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Hans Herren of the Millennium Institute: High Time We Follow Talk With Action

Crossposted from the Worldwatch Institute’s Nourishing the Planet.

In this regular series, we profile advisors to the Nourishing the Planet project. This week, we feature Hans Herren, President of the Millennium Institute.

Name: Hans Herren

Affiliation: The Millennium Institute

Location:  Arlington, VA, United States

Bio: Hans Herren is President of the Millennium Institute (MI). Prior to joining MI, he was Director-General of the International Center for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in Nairobi, Kenya. He also served as director of the Africa Biological Control Center of International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), in Benin. At ICIPE, Hans developed and implemented programs in the area of human, animal, plant, and environmental health (the 4-H paradigm) as they relate to insect issues. At IITA, he conceived and implemented the highly successful biological control program that saved the African cassava crop, and averted Africa’s worst-ever food crisis. Hans also was a chair of the International Assessment for Agricultural Knowledge, Science, and Technology for Development (IAASTD), a four-year long assessment of world agriculture. Over the years, Hans has moved his interests toward the policy aspects of integrated sustainable development, in particular, linking environmental, plant, animal, and human health issues.

On Nourishing the Planet: There has been much talk about local empowerment in making development policy decisions from the international donor community. It is now high time to follow the talk with action, to strongly support capacity and institutional development in integrated and systemic planning in developing countries.

What do you see as the relationship between agriculture and the environment? Sustainable agriculture depends fully on its environment, into which it has to be “organically and harmoniously” integrated. In the medium and long term, agriculture will be more dependent on the biodiversity it has been destroying, the water it has been overusing, and the people it should have trained to nourish a growing and more demanding population. A change in paradigm, as recommended by the IAASTD report, is no longer an option; it’s a prerequisite to the future of humanity.

What role can agriculture can play in alleviating poverty and hunger worldwide? Agriculture is multifunctional; it services the many different needs of humanity, including the provision of jobs, which will help on both counts, hunger and poverty. Agriculture is at the basis of any development agenda and needs to be given the appropriate importance by investments in the many facets of this key economic sector.

What sort of policies and projects would you like to see implemented immediately to address issues of global hunger and poverty? Major investments must be made in sustainable agricultural research and development, in particular agronomy and soil sciences. No matter what crop varieties with high-yield potential exist, the number one issue is soil fertility. Soil restoration and permanent rebuilding are essential to produce food where it is demanded, and by the people who need both the food and job opportunity.

What could be done to encourage greater agricultural investment to help alleviate poverty and hunger? Make it clear to policymakers at the international and national levels that hunger and poverty will only be overcome by a sustainable agriculture, supported by knowledge, science, and innovations.

Why should food consumers in the United States care about the state of agriculture in other countries? The consumption pattern in the U.S. is not sustainable in the short and long term. The Earth is one, and what happens in one part of it inevitably affects others. From many different angles, from climate change to world peace, there is a need to assure food security and sovereignty in developing countries, while also assuring sustainable agriculture in industrialized nations.

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