The air is filled with the buzz of excited students rolling in through the doors of the Memorial Auditorium. I mean it is not everyday you get to hear eminent personas like Kofi Annan give inspirational talks. Well, at Stanford we get to that every other day, which is not so bad, frankly. It was quite amusing to see freshmen, who are not yet used to the awesome-ness of being at such a renowned university, shuffle in with gleeful faces while updating their Facebook status on their cellphones, bragging about such events happening, “Only at Stanford.” I should add I was among these freshmen, except that my exuberance was exponentially vivid through my comical facial expressions; bulging eyes, mouth stretched with a gloating grin as I strutted down the isle to the esteemed press area and took my seat in the second row while the remaining one thousand seven hundred and four people struggled to squeeze themselves in seats behind me. Life is good.
Now I’ll let go off my self-obsession and move to the more important part of the afternoon: Kofi Annan’s speech. This former United Nations Secretary General graced us with his presence at the occasion of the opening of the new Center for Food Security and the Environment at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International studies. Who else could be a better speaker than the very person who has initiated projects in order to aid Africa fight food insecurity?
Annan instantly won the crowd over by commenting on the, “duck hunting season at The Farm,” and how, “Luck was on [our] side.” However, more inspirational was his address regarding food security and global climate change. He draws our attention to the harrowing fact that one in seven of the world’s 7 billion people go to bed hungry. Our time is a time of great contrast. While Globalization has accelerated progress, it has not been shared equally amongst the nations. At “the heart” of the situation that the countries receiving the shorter end of the stick have to deal with, is food and nutrition insecurity. Annan deems the global climate change to be the leading cause for the decline of cultivable land and increasing food insecurity. Furthermore, he believes that African nations can play a central role in combating this dilemma since 80% of the world’s uncultivated land lies in Africa. However, Africa can only step up to face challenge if it receives help. As for now, lack of investment in research, human resource development and infrastructure in Africa has resulted in dire consequences. Africa is the only continent which can not feed itself and the prospects do not seem any better considering that its population growth is on a rise. It is imperative to help them since it is not only our moral obligation as a global community to support the unprivileged, but it is also in our interests since it will help us attain global prosperity and stability.
Annan feels that there needs to be true goodwill and effort on both local and global levels. Amongst the measures he mentioned were preventing price volatility, maintaining global food stock, reshaping global agricultural system, giving financial assistance to African women farmers and applying known techniques and tools specially in assisting African smallholder farms. Furthermore, the crux of the matter NEEDS to be handled by governments. They need to establish a broad umbrella and then, through “effective partnerships and networking” with various local and global institutions, find answers to “end hunger NOW.”
Another strategy to counter lack of food security is to be “climate – smart” and this is where the new Center for Food Security and the Environment has a key role to play. There needs to be a global initiative to deal with climate change that consists of a “fair framework based on shared values.” Annan believes that scientists are to lead the way through their research in order to diminish the negative consequences of climate change and with this Center we are now at the forefront of the scientific arena. By organizing ourselves in such a way that it is sustainable and practicable, we can even directly engage ourselves in the local community to help alleviate food insecurity. We, as students of this university with immense amount of talent should be an active part of this new initiative. As Kofi Annan aptly said, “My young friends, do not just sit on the sidelines. Use your energy, your unbounded enthusiasm to end global food insecurity.”