Ex-presidents of Ghana and Brazil awarded for fight against hunger

John Agyekum Kufuor and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva awarded The World Food Prize 2011

The former presidents of Ghana and Brazil have been jointly awarded the 2011 World Food Prize for their successful and progressive efforts to reduce hunger and malnutrition in their countries.

The World Food Prize, originally created by Nobel Peace Prize winner Dr Norman E Borlaug in 1986, recognises those who have increased quality, quantity, or availability of food in the world.

Respective leaders John Agyekum Kufuor, who left office in 2009, and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, whose presidency finished last year, were given the prize in a ceremony at the US State Department on 21 June.

On receiving the award, Kufuor said: “I am overjoyed that, in this time of increasing food crisis around the world, I should be judged as deserving of this great award for the role I played in boosting agriculture in my country.”

The former Brazilian president added: “I am really moved to know Brazil was chosen as a country that achieved good policies regarding agriculture and hunger. Brazil has a lot to show in the area of food security.”

In 1991, just over half of Ghana’s population was living in poverty, while a third was suffering from extreme hunger. By 2008, following two terms of Kufuor’s presidency, poverty figures had been halved, and the number of people affected by hunger had dropped to 9% of the population.

In Brazil, da Silva’s Zero Hunger strategy, which pledged that all citizens would eat three meals a day, saw child malnutrition fall 62% between 2003 and 2009.

Among those who commended President Kufuor and President Lula da Silva at the ceremony, were US Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. He said: “[They] advanced food security for their people by pursuing innovative policies and programs, and their leadership and work stand as a model to all nations working to meet the moral imperative of feeding the world.”

Under President Kufuor’s tenure, Ghana took a significant step forward towards achieving the UN Millennium Development Goal 1 (MDG 1): to end poverty and hunger before 2015. The president prioritised national agricultural policies, developing a sector that has traditionally been the backbone of Ghana’s economy. As a result, the national GDP quadrupled to 8.4% by 2008.

Additionally, he reactivated the Agricultural Extension Service, meaning that farmers were provided with better education opportunities and food production soared. The production of cocoa, one of Ghana’s leading exports, doubled in a period of three years.

The government went on to launch the Ghana School Feeding Programme, which sought to provide one nutritious, locally produced meal a day for schoolchildren aged 4 to14. By the end of last year, over one million children in Ghana were on the programme.

In Brazil, the Zero Hunger strategy exceeded the MDG 1 target before the 2015 deadline, with 93% of children and 82% of adults eating three meals a day. During his second term in office, President da Silva also launched the More Food Program initiative to mitigate the problem of soaring food prices and increase family food production.