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CARY FOWLER: I put two propositions before you today. The first is that the vulnerability of value chains increases when our dependency on just a few or just a single crop increases inappropriately. And the second proposition I put forward for your consideration is that providing options to farmers equals risk management. That’s how we, in one way at least, provide risk management. I’ll give you an example of what that means in practice.

We, in the U.S. government and in this regard, I’ll mention the State Department, where I work, and principally in the U.S. Agency for International Development, have a project that we have put up in collaboration with the African Union and the Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO.

This project, this initiative, is designed to identify the most promising crops for nutrition in Africa amongst the many, many traditional and indigenous crops in Africa. We’re then asking ourselves the question, which of these crops that are nutritionally rich have the most potential in a climate changed Africa? And based on that, which are the most nutritious crops? And how will they perform in climate change? We’ll have a rational basis for plant breeding and plant improvement efforts looking towards the future.

The process has been generously supported by my friend next to me. With the Rockefeller Foundation we’re about halfway through this process. We’ve identified about 40 crops that we think have great potential. We are looking forward to a meeting in November where we’ll look at these crops through the lens of climate change, and then we hope to provide some financial mechanisms to provide ongoing support for plant breeding efforts for these crops.

If we’re going to have a stable, resilient food system and if we’re going to provide nutrition for everyone all year round, including for children that are suffering from malnutrition and stunting and wasting, certainly in Africa, then we need to provide options to farmers for growing these traditional and indigenous varieties that are so nutritionally rich and that can provide the micronutrients for a balanced and good nutrition.

U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future