Víctor Villalobos, Mexico’s Agriculture and Rural Development secretary, delivered a keynote speech about the inextricable links between agriculture, forced migration and peace at the Borlaug Dialogue hosted in Des Moines, Iowa, by the World Food Prize Foundation.
Villalobos argued for adopting an integrated development approach to improve food production systems in the developing world, particularly in the Northern Triangle of Central America, with an aim to offer development opportunities to subsistence farmers and help halt forced migration.
“Any lasting answer to environmental degradation, violence, famine and forced migration demands our best collective effort, which is not the fight of one generation but the lasting legacy of Norman Borlaug, and of anybody who has ever engaged in this Borlaug Dialogue,” he said.
According to Villalobos, who is also honorary chair of the Board of Trustees of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT), Mexico is committed to investing in innovation, science and research to make whole grains farming more sustainable and profitable. Among other initiatives, Mexico is scaling out a sustainable research and development project between Mexico and CIMMYT called MasAgro.
“We believe that MasAgro’s innovation hubs, integrated crop production systems and design thinking approach to sustainably increasing the productivity of traditional farming methods can really help to deliver the Sustainable Development Goals that all countries are committed to achieve by 2030,” said Villalobos.
In 2014, the World Food Prize Foundation acknowledged the achievements of the MasAgro project by granting Bram Govaerts — currently CIMMYT’s Integrated Development Program director and representative for the Americas — the Norman Borlaug Award for Field Research and Application, endowed by the Rockefeller Foundation.
MasAgro’s model has since earned recognition from several international development organizations, funding agencies and governments, including the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the World Economic Forum, the G20, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The theme of the 2019 Borlaug Dialogue was “Peace through Agriculture,” and the winner of the 2019 World Food Prize was Simon Groot, founder of the East-West Seed Company, which commercializes improved vegetable seeds in more than 60 countries of Asia, Africa and Latin America at affordable prices for the benefit of subsistence and small farmers.
The World Food Prize has a long association with CIMMYT. Sanjaya Rajaram was awarded the 2014 World Food Prize for his work that led to a prodigious increase in world wheat production. Evangelina Villegas and Surinder Vasal were awarded the 2000 World Food Prize for their work on productivity and nutritional content of maize. As an institution, CIMMYT received the Norman Borlaug Field Medallion in 2014.