We have just finished up a dazzling run of high-level summit meetings that focused global attention on the need to end hunger – and increase the planet’s food production, a benefit to all of us – through agricultural development. It started with the Chicago Council on Global Affair’s symposium on food security and nutrition, continued through the G8 and G20 summits and then finished with the Rio Plus 20 gathering. There was much talk and plenty of lofty rhetoric. We reaped a bumper harvest of high-minded resolutions. This was all accompanied, and followed, by earnest analysis of what it all means and much hand-wringing that it wasn’t enough.
It certainly should be enough. The awareness is there. The commitments are there. The political will is there – or at least the politicians proclaim it is. Finally, finally, finally. Now, one more thing: Just Do It.
Where we fall short is in the implementation. In this realm, we’re far better at goal setting than goal achieving. It is time to move from the season of pronouncements to the season of accomplishments.
We know that agricultural development works. We see many examples of it in Africa, where such development has been utterly neglected for decades, resulting in the horrible oxymoron “hungry farmers” that describes tens of millions of families. I write about the work of smallholder farmers affiliated with One Acre Fund in The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change. It is on the brink of change – of consistently producing surplus harvests with an improved nutritional mix, of conquering the annual hunger season, of thriving rather than merely surviving -- because agricultural development works. We know the impact of better seeds, soil management, technical training, improved storage, access to micro-financing, efficient markets. Just Do It.
We have established the Millennium Development Goals and, for the most part, we know how to achieve them. Just Do It.
We know that proper nutrition during the 1,000 Days of a mother’s pregnancy and the first two years of her child’s life are absolutely critical in the child’s development. We know how important that time is to avoid physical and mental stunting, how important those days are to helping individuals, families, societies reach their potentials. Just Do It.
We know that agricultural improvements spur greater economic development because we have seen it happen across the rich, developed precincts of the world. Just Do It.
I’ve written that the essence of all these intended efforts – from the White House and State Department with the Feed the Future initiative, the G8 and G20 chambers, the United Nations, the World Economic Forum, the mighty philanthropic foundations, a growing number of corporate boardrooms, the spreading grassroots movement – comes down to improving the lives of the world’s smallholder farmers with the addition of three little letters: A-N-D. Putting an AND between the farmers’ goals of feeding their families throughout the year, educating their children, improving their nutrition, accessing the necessary health care. That’s what increased harvests mean.
To achieve these three little letters we need to act on three little words: Just. Do. It.