For more than 35 years, the World Food Prize Foundation has honored outstanding individuals who have made vital contributions to improving the quality, quantity or availability of food throughout the world. Hundreds of government officials, researchers, policy makers, students, NGO and industry representatives from more than 65 countries come to Des Moines, Iowa, each year to honor the Laureate as well as participate the Borlaug Dialogue and a full agenda of events all focused on improving global food security.
The World Food Prize was envisioned by Dr. Norman E. Borlaug and created in 1986. Laureates have been recognized from countries around the world, including Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Cape Verde, China, Cuba, Denmark, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Israel, Mexico, Sierra Leone, Switzerland, Uganda, United Kingdom, the United Nations and the United States. Heidi Kuhn will be recognized with the 2023 World Food Prize for her farmer-focused development model that revitalizes farmland, food security, livelihoods and resilience after devastating conflict.
“I am excited to introduce our Laureate Heidi Kuhn to Iowa and to showcase Iowa to the rest of the world through in-person and virtual events,” said Ambassador Terry Branstad, president of the World Food Prize Foundation. “Ms. Kuhn is a dynamic, enthusiastic leader and a wonderful representative of what is right with the world. The attendees will be in awe of her accomplishments and how she will move forward in the future.”
Ambassador Branstad took leadership of the World Food Prize Foundation in January 2023, bringing to the organization a legacy of public service, executive leadership and coalition-building on an international scale. As the former governor of Iowa and U.S. Ambassador to China, Branstad has been a champion for the World Food Prize Foundation since its move to Iowa in 1990 and has made enhancing the legacy of Iowans Dr. Borlaug and John Ruan a top priority.
“There is no better focus in the world than creating opportunities for access to nutritious food. Dr. Borlaug said it best, ‘Food is the moral right of all who are born into this world,’” said Ambassador Branstad. “I am focused on fundraising to keep the mission alive, managing our partner relationships around the world and creating a positive environment within and outside our organization, focused on the future of agricultural innovation and sustainability.”
The theme of the three-day Borlaug Dialogue in 2023 is “Harnessing Change” with keynote speakers and panel discussions to identify transformative solutions to achieve a sustainable, equitable and nourishing food system. After focusing in 2022 on the ongoing impacts of COVID-19, climate change, and conflict, the 2023 session will focus on harnessing innovation, adaptation, and diversification to improve systemic resilience, recover from shocks, and sustainably nourish all people.
“We honor, celebrate, and aim to inspire those who harness change and ultimately shape the future of food and agriculture,” said Ambassador Branstad. “Building on Borlaug’s legacy of tackling immense global challenges, this year’s Borlaug Dialogue will both acknowledge how far we have come and make positive strides toward a food-secure future.”
An Iowa native, Ambassador Branstad appreciates the state’s role in celebrating the legacy of agricultural production and research while spurring innovation to meet pressing global challenges.
“Iowa is a culmination of agriculture, innovation, integrity, productivity and accomplishments through combining food and peace,” he said. “As one of the most productive states in America and throughout the world, Iowa is a leader in agriculture innovation. We not only innovate; we create world leaders in agriculture. It's a perfect place to showcase what is attainable when we all work together.”
In addition to the annual World Food Prize Laureate Award Ceremony held at the Iowa State Capitol building and the Borlaug Dialogue, there are a number of side events and programs hosted in Des Moines. The Global Youth Institute brings more than 150 students to present research that they have conducted before a panel of roundtable of experts, participate in an interactive group project focused on global food security challenges, and attend workshops.
“The World Food Prize is another example of why the ‘world comes here’ to connect, learn, grow and innovate to increase food production in a sustainable way,” said Billi Hunt, executive director of America’s Cultivation Corridor. “We value the leadership and foundation built by Dr. Borlaug and John Ruan, and the current leadership of Ambassador Branstad and his team to celebrate and elevate the innovations needed to meet the needs of a growing world population.”
Ambassador Branstad highlighted a few of the state’s agricultural leaders, including Herbert Hoover who saved billions from starvation and rose to be a U.S. President; Henry A. Wallace, a former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and Iowa Governor who engineered the development of hybrid seed corn, our esteemed Dr. Norman Borlaug, whose legacy cannot be matched when it comes to world leadership and George Washington Carver, a persistent Iowan in American history who never gave up and changed our world for the better.
“Iowa has a lot to showcase and I'm proud to be the one helping to do that,” said Ambassador Branstad.
Published October 2023.