Our award-winning reporting has moved

Context provides news and analysis on three of the world’s most critical issues:

climate change, the impact of technology on society, and inclusive economies.

How can we sustainably feed 9 billion people by 2050?

Monday, 6 October 2014 20:30 GMT

* Any views expressed in this opinion piece are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Is a quantum leap in productivity within reach?

Coming off the heels of the UN General Assembly meetings in New York just a few days ago, alongside the UN Climate Summit, Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting, and other important events on global development, the international community is now laser-focused on the upcoming World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue, where political leaders, world-renowned scientists, policymakers and the philanthropic community will come together October 15-17 in Des Moines, Iowa, to address one of the most fundamental challenges of our time: how can we sustainably feed 9 billion people by 2050?

As highlighted at the recent CGIAR Development Dialogues, many of the new UN Sustainable Development Goals—particularly those relating to reducing poverty, addressing climate change, advancing global health, empowering women, and ensuring food and nutrition security—simply cannot be achieved without critical and catalytic agricultural research, development and delivery programs.  At the same time, the critical role played by upgraded transportation and information infrastructure cannot be overstated. 

By investing in and harnessing the power of cutting-edge agricultural science and technology, we can achieve a quantum leap forward in productivity and radically transform how our food is grown, safeguarding critical natural resources, reducing agriculture's environmental footprint, and lifting people out of poverty and hunger. 

To foster much-needed dialogue and discussion around the intersection of these issues, avenues to accelerate progress, and where innovative, collaborative partnerships can truly make a difference in the lives and livelihoods of billions of people, the World Food Prize Foundation—organizers of the Borlaug Dialogue and awarders of the coveted World Food Prize—is partnering with the CGIAR Fund, the world’s largest investor in agricultural science for the benefit of poor smallholders, to host an online series of thought-provoking articles by some of the world’s leading voices on the power and promise of agriculture to change the world.

Contributors include Rajiv Shah of USAID, Ertharin Cousin of the World Food Programme, José Graziano da Silva of the UN’s Food and Agricultural Organization, and Tony Hall of the Alliance to End Hunger—all of whom have spoken on stage at the World Food Prize—among many others.

The World Food Prize Foundation and CGIAR’s global partnership have much in common, not least of which are 14 World Food Prize laureates, including this year’s awardee Dr. Sanjaya Rajaram, who come from the CGIAR network of scientists who conduct ground-breaking research to meet the needs of rural communities in developing countries.

Their work, spotlighted through the World Food Prize platform, has led to life-changing research, concrete impact and insights to influence national and international policies, and new partnerships to accelerate delivery, all the while making a compelling case that our collective future is in the hands of small-scale farmers, fishers and foresters.

Today, we are delighted to launch this article series in advance of the 2014 Borlaug Dialogue, and we look forward to your participation.

Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn is president of the World Food Prize Foundation and Jonathan Wadsworth is executive secretary of the CGIAR Fund Council and Head of Fund Office. 

This post is the first in a series. Read more: 

The future of food and farming depends on climate action today - Jose Graziano da Silva, FAO, Kanayo F. Nwanze, International Fund for Agricultural Development and Ertharin Cousin, WFP

Progressing crop research to impact at scale -  Marco Ferroni, Syngenta For Sustainable Agriculture

The face of hunger is not partisan - Rajiv Shah, USAID

Delivering on Norman Borlaug’s call to action - Andrew Youn, One Acre Fund and Tony Kalm, CGIAR Fund

Elevating civil society from advisers to partners for a food secure world  - Tony Hall,  Alliance to End Hunger

New wheat breeds can help avert food security disaster - Sanjaya Rajaram, 2014 World Food Prize Laureate

Rising to "the greatest challenge in human history" - Jose Graziano da Silva, FAO 

Achieving zero hunger with help from smallholder farmers - Ertharin Cousin, WFP 

Tending the future - Pamela Anderson, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation

Sustained investment in global agricultural research key to feeding 9 bln people sustainably - Gebisa Ejeta, Purdue University

Africa will feed 9 billion by 2050 - Pedro A. Sanchez, Earth Institute, Columbia University