Politics of Poverty

And the award goes to….two anti-hunger advocates

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Sadia Suleiman and her daughter Hwida share a melon grown in the nutrition/hygiene group’s communal garden. (Photo: Elizabeth Stevens / Oxfam)

Two deserving researchers and advocates awarded the 2018 World Food Prize.

The World Food Prize, sometimes called “the Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture” frequently goes to plant breeders and other agricultural scientists. This is in keeping with the vision of its founder, plant pathologist Norman Borlaug, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts to develop high-yielding wheat varieties.

Once in a while, though, the prize goes to anti-hunger advocates. This year’s winners, whom the Iowa-based prize has just announced, very much fit that bill, although they have impressive academic credentials of their own.

One is Dr. David Nabarro, an Oxford-trained physician, who for nearly two decades has worked for the United Nations on food security, health, and nutrition. He led the global body’s response to both the food-price crisis of 2007-2008 and Ebola in West Africa in 2014. In between, he led the UN’s Scaling Up Nutrition initiative. Earlier, Dr. Nabarro had a distinguished career with the British foreign aid agency, as a professor, and working for INGO, Save the Children. I had the privilege of meeting him a few years ago at a meeting on how to fight global vitamin and mineral malnutrition.  He has a well-deserved reputation as a consensus-builder, listener, and tireless advocate who has navigated global politics and international bureaucracies on behalf of the world’s most vulnerable people.

The other laureate this year is Dr. Lawrence Haddad, who currently heads the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition. I’ve known and worked with Lawrence for more than 20 years. A Stanford-trained economist, he’s worked as a professor and at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), where we were colleagues for a number of years. He also was Director of the Institute of Development Studies in Sussex, UK.

Dr. Haddad got his doctorate in economics at Stanford, and is well-known for his analyses of household surveys and econometric studies. But he also brings a special passion to his research, which among other things has focused on the importance of women’s empowerment through education and better health in improving their children’s nutrition. And, while at IFPRI, he launched a research program on gender and food security that established how giving women farmers the same access to resources as men can boost overall food production significantly.

Dr. Haddad was born in South Africa and grew up in a household headed by his single, Lebanese immigrant mom. So, he has brought his own life experience to bear on his research.

Congratulations to both on this well-deserved honor. And congratulations to the World Food Prize for picking two great laureates this year!

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