Fulbright scholars tackle global food security issues

More than 50 Fulbright students from all over the world came to NC State University in October 2012 to tackle the global challenges of food security with experts from the university and the corporations and organizations in the Research Triangle Park. One of the highlights of the conference included a panel discussion with Nick Hamon, the Vice President and Head of Sustainability for Bayer CropScience North America, Dr. John O’Sullivan, professor of Sustainable Agriculture at North Carolina A&T State University, and Dr. Andrea S. Anater, a public health nutrition researcher in the Food and Nutrition Policy Research program at RTI International.

“I think I speak on everyone’s behalf when I say that this experience was amazing,” said Gabriela Murillo, who’s originally from Costa Rica. “Excellent organization, wonderful people, very interesting and updated content. It was a true honor to be part of this seminar, and to get to know so many beautiful people from all around the world. It reminded me that no matter where you’re from or what’s your story, we can all contribute to achieve great things and to build a better place to live.”

The seminar kicked off with an inspiring and challenging keynote address from Rachel Zedeck, founder and managing director of Backpack Farm, a company based in Kenya and recipient of the 2010 UN Seed Award. The 55 conference participants also had a choice of nine panel discussions led by a multidisciplinary team of more than thirty faculty and industry professionals. They toured the Center for Environmental Farming Systems (CEFS), the Golden LEAF Biomanufacturing Training and Education Center (BTEC), and Lake Wheeler Farms.

“Meeting tomorrow’s food needs for all the people of the world is critical, so the seminar aims to bring together current and future leaders both to learn from each other and to find solutions together,” said Michael Bustle, director of the Global Training Initiative.

The students also had the unique experience of spending one evening with local host families. Twenty-nine households across the Triangle community opened their homes and some families have remained in touch with the Fulbrighters.

The four-day seminar included a case study competition, where students created innovative solutions from differing perspectives. They capped off the conference with a trip to the North Carolina State Fair, eating funnel cake, turkey legs, and enjoying the various agricultural exhibits.

“The program highlights how North Carolina meets the challenges of building and safeguarding a sustainable food supply that protects the environment, takes advantage of increasing technology, and helps to safely and economically feed the world,” Bustle added.

One of the most significant lessons was the importance of collaboration. Isaias Martinez, a Fulbrighter originally from Mexico, highlighted the need to remember that as all the participants returned to their universities across the US.

“Please do not forget that there is a real world out there that desperately needs the collaboration of people like you and like me,” he said.

The 2012 Fulbright Global Food Security Seminar was a collaborative effort of NC State’s Global Training Initiative, Global Health Initiative, and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences. The US Department of State and the Institute of International Education funded and co-hosted the seminar.