...Redifining Journalism for Development

Breakthrough with Professor MK Othman- Meeting American Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn: Finding Hope in a Hungry World


My recent three weeks sojourn to United States of America took me to the Hall of Laureates of the World Food Prize Foundation at the Des Moines, Iowa State.
It was a mission full of spectacular experience with amazing outcomes whose memory will ever remain refreshing in my life.
After three hours driving from Lincoln, we arrived Des Moines at 12 noon, scheduled time for the lunch meeting with Ambassador Kenneth Quinn.
After the formal introduction with amiable staff of the Foundation, I and my team members; Prof Chris Daudu and Dr Bala Shehu were ushered into the venue of the lunch when the Ambassador briskly appeared with an affable smile and warm welcome.
His voice was resonating and reminding me “I heard this voice” but couldn’t recall where and when. However, in the course of our discussion, it became clear that he was a keynote speaker of an event I participated a week earlier.
The event was the annual International Conference of American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers (ASABE), which was held in Spokane, Washington State. It was a forum for acknowledging innovations in design and technology and creation of opportunities for professional development in Agricultural and Biological Engineering – with a focus on the global economic, political and societal impacts facing agriculture.
Over 1,700 Agricultural Engineers across the globe gathered at the Convention center of Spokane for the 4 days pack-full of activities (6:30 am to 9 pm). The choice of Ambassador Quinn as the keynote speaker was an apt and timely one in the face of global food insecurity – hunger and poverty; the twin sisters who are inseparable, wherever one is, the other is lurking behind the scene. There couldn’t have been a better choice. Bravo 2017 ASABE Organizers!
Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, former U.S. Ambassador to the Kingdom of Cambodia, is the President of World Food Prize Foundation, which he assumed since January 1, 2000. This was immediately after his retirement from public service. He served the US State Department for 32 years as a career diplomat in the Foreign Service.
The Ambassador joined the foundation as a result of inspiration by Dr. Norman E. Borlaug’s vision who founded the World Food Prize in 1986. Ambassador Quinn built this legendary annual event and raised it for annual award of $250,000 into the “Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture.”

American Ambassador
Ambassador Kenneth M Quinn

The event holds every October 16th in Des Moines, coinciding with World Food Day. The foundation has many soul touching activities; The World Food Prize Laureate Award Ceremony, Borlaug Dialogue international symposium and Global Youth Institute.
These have grown in size and stature under the formidable leadership of Ambassador Quinn. Today, the Hall of Laureates of the Foundation occupies the historic Des Moines Public Library, a building designed to achieve LEED Platinum certification, the highest possible level of energy efficiency and resource conservation.
This is to the credit of Ambassador Quinn with an active support of the John Ruan family, who championed the campaign that successfully raised $29.8 million to restore and transform the old library into the World Food Prize Dr. Norman E. Borlaug Hall of Laureates.
Making Nigeria proud
Pleasantly, the 2017 World Food Prize Laureate was won by one of us, a famous Nigerian; Dr Akinwumi Adesina, immediate past Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development. Dr Adesina is the current President of the African Development Bank.
He is being honored as “2017 World Food Prize Laureate for his leading role over the past decade”, he significantly expanded food production in Nigeria by introducing “ initiatives to exponentially increase the availability of credit for smallholder farmers across the African continent”.
As Minister, Adesina’s policy expanded Nigeria’s food production by 21 metric tons and the country attracted $5.6 billion in private sector investment in agriculture. Adesina is the first Nigerian to win the prize and fourth in Africa to be so awarded since 1987 when M. S. Swaminathan, an Indian became the first to win the prize.
In addition to Adesina’s giant achievement, it was also heartwarming for us to notice the picture of former Nigerian President Olusegun Obansanjo hanging amid the pictures of Board members in the hall of this famous international Foundation. Nigeria, a giant of Africa may be facing several developmental challenges at home but has some sons and daughters whose positive contributions to global arena are dually recognised and part of this credit must go to our nation.
American Ambassador
Akinwumi Adesina

Hunger is a menace to individual, family and nation, it has to be first subdued or eradicated before facing other needs. To buttress this point, let me quote the statement of Dr Richard Berkland, the Vice President of Valmont International, Valley who said “we must fulfill physiological needs before we can truly address and make progress on higher – level needs”.
Maslow’s hierarchy of needs best illustrates this statement, we have to fulfill physiological needs (hunger, thirsty, air), then move to safety (personal, financial security, health), move up to social needs, esteem, cognitive, aesthetic and finally to self – actualization. Therefore hunger is a big issue to humanity and it is rearing it’s ugly face especially in the developing countries. José Graziano da Silva, FAO Director-General presented this reality at the 2015 annual State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI) as he was quoted saying:
“Hunger remains an everyday challenge for almost 795 million people worldwide, including 780 million in developing regions. Thus, hunger eradication should remain a key commitment of decision-makers at all levels”.
World Food Prize
The World Food Prize Foundation was principally established to fight global hunger through according recognition to the achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity or availability of food in the world.
A visitor to this edifice, the World Food Prize Foundation must conspicuously recognize the collective breakthrough of four men of fame; Dr. Norman E. Borlaug, Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, Mr. John Ruan and Mr. Howard G. Buffett, respectively. Each of these men had his name imprinted in gold in the strenuous global fight against hunger and extreme poverty. Although the fight is not won and may not be easily won for a long time come, but progress has been made.
However, the progress in fighting hunger and the emerging challenges against food security are progressively moving at different rates; the latter is moving at exponential rate while the former moves at arithmetic progression. To x-ray the struggle of these eminence men of distinction, one must start with the work of Norman Borlaug. Who was he?
Norman Ernest Borlaug was born on March 25, 1914 at a farmhouse near Cresco, Iowa State USA. He was a son to a farming family of Henry and Clara Borlaug. He had his primary and secondary education in Cresco and proceeded to the University of Minnesota where he studied forestry.
American Ambassador
Dr. Norman E. Borlaug

After completing his Bachelor of Science degree in 1937, he worked for the U.S. Forestry Service at stations in Massachusetts and Idaho. He returned to the University of Minnesota where he studied plant pathology at both Master’s and doctorate degree levels in 1939 and 1942, respectively. He worked at the du Pont de Nemours Foundation as a researcher on industrial and agricultural bactericides, fungicides, and preservatives.
In 1944, he was appointed as geneticist and plant pathologist, assigned the task of organizing and directing the Cooperative Wheat Research and Production Program in Mexico.
The program was a collaborative effort between Mexican government and the Rockefeller Foundation. It involved complete scientific research in genetics, plant breeding, plant pathology, entomology, agronomy, soil science, and cereal technology.
Within twenty years of his career, Dr. Borlaug was spectacularly successful in finding high-yielding short-straw, disease-resistant wheat. This was a historic milestone in the scientific career of Dr. Borlaug. Added to this scientific goal, was his practical humanitarian posture. Thus, he worked hard to put the new wheat strains into extensive production for the purpose of feeding the hungry people of the world.
(To be continued next week)

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