During her keynote at last year’s World Food Prize, PepsiCo Chairman and CEO Indra Nooyi stressed the need for public-private partnerships, a recognition that has been mirrored at meetings of entities such as the World Economic Forum and the World Health Organization. Last week’s 2010 World Food Prize furthered the idea, with USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah announcing the creation of the Feed the Future Private Investment Center.
Shah described the project as “a new public-private partnership hub that… will expand on existing relationships with multinationals and local businesses, and facilitate engagement with new private sector partners.”
It is therefore fitting that PepsiCo officials were present at the event to continue Nooyi’s outreach of the year before. The World Food Prize allows for networking with experts in the agriculture, health, and nutrition fields, and it contributes to company knowledge of how to put our goals and commitments into action. Just as importantly, it signals to potential partners in both the public and private sectors that PepsiCo is serious about its move toward long-term sustainability. As the world’s second-largest food and beverage company, PepsiCo is well-placed to be an industry leader in working with the public sector to ensure that smallholder farmers get the resources they need to help alleviate poverty and hunger.
In his keynote, Kofi Annan, former U.N. Secretary General and current chairman of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, set the stage for another dominant theme during the conference: the need to focus on Africa. Annan stated, “Africa is the only continent which does not grow enough food to feed itself. It alone has failed, in recent decades, to see agricultural productivity keep pace with its growing population.”
Speakers and attendees of the week included ministers of agriculture from Mali and Liberia, a delegation of African ambassadors, and an array of local African farmers. Furthermore, the Feed the Future Private Investment Center is being piloted in Tanzania and builds on successful USAID programs in Ghana and Malawi.
Jeff Raikes, CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, also focused on Africa when talking about the science and technology needed to help small farmers. He cited advances in cassava production in Ghana while also stressing that though “most [Gates Foundation] grants support conventional breeding…in certain instances, we include biotechnology approaches because we believe they can help farmers confront drought, flooding, disease, or pests more effectively than conventional breeding alone.” Similarly, PepsiCo’s resources in R&D can be used to target underutilized crops that may not be easily marketed without new investments in science and technology.
The culmination of the week’s gathering was the ceremony honoring the 2010 World Food Prize Laureates: NGO leaders David Beckmann of Bread for the World and Jo Luck of Heifer International. They join a distinguished group of former winners who have each advanced human development by improving the world’s food supply, whether through research, policy, or advocacy.
PepsiCo is uniquely poised to contribute to this cause by encouraging consumers to live healthier lives while enacting corporate policies that address biodiversity and environmental concerns. Following the theme of this year’s World Food Prize, “Take it to the Farmer,” PepsiCo has the potential to contribute to livelihoods not only on the consumption side, but also following the supply chain to the thousands of farmers who grow the crops that make up PepsiCo’s product portfolio.