Andrew Bell fights to feed people in places like Malawi, Cambodia, Vietnam, India and Pakistan.
Bell came to Weber State University on Tuesday to tell students what he does throughout the world to ensure food security. Weber State’s Environmental Issues Committee, the Center for Community Engaged Learning and the economics department sponsored this event at Elizabeth Hall.
He does this work through an organization called the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), a Washington-based organization that works to reduce poverty, improve food security, improve nutrition and health and work to sustain natural resources.
“When we think of food security, we think that we just need to make more food,” Bell said. “But it’s more complicated than that.”
Bell spends five months out of the year traveling to different countries and trying to establish more food security. Hunger is a major threat to life, Bell said. Things like malaria, road accidents and AIDS each cause about 1 million to 4 million deaths a year. Hunger and malnutrition cause about 9 million deaths a year.
Bell uses techniques such as creating new types of insurance for farmers and innovating new ways to improve farming besides pesticides. One strategy of IFPRI is to introduce natural predators that reduce crop-eating insects, such as dragonflies and spiders.
“The challenge is helping poor people. It’s not that easy,” Bell said.
A big challenge in poverty is limited access to resources.
“No access to school, markets and government programs,” he said.
According to Bell, while trying to help the poor often the people who receive help are slightly less poor, or relatively well to do.
IFPRI runs experiments and models to see where they are at now and where their work is going in the future. Models are used to capture what is hard to put in an equation, Bell said.
The group models decisions, interactions with others and how those things affect agriculture, rather than relying too heavily on statistics.
“Consider how the person driving in front of me could affect the decisions I make for the rest of the day,” Bell said as an example.
Bell has worked with WSU Assistant Professor Gregory Parkhurst and his students Jacob Thompson and Gregory Peterson over the past year on a project in Malawi. Parkhurst, an economics professor, said Thompson worked hard to get the contract with IFPRI to allow Weber State to work on the project.
“He’s a very strong student,” Parkhurst said.
Assistant Professor Alice Mulder of the geography department said feeding the world is not just a matter of growing enough food.
“We probably have enough food in the world for people, but it’s not as easy as just having more food,” Mulder said. “There are issues of distribution.”
Mulder hopes students will be inspired by Bell’s work throughout the world.