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From a YES student: Remembering my experience at the World Food Prize

May 20, 2010

Suleiman Ameh is a YES student from Benue State, Nigeria. He is living with Rhonda and Randy Perdue in Swea City, Iowa. Suleiman attends North Sentral Kossuth High School.

Suleiman was one of six of IRIS’s YES students chosen to attend the World Food Prize Youth Institute in Des Moines from Oct. 15-17, 2009. In addition to several activities, he presented a research paper on the topic, “National Responses to Food Insecurity.”

Now at the end of his year in Iowa, he has written a summary of his experience at the Youth Institute:

Sunday, Ndeenga, Miriam, John and Suleiman at the World Food Prize Youth Institute

How I found out about the World Food Prize:

It was my first time to hear about an organization called the World Food Prize when I received an e-mail from IRIS giving all 60 YES students a chance of qualification to attend the event.

How I was chosen:

In order to be chosen to attend the Youth Institute, I submitted one of the six most compelling summaries to IRIS. My summary was researched and developed into a full essay.

The WFP and Opportunities:

On Oct. 15-17, I attended the World Food Prize Youth Institute, a three day event in Des Moines, Iowa. At the event, I met over 200 high school students and teachers from across the U.S. and around the world and more than 600 global leaders.

I was one of the students who stood by the stairways to welcome the global leaders from 65 countries  as they were coming in to discuss pressing food security and agricultural issues with the international experts.

Following the symposium luncheon, I was able to meet and briefly speak with the Tanzania’s ambassador to the United States. I was also able to meet many world renowned experts — there are many, I can’t mention them.

John, Suleiman, Ndeenga, Miriam and Sunday with Tanzanian ambassador, Ombeni Sefue

The 2009 WFP Laureate:

He is Dr. Gebisa Ejeta of Ethiopia. Dr. Ejeta developed a sorghum hybrids resistant to drought and the devastating Striga weed that has dramatically increased the production and availability of one of the world’s five principal cereal grains and enhanced the food supply of hundreds of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa.

What I did at the WFP:

As part of the program, we toured cutting-edge industrial and research facilities, took part in the symposium discussions with global leaders in science, industry and policy, and packaged food aid for vulnerable and food-insecure population in Tanzania. We also went to the Des Moines University and visited various education departments to learn new things about our future careers.

What I learned:

This program helped me to fulfill one of the purposes of IRIS, which is to share cultural and economic ideas among Africans and Americans.

My essay enlightened the Americans about the condition of economy in my country, Nigeria. I also learned how to fight my fear of public speaking and writing long essays.

It also broadened my understanding of the world poverty and hunger.

Suleiman's essay group

What I jotted down from a video we watched about the WFP:

For centuries, hunger, malnutrition and misery have played our world. Even today, over 800 million people — or nearly one out of every eight on earth — do not get the food they need.

As the global population grows at a staggering rate, the battle against hunger struggles to keep up. It was a singular dedication to feeding this ever-expanding world that led to Dr. Norman E. Borlaug’s vision of creating the World Food Prize.

Born on a small Iowa farm in 1914, Dr. Borlaug’s pioneering work to produce higher yielding strands of wheat assured him the Green Revolution – providing large scale farming and earning him the title of the man who has saved more lives than any other person who has ever lived.

Shortly after receiving the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970, Dr. Borlaug embarked on a mission to recognize those individuals who lead the forefront of the fight against world hunger, and in 1986, the World Food Prize was born.

The first World Food Prize was awarded in 1987 to M.S. Swami Nathan of India. However, just three short years later, the future of the World Food Prize was in serious doubt after corporate restructuring and financial support for the prize. Dr. Borlaug would once again have to find the sponsor.

This time, his search led him back to Iowa and towards the formation of a partnership that will forever change the World Food Prize. Noted businessman and philanthropist John Ruan, who like Dr. Borlaug was born in a small Iowa town in 1914, had a standing vision that Iowa be seen as the agricultural capitol of the world. Thus, a resonate cord struck in Ruan, and in 1990, he announced his intent to bring the prize to Iowa thereby, securing its future.

In its new home in Des Moines, the prize will not only survive, but flourish and expand. The World Food Prize Laureates gather from countries around the world and have been at the forefront of the single greatest period of food production in all of human history. They are responsible for adversary of accomplishments, including dramatically improving rice production in Asia and Africa, the development of quality protein maize in Mexico, the eradication of pests and diseases, promoting and expanding the Diary and Seed Industries in India, reforming the food policy framework in China and countries in the middle east and utilizing methods of micro credit, aquaculture and humanitarian relief to empower poor rural women. By focusing attention on the accomplishment of the World Food Prize Laureates, the hunger crisis was brought to the forefront of the international consciousness.

Fulfilling John Ruan’s dream, each year, the World Food Prize gathers international experts to address critical issues in global food security through its international symposium known as the Borlaug Dialogue. The annual Laureate award ceremony is a night of celebration to commemorate the advances in the fight against global hunger. Fulfilling Norman Borlaug vision, world leaders have called the World Food Prize the Nobel Prize for Food and Agriculture.

And so thanks to the remarkable accomplishments of its Laureates and the contribution of its founder, what began as one man’s idea has grown to become a distinguished award, recognizing great accomplishments and inspiring even greater achievements in the fight to eradicate hunger in the 21st century.

Watch a video about the prize and learn more about the history of the program here.

Helping others:

Dr. Ejeta said: “Education is not the matter of serving yourself…. it’s the matter of serving the World. This encouraged me to not be selfish but help and love, share things in common and encourage others.

He also quoted his mother. “Poverty is not leprosy. You doesn’t have to show. It doesn’t have to define who we are and what our character is.” This also advises us that our poor background won’t define our destiny. I believe that one person can make a difference.

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