On October 7th, WFO President Theo De Jager was invited to give a keynote speech at the opening of 2020 BGRI Virtual Technical Workshop, hosted by Cornell CALS in partnership with Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and the UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.
Focusing on the impacts of COVID-19 outbreak on agriculture, De Jager emphasized how disruptions in access to markets have hindered the capacity of the farmers to earn their living in the right way during the COVID pandemic. He highlighted how farmers are scared not only by the pandemic but also and foremost by the ghost of poverty and hunger.
On the other side, de Jager underlined how never before food has been so high in the public debate; everybody is now concerned about the sustainability of food systems, asking farmers to answer on the what, the how and the when they produce.
“Agriculture is a business Every farmer is a businessman, and his biggest challenge is to ensure that what he receives for the products he sells from his farm is more than what he has spent to grow it. And secondly, about the sustainability of agriculture, farmers need to be able to make those profits again next year and the year after, and in 10 years from now,” he reminded.
He did not miss the opportunity to say that there is no group as aware and as sensitive towards the needs of nature than farmers. They eke out a living from the soil. They work in the sun, in the rain. They understand climate change as no one is as vulnerable to it than farmers are.
Addressing an audience of world’s scientists working in wheat and rust research, he highlighted the importance of closing the gap between farmers and science, reminding that is key for farmers to have scientific backing for what they do. What farmers ask from scientists is integrity, pure data and pure results.
“It is key that we leave our land to the next generations in better conditions than what we have now,” he said, closing his speech.