The Nobel Committee announced October 13 that Dr. Muhammad Yunus of Bangladesh will receive the prestigious 2006 Nobel Peace Prize for his "efforts to create economic and social development from below." There is an agricultural connection.
Yunus' international recognition began in Iowa—in October 1994 he was in Des Moines receiving the World Food Prize. Often called "The Nobel Prize of Food and Agriculture," the prize was given to Yunus for providing loans to hundreds of thousands of Bangladesh's poor to engage in subsistence farming.
Yunus wasn't the only Nobel Peace Prize winner at the 1994 event. Jimmy Carter, 2002 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and a member of the World Food Prize Council of Advisors, and 1970 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and World Food Prize Founder Dr. Norman E. Borlaug were on stage with Dr. Yunus as he received the World Food Prize. The prize was given on October 13, 1994—12 years to the day before he was announced a Nobel Peace Prize recipient.
Twelve years ago to the day!
"The World Food Prize was the first internationally renowned award given to Dr. Yunus," says Ambassador Kenneth Quinn, President of the World Food Prize Foundation, which is headquartered in Des Moines. "The road to the Nobel Peace Prize began in Iowa."
In accepting the World Food Prize, Dr. Yunus said, "I have been struggling to draw national and world attention to poverty and hunger issues for many years now. But I never thought I would be considered for the immensely prestigious World Food Prize."
He continued, "I look at The Prize not only as an endorsement of what I have done, I look at it as a thunderous endorsement of what we can all achieve – the creation of a poverty-free world in our lifetime."
Yunus' work in microcredit, financed through the Grameen Bank, provided small loans to landless farmers to help them break the cycle of poverty. The anomaly of a traditional bank, the Grameen Bank is owned by very poor, who are also its primary customers. The Grameen Bank is the co-recipient of this year's Noble Peace Prize award.
World Food Prize to be awarded Oct. 19
Current proponents of microcredit programs include the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, who recently announced the $150 million Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa program in conjunction with the Rockefeller Foundation. Dr. Rajiv Shah, Director for Financial Services and Agriculture for the Gates Foundation, will be in Des Moines next week for the World Food Prize International Symposium discussing the program.
The 2006 World Food Prize will be awarded on October 19 in the Iowa State Capitol to Edson Lobato and Alysson Paolinelli of Brazil, and A. Colin McClung of the United States. The three men will share the $250,000 prize.
This trio - two soil scientists and a policy leader — are being honored for their ingenuity that led to development of the Brazilian Cerrado or new lands area for food production. Formerly a large area of unused brushy land in the central part of Brazil, this area now grows a large amount of soybeans and other ag products and has made Brazil a powerhouse in world soybean production.