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Land rights basis to end hunger

Every night, 900 million people go to bed hungry -- and 600 million of those people are farmers. Does anyone else see a huge problem with that?

Sir Gordon Conway, moderator at the World Food Prize, posed this question to launch the Borlaug Dialogue, “Setting the Stage: Taking Stock and Looking Ahead” on Wednesday in downtown Des Moines.

This dialogue featured a panel from countries around the world to discuss feeding a world that will reach a population of 9 billion people by 2050 with the same amount of land we currently utilize.  

Agriculture in many third-world countries is intimately tied to farmers’ relationships with the land they cultivate. However, many of these workers do not own land. In fact, most of the farmers in Africa and Asia are women. In a male-dominated society, these female farmers do not have access to the resources and funding more readily available to men.

Land and water scarcity was labeled as a key issue. As the dialogue went on, Tim Hanstad, president and CEO of Landesa, went further to promote to issue, saying land rights are not only important, they are also a basis for moving forward in production in third-world countries.

Kijoolu Kaliya, a pastoralist and community leader in Tanzania, faced her very own land rights issue head-on. In 2009, 20,000 people in her community of Maasai were forcibly evicted from their land in order to create a luxury hunting resort. Kaliya secretly organized 1,000 women to make a peaceful protest to get their land back.

“Without land, there is no livestock. Without livestock, we cannot live.” Kaliya and her followers brought the issue to national and international attention and successfully recovered their livelihood.

In years to come, agriculturalists around the world need to increase production, income, and nutrition to feed our growing population. 

One in three children under the age of 5 are malnourished. That’s increased to 40% of children in Africa. These numbers are shocking, but despite everything, Sir Gordon Conway is hopeful.  

“I’m optimistic [for Africa] because great things are already happening."

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