Slides  /  October 16, 2019

Farmers, Food, and the Future: Vegetable Seeds for a Healthier World

Ido Verhagen participated in a breakout session of the 2019 Borlaug Dialogue and shared the stage with World Food Prize laureate Simon Groot to explain the drivers behind and findings of the Access to Seeds Index, that identified East-West Seed as leader in the seed industry in improving access to seeds for smallholder farmers.

Here is a report by East-West Seed:

It’s been a truly insightful morning at ‘Farmers, Food, and the Future: Vegetable Seeds for a Healthier World #FoodFuture‘. Here’s a summary of the event:

We had a trip down memory lane with the World Food Prize Laureate and our founder, Simon N. Groot. Speaking of the early days at East-West Seed he said:

“It was one of the hardest parts of the whole process, to get farmers to spend money on seeds, when they had always collected their own seeds that were free of charge.”

The interview with Simon Groot was conducted by Molly Jahn, Director of strategic outreach, NASA Harvest Consortium, Earth Institute, Columbia University.

Purvi Mehta – Head of Asia Agriculture at Gates Foundation spoke about the affordability of nutritious food:
1000 kcal coming from rice costs 26 cents but the same coming from veg is costing 97 cents and up.

Marije Beens – Director Plant Supply Chain and Food Quality at Rijksoverheid spoke about the need for greater collaboration:
“Public private partnerships are crucial to achieving development goals and supporting farmers – which is what EWS has and continues to do.”

Later, Roy Steiner – Senior Vice President of the Food Initiative at Rockefeller Foundationdiscussed the global threat to public health:
“We are consuming only 50% of vegetables that we need to. It’s a universal problem.”

World Vegetable Center‘s Director, Marco Wopereis continued the theme of nutrition:
“Colors mean nutrition, Different colors give different nutritional values. We need to keep vegetable diversity.”

Then to discuss the role of farmers and how they can be supported was East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer‘s Stuart Morris and Ruth Ardzard.
“Most farmers in the areas that we’re working in need basic agronomic practices,” said Stuart while Ruth stated that “Agricultural development has missed Northern Nigeria… but change is possible.”

The event then went into a panel discussion.

“Even with our most productive varieties we have to breed seeds in West African for West Africa, this is a common lesson we’re learning,” said Jan Low, 2016 World Food Prize Laureate, Principal Scientist at International Potato Center.

Access to Seeds Index‘s Director, Ido Verhagen explained how sharing knowledge is crucial to building trust with farmers: “If you don’t show how to properly use seeds to produce good results, they [farmers] won’t buy your product”

Finally, Director Plant Sciences Group at Wageningen University & Research, Ernst van den Ende spoke about the Dutch approach of cooperation between knowledge institutions, private sector as well as government to improve agriculture.

We would like to send a special thanks to Teresa Welsh, a journalist at Devex for moderating the panel discussion.