to fork

Sep 112011
Authors: Sarah Fenton

CSU students were called Sunday night to speak on behalf of the poor, the impoverished and famished by a man who has made major headway in solving hunger-related issues around the globe.

“Whenever you get a chance to speak on behalf of the poor, the cause of poverty and hunger for people around the world, whatever forum you get, you speak that very clearly,” said Gebisa Ejeta, 2009 World Food Prize Laureate.

Ejeta, who was invited to speak at CSU for the annual Thornton–Massa Lecture, explained of global food security and poverty issues to a group of students and Fort Collins community members gathered in the Behavioral Sciences Building.

According to Ejeta, 40 percent of the world population lives on less than $2 a day, 1.4 billion people live on less than $1.25 a day and food production will need to be increased 100 percent over the next few decades to support the growing population.

“Hunger is due mainly to poverty,” Ejeta said. “Very often when we ramble out figures, we tend to focus on the numbers. When we begin to see people and faces of people, these numbers are very large.”

Ejeta contends there are 10 existing challenges that pose a threat to global food security. By his estimation, if these problems are not urgently addressed, it is likely that competition between urban and rural populations could be the result, significantly altering national infrastructures.

“Many of these problems leave us with an unprecedented urgency,” Ejeta said.

Such challenges include population, food production, food systems, land, nutritional health, climate, energy, international trade, ecosystems and water.

The most serious challenges are manifested in a rapidly growing population, water sustainability and land degradation.

Food systems were also an emphasis on Ejeta’s list of 10 grand challenges. Food loss, he reported, was due to five concerns: harvest-based losses, food storage, food consumption, food quality and food waste.

Ejeta put much of his emphasis on Africa, where as a child in Ethiopia he represented the face of poverty along with many others in his village and nation.

“The current state of tertiary education in Africa is among my greatest concerns,” Ejeta said. “I have been mindful in my focus to try to make a contribution to improving tertiary education.”

It is Ejeta’s belief that because of better education, in general, a process called technology transfer will begin to present itself in African culture. He asserts this has great potential to foster improving conditions in Africa by encouraging individual Africans to act on behalf of themselves.

Ending with his favorite picture, Ejeta explained that the photo was of him and children within his village during a visit right after he won the 2009 World Food Prize.

“The reason I like it: those kids. I was one of them, and so it just reminds me if I was one of them then, that someone of those kids have the opportunity to be somebody,” he said.

“It was a very interesting topic and a very interesting lecture,” said Nataliia Gerasymchuk, a faculty member in the faculty exchange program from Ukraine, as other attendees filed past to meet Ejeta after his last remarks.

“He was incredibly convincing and highly focused,” said Craig Beyrouty, who is both a friend of Ejeta’s and member of the Thornton-Massa Lecture planning committee at CSU.

Collegian writer Sarah Fenton can be reached at

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