On the day that Milan, specifically Expo Milano 2015, was the world capital of agriculture, with over 50 agricultural ministers, 370 delegates representing 115 countries and international organizations each continent, we interviewed Ertharin Cousin, director of the World Food Programme.
What is the key message that you, as Director of the World Food Programme, would like to bring to Milan?
I am talking first of all, of course, about food and the ability to end hunger and to end stunting in our lifetime. I also want to focus on the necessary investment in women, in providing an opportunity for women to have access to land, to tools, to credit, to education, to inputs that will ensure that we can actually use their value to support in ending hunger. There’s recognition that we could feed between 100 and 150 million more people if women simply had access, the same access as men, to the necessary inputs, to credit, to tools, to education and to land and so, if we’re going to truly end hunger in our lifetime, we must empower women.
I asked the same question to Myrna Cunningham, the representative of the Permanent Forum of UN of Indigenous People. I asked her “What do you fear most of all for the near future?”
My worst fear is that we don’t have the public will that we need, the groundswell of support that is required to ensure adequate investment in the tools that will ensure more people can access food, can have food made available to them, can have the required clean water and sanitation to absorb the micronutrients that are necessary. That’s my worst fear!
Within the UN, there is much being done on many fronts. But based on which priorities?
This year, World Toilet Day is focused on clean water and nutrition. There’s a recognition that without food and without clean water, working together, that we cannot overcome the challenges of 165 million children who suffer from chronic malnutrition and stunting. There are close to a billion children who have micro-nutrient deficiencies, who suffer from hidden hunger, so we must have clean water in order to achieve those goals. And so, enabling, or rather moving beyond just enabling projects to truly scaling up the opportunities that we know work, to support more people on a multi-year basis that build the resilience in the poorest around the world to withstand shocks and crises is what is required. And that work will require the global public saying to the leadership “We want you to do more. And we want you to invest our tax dollars in the support of the entire world. We live on a very small planet. And one of the things that we say at WFP is that the future of each of us, is in the hands of the most vulnerable people in the world, because if we do not invest in their prosperity, in their ability to feed themselves, and to eliminate stunting, then we cannot achieve the peace across the world that we all want.
I assume, there is a strong relationship between peace and food.
Yes, you’re right.
So, one last curiosity: do you have a favorite dish that reminds you of home or your childhood?
My favorite dish? Let me tell you, my Dad is from Louisiana and he was a chef before he passed away and his signature dish was his spaghetti! He made an American southern spaghetti that tasted nothing like the spaghetti that you have here, but that the entire community loved.
Since you are the head of the World Food Programme, we can conclude by saying: "We hope there will soon be ... spaghetti for everyone in the world".
For sure! It is the message that underlies my speech today.