In January 2011, I was in New Orleans for a funeral. It was 5 a.m., and I was sitting in my mother’s kitchen, and using her telephone as a dial-up modem to access the internet (she did not have internet service). I was watching the Twitter feed from the World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos, Switzerland, specifically to see what would be said for the launch of a new WEF initiative called “The New Vision for Agriculture.”
This was a big deal. The World Economic Forum had recognized the critical importance of global agriculture, and a program was being created to support that recognition. The program was being announced in a panel discussion that included the president of Tanzania; the head of USAID; Hugh Grant, CEO of Monsanto; and several other business and government leaders.
I was looking for the reports on Twitter because the panel discussion was to be livetweeted by people from WEF. Except something went awry, and the panel started without anything showing on the Twitter feed.
Time was critical because the panel was only an hour long. I borrowed the next-door neighbor’s wifi (he had previously said it was okay), pulled up the live webcast from Davos, and began tweeting.
It’s something of a strange thing to be livetweeting a panel discussion in Switzerland when you’re sitting in a kitchen in New Orleans. It’s five in the morning, and you’re in your pajamas, listening to people in suits some 6,000 miles away talk about global agriculture.
But it was important. What the panel was talking about was important. There was taking this idea of “vicious cycle” – substandard agriculture, drought, humanitarian aid, and dependence on that aid – and turning it into a “virtuous cycle” – one in which farmers in Africa and elsewhere might make use of better quality seed and improved infrastructure to become self-sufficient and profitable. The idea had been demonstrated successfully in Malawi, which in short order had moved from aid-dependent to net exporter of maize. One of the first countries signing on to the New Vision for Agriculture was Tanzania, and the country’s president was at Davos in person to explain why.
Today, an update on progress under the New Vision is being presented at the WEF meeting. A second session is scheduled for Friday. You can read the full report of what’s been happening at the WEF web site.
What started off as one country in Africa embracing a new vision for agriculture has now spread to 11 countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America, with programs and partnerships focused on boosting food security and spurring economic growth.
Sitting there in my mother’s kitchen three years ago, I didn’t know I would be helping to tell the story of a new vision for agriculture.
Related: You can follow the Twitter feed for the World Economic Forum meeting by checking the #wef14 hashtag.