Program on Food Security and the Environment to build a global education network on agriculture and the environment


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Photo credit: 
Courtesy of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Starting winter 2011, FSE will bring the world's leading policy experts in the fields of food and agricultural development to Stanford University to participate in an integrated seminar series on pro-poor growth and food security policy. The series, funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, will consist of twelve lectures delivered on the Stanford campus over the course of two years.

"Providing food security for a world that will be warmer, more populous, and continually developing requires the implementation of sound policies that enhance agricultural production, incomes, and resource stewardship," said FSE director Rosamond L. Naylor.

"New ideas and exchanges are needed to meet this challenge and this seminar series intends to facilitate that process."

Participants will address the major themes of hunger and rural poverty, agricultural productivity, resource and climate constraints on agriculture, and food and agriculture policy. The series will draw heavily from economics, and will embrace polices related to demand, supply, price formation, marketing, trade and development.

"We focus this series on policy because it has proven to be extremely difficult to develop successful projects for hunger and poverty alleviation without first ensuring that sound policies are in play," noted Walter P. Falcon, FSE deputy director and project director. "Even the best-designed programs and projects at the local scale often fail due to counter-productive national policies."

The specific challenges will be to supply sufficient food at reasonable prices, to provide economic access to that food by all segments of society, and to do so without destroying the environment in the process, said Naylor.

In addition to lecturing, participants will write a significant paper that brings together new, relevant thinking about a particular topic area. At the end of the series, a volume of edited papers on international food security and food policy issues will be published. The volume will be designed for M.A. programs and mid-career professionals-individuals who later in their careers will have policy responsibilities. All the materials, including the videotaped lectures, will be freely available on the FSE website.

"We see an important opportunity to complement other efforts that have been funded by the Gates Foundation," said Naylor. "For example, the lecture series and educational volume are expected to contribute to the curriculum of the new Collaborative Master of Science in Agricultural and Applied Economics (CMAAE) program of the African Economic Research Consortium, partially funded by the foundation."

The lecture series will also target audiences in South Asia, and in particular India where there are more malnourished people than in all of sub-Saharan Africa.

The grant also provides funding to produce a specialized educational unit on food policy and food security for high school students. FSE will work closely with Stanford Program on International and Cross-Cultural Education (SPICE) to complete this project.

With the renewed interest in food, agriculture, and food security, it is important that the next generation have access to thoughtful commentary about global food issues, said Falcon.

This grant is part of the foundation's Agricultural Development initiative, which is working with a wide range of partners to provide millions of small farmers in the developing world with tools and opportunities to boost their yields, increase their incomes, and build better lives for themselves and their families. The Foundation is working to strengthen the entire agricultural value chain-from seeds and soil to farm management and market access-so that progress against hunger and poverty is sustainable over the long term.