News Archive

posted 07/06/03

Sanchez Named Chairman Of Monterrey Bridge Coalition
Plans to coordinate anti-hunger group with Millennium Development Goals

Children walk through a maize field in Malawi, where poor soil nutrition often diminishes smallholder farmers' ability to feed their families. Photo by Lisa Dreier

Pedro Sanchez, Director of Tropical Agriculture at the Earth Institute at Columbia University, has been named honorary chairman of the Monterrey Bridge Coalition, a group that is working to reduce world hunger in a way that encourages sustainable development.

“As honorary chairman of the Monterrey Bridge Coalition, I hope to help spread the message that hunger and poverty can be drastically reduced in developing countries, and that this can be done in ways which are good for the environment,” says Sanchez. “For example, new agroforestry technologies that replenish soil fertility in African smallholder farmers’ fields also protect biodiversity in adjacent areas and sequester large quantities of carbon. While farmers are no longer hungry because of increased maize yields, they also are growing ample supplies of firewood so they do not have to go to nearby forests and deplete their remaining biodiversity.”

Sanchez won the World Food Prize last year, and is known for promoting the replenishment of depleted soils, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, as a basic need before many southern African nations can overcome chronic malnutrition.

Pedro Sanchez and Kenyan woman farmer Mama Tecla

Pedro Sanchez, new chairman of the Monterrey Bridge Coalition, works with Kenyan women farmers such as Mama Tecla, pictured at left, who is successfully practicing new agroforestry techniques to increase crop yields while preserving biodiversity. Photo by Lisa Dreier

The Monterrey Bridge Coalition was created in 2002 to bring together organizations that recognize the need for greater cooperation and mutual supportiveness among the intrinsically linked fields of agriculture, biodiversity, and poverty and hunger reduction. Its organizing committee consists of Future Harvest, the Equator Initiative, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), the World Conservation Union (IUCN), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the Stakeholder Forum for Our Common Future.

On June 2-3, 2003, the Coalition convened a meeting called the Monterrey Action Summit. Participants at this meeting linked their anti-hunger plan to the United Nations’ Millennium Development Goals for reducing world hunger by half by the year 2015. Sanchez is the head of the Millennium Development Project’s Hunger Task Force (for more information see millennium_project.html).

Participants explored ways in which increased food production to feed the rural poor can be made compatible with natural resource management and biodiversity stewardship. They also examined how international trade and domestic subsidy policies can be reformed to encourage sustainable development. Participants issued a document called “A Call to Action,” which outlined several policy objectives.

In the case of tropical and subtropical countries and specifically Sub-Saharan Africa, the participants endorsed a three-pronged approach to be undertaken at the community scale.

  • Drastically increase agricultural productivity primarily through investments in soil fertility, small-scale water management and protection and enhancement of local biodiversity.
  • Make rural and national markets work for the poor with better storage facilities, farmer cooperatives and basic infrastructure such as roads.
  • Make schools a vehicle in which better nutrition from locally produced food can be provided.

In his one-year term as honorary chairman of the Monterrey Bridge Coalition, Sanchez hopes to coordinate its advocacy with the needs outlined by the Millennium Development Project’s Hunger Task Force.

The Earth Institute at Columbia University is among the world’s leading academic centers for the integrated study of Earth, its environment, and society. The Earth Institute builds upon excellence in the core disciplines—earth sciences, biological sciences, engineering sciences, social sciences and health sciences—and stresses cross-disciplinary approaches to complex problems. Through its research, training and global partnerships, it mobilizes science and technology to advance sustainable development, while placing special emphasis on the needs of the world’s poor.