Symposium informs about food and water security

The Harding Lecture series began with a lecture by George Norton, an author and professor of agricultural and applied economics at Virginia Tech, last Thursday at 7 p.m.

A symposium took place the next day from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. featuring lectures and forums by students, faculty and community members on the topic of food and water security.

Together, these events made up the Food and Water Security Symposium.

Both events took place in the Volstorff Ballroom, where all sessions were free to students, faculty and the public.

The symposium also focused on world hunger, poverty and food and water security. While Norton’s lecture on Thursday evening focused primarily on his book, “Hunger and Hope: escaping poverty and achieving food security in developing countries,” the symposium enabled other speakers to share their experiences with the topic.

From 10 a.m. to 11 a.m. the featured speakers on the state of food and water security were George Norton, Robert Thaler, a SDSU professor of animal science and extension swine specialist, and Hilary Hungerford, a SDSU assistant professor of geography. Norton spoke again about the poverty situation around the world and the possible solutions for the problem. Thaler focused on China’s impact on food consumption and trade, while Hungerford spoke about her experiences in Niger and water security in the Sahel region.

From 11 a.m. to 12 p.m. students Meghan Danielson, a SDSU masters student in operations management, Menno Schukking, a Northern State University student in history, Joy Schumacher, an SDSU student in nursing, and Olivia Siglin, an SDSU student in animal science, shared their experiences of traveling to developing countries. The students also expanded on how to prepare and engage the next generation with questioning from the moderator, Larry Janssen, an SDSU professor of agricultural economics.

The final session from 12 p.m. to 1 p.m. was titled a “Local Response to Global Needs,” in which community members from around Brookings shared how they are working to meet the global needs of food and water security. Those who presented included Luanne Napton, a volunteer and independent consultant for Haiti Solar Oven Partners, Fran Swain, strategic development manager for POET, and Jay Gilbertson, manager for East Dakota Water Development District.

Dr. Charles Woodard, a professor of English at SDSU and a member of the South Dakota World Affairs Council (SDWAC), chose to attend the events because of the importance of the issue presented.

“We’re all connected… one way or another,” Woodard said. “We’re too separated from most of the world and we need to be more aware of our relationships with other people… It’s practically, morally and ethically important to address the needs of other people.”

Jeanne Jones Manzer, the executive director for SDWAC, also believes the food and water security issue is important and should be brought to others’ attention.

“Food and water security is something we are all dependent on…,” Manzer said. “We all have to be involved to help the situation.”

Manzer was also a big supporter of Norton speaking on Thursday evening. In Norton’s lecture, he engaged the audience primarily through anecdotes and stories of his experiences in some of the 35 different countries he’s traveled to.

“I tell [stories] because it grabs their attention and causes … [them] to think,” Norton said when asked why he chooses to relate the issues in his lectures to a personal level.

Throughout Norton’s lecture Thursday night, and his presentation Friday morning, Norton spoke about hunger and poverty and possible factors that influence them both. Norton believes that of all the factors influencing poverty and hunger, institutions have the greatest power in transforming poverty in its country.

Although hunger has dropped from 1,015 million in 1990 to 805 million in 2014, hunger and poverty are still prominent issues that affect a number of people around the globe.

“Basically, hunger is a poverty problem,” Norton announced during his presentation on Friday. “You have to solve poverty to solve hunger.”

Although this seems like an impossible feat, many attempt to expel hunger, including the United Nations, with its millennium goals and the new goals it will set this year, and SDSU students, faculty and community members.

Students involved in the student panel forum discussion on Friday gave first-hand experience about their travels abroad and what they learned from it.

Danielson believes that solving food and water security issues around the world are through education and institutions, meaning government policies and laws.

“The main issue isn’t necessarily education, but also … informal institutions,” Danielson said in reply to the question, “What obstacles are there to achieve greater food and water security, or what opportunities are there to reach this goal?”

Of the many things discussed during the food and water security symposium, the majority of speakers encouraged students and others to be aware and to get involved one way or another to make a difference.

Students in the forum believed that studying abroad and experiencing the obstacles and issues in developing countries is one of the best ways for students to understand the importance of the situation.

“The most eye-opening way is to go to developing countries … because you don’t know how it really is,” Danielson said. “You get the statistics, but when you expose yourself you become hyper aware [of the dangers] in those countries.”