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June 20, 2011

Ghana, Brazil Leaders Share World Food Prize

The world's top honor in food and agriculture this year goes to two former presidents who led dramatic reductions in hunger and poverty in their countries in the past decade.

Ghana's President John Agyekum Kufuor and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva have received the World Food Prize for what the prize citation called "visionary leadership" in reducing poverty and malnutrition.

At a ceremony at the State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development chief Rajiv Shah said they demonstrate an important fact about fighting hunger.

"As much as the scientists need to work at it, and as much as we need support from so many agricultural experts, at the end of the day political leadership at the highest levels makes the biggest difference," Shah said.

During Mr. Kufuor's eight-year term, Ghana became the first country in sub-Saharan Africa to cut the percentage of hungry people by more than half from 1990 levels. Economic reforms targeting the agricultural sector helped boost the country's economy substantially. And a successful school meal program reaches more than a million primary school children in a country of about nine million kids.

President da Silva made breakfast, lunch and dinner for all Brazilians a central goal of his administration. World Food Prize President Kenneth Quinn said his "Zero Hunger" policy strengthened family farms, cut poverty, and reduced child malnutrition by about 60 percent.

"President Kufuor and President Lula da Silva have set an incredibly powerful example for other political leaders in the world," Quinn said.

Quinn noted that this is the first time in the 25-year history of the World Food Prize that it has been awarded  to heads of government.

The two presidents will share the $250,000 prize, which will be awarded at a ceremony in October in the U.S. state of Iowa.

The World Food Prize was established by plant breeder and Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Borlaug. Borlaug is considered the father of the Green Revolution, which greatly increased rice and wheat yields and averted famine in Asia in the 1960s.