Entry: Virginia Sopyla, World Cocoa Foundation
This week I had the privilege of attending the World Food Prize Symposium. This year’s prize was particularly memorable for those of us involved in cocoa as the Prize was awarded to two former presidents of cocoa-producing countries, President John Agyekum Kufuor of Ghana and President Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva of Brazil.
One of the highlights of the week was spending time with the nearly 40 fellows participating in the U.S. Department of Agriculture/Foreign Agricultural Service’s Norman E. Borlaug International Agricultural Science & Technology Fellowship Program. This program brings scientists from select countries to the U.S. to complete up to a 12 week fellowship at a U.S. university or research institute. Within the program, the World Cocoa Foundation is partnering with USDA/FAS to implement the Global Cocoa Initiative. I attended this year’s World Food Prize with Jetro Nkengafac, a Cocoa Borlaug Fellow from the Institute of Agricultural Research for Development (IRAD) in Cameroon. Like a number of the fellows in attendance, Jetro’s work focuses on soil fertility.
Jetro and I participated in a number of special activities organized by USDA/FAS for participants in the Borlaug Fellows Program. On Monday, this included an interesting small group discussion with other fellows and their mentors on the topic of natural resource management challenges facing smallholder farmers on marginal lands. Through the discussion, we had the opportunity to learn about the interesting work that fellows’ are engaged in related to soil, water, and renewable energy.
On Wednesday, USDA/FAS organized a seminar on this of natural resource management and Jetro was selected to represent all of the fellows on a prestigious panel that included 2002 World Food Prize Laureate Pedro Sanchez, the president of Africare, and the president of the College of the Menominee Nation.
The panel discussion was followed by a keynote presentation from 2011 World Food Prize Laureate President John Agyekum Kufuor of Ghana. President Kufuor’s speech focused on the role of agriculture (and especially cocoa) in reducing poverty and achieving middle income nation status for Ghana. He spoke of the policy reforms, extension efforts, and infrastructure development that contributed to a near doubling of cocoa production during his presidency, and how that production in turn contributed to Ghana’s GDP. He also spoke of the importance of encouraging private sector development, and spoke of several WCF member companies that have invested in Ghana. Later in week, during his acceptance speech, he dedicated the award to the people of Ghana, and the smallholder farmers in particular.