By Hugh Grant
Chairman and CEO, Monsanto
The power of collaboration can’t be underestimated. Nor can the importance of events that serve as catalysts for bringing together new and unlikely groups, like the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI). We at Monsanto are looking forward to being part of the CGI’s annual meeting in New York Sept. 21-Sept. 24, and to exploring opportunities to further our efforts with others to address some of society’s greatest challenges. CGI has a unique operational model for a nonprofit.
Instead of pursuing projects on its own, it facilitates action by helping members connect, collaborate, and make effective Commitments to Action.
It’s a model that makes sense to us at Monsanto, because we have a deep appreciation for the value of collaborations. We work at the beginning of the food chain, where our perspective offers a close-up view of the world’s agricultural challenges – a changing climate, increasing threats from disease and pests, changing diets around the world, a rapidly growing population, and a need to make agriculture more environmentally sustainable.
These challenges are daunting. It’s clear no single company or organization will solve them. Progress against them will require diverse organizations working together toward a shared vision.
That’s why we’re excited about joining in discussions at the CGI around the launch of a new “food systems” track. It will bring together leaders from across the food industry in dialogue about the future of food, and particularly how the CGI platform can best support efforts to create greater cooperation and action. With this broad array of collaborators at the table, we think there will be an increased opportunity to bring to scale new ideas and innovations that facilitate sustainable food production and create new market mechanisms for smallholder farmers and fishers across the planet.
A collaboration of this nature would join the kinds of partnerships we’re already involved in around the world to address different aspects of the global agricultural challenge. Here are just a few examples:
- Water-Efficient Maize for Africa (WEMA) – About 300 million Africans depend on white maize (corn) as their main food source, but drought is a sharply rising problem, especially in the fast-growing sub-Saharan portion of the continent. WEMA, a public-private partnership led by the Kenyan-based African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), is working to increase maize production in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Mozambique and South Africa through distribution of drought-tolerant maize seeds to farmers. Our company has been involved from the beginning, donating scientific expertise and technological knowhow. The first seeds were planted this year in Kenya with strong results.
- Produce and Preserve – Established in 2008, this partnership between Monsanto and Conservation International (CI), a global nonprofit, is working with farmers in two regions in Brazil where our company is active and agribusiness is having a significant impact: the Atlantic Forest in the northeast and the Cerrado, a huge savannah in the country’s center. The partnership has three key objectives: preventing illegal deforestation, preventing the extinction of local species, and encouraging compliance with legislation in the agriculture and livestock supply chain.
- Project SHARE – With its population estimated to hit 1.3 billion in just three more years, India needs to increase crop production if it’s going to be able to feed its population. We joined with the Indian Society of Agribusiness Professionals (ISAP) to form Project SHARE (Sustainable Harvest, Agriculture, Resources, Environment). Our goal is to provide 10,000 small and marginal farmers in three states with the tools, technology and knowledge needed to increase production. By increasing corn and cotton yields, we can help feed and clothe India and simultaneously raise farmer incomes.
- Honey Bee Health – This is an area where we have already seen what’s possible with the Clinton Global Initiative. Monsanto became involved with bee research in 2011. The next year, we began collaborating with a nonprofit called Project Apis m (Apis mellifera is the scientific name for the European honey bee) to help bees find more food during pollination seasons. In June of 2012, we formed a Honey Bee Advisory Council of experts in the field, to help advise us in this area.
But conversations with CGI’s environmental track led us to take this issue to the next level. We announced a CGI Commitment to Action at the 2013 CGI Annual Meeting in New York on honey bee health, through which we committed to provide support in four key areas: honey bee nutrition; research on new technology for varroa and virus control; research on the impact of pesticides and best-management practices among growers and bee-keepers; and support for the economic empowerment of beekeepers.
We readily acknowledge that this is a big undertaking, and we still have our work cut out for us. But the coalition that’s been established has come a long way in a relatively short time. I believe we’re well on our way.
I encourage you to learn more about these and other important projects by watching this video playlist, where you’ll see the power and potential of collaboration in addressing food challenges.
We look forward to exploring new collaboration opportunities at this year’s CGI annual meeting. We know that in today’s complex world, we aren’t going to solve our problems any other way.