Through their travels to places such as Brazil, India, Ghana, Rwanda and Congo, Howard G. Buffett and his son Howard W. Buffett have come to recognize that it’s important to understand the country-, culture- and environment-specific challenges every country faces in addressing hunger.
The Buffetts spoke to an overflow audience at Nebraska Innovation Campus on Wednesday evening in the first Heuermann Lecture of the 2015-16 season.
The two co-authored the New York Times bestseller “40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World,” which examines global agriculture, hunger and food systems challenges. The discussion was moderated by Ronnie Green, University of Nebraska vice president, IANR Harlan Vice Chancellor and interim senior vice chancellor for academic affairs at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
Howard W. Buffett began traveling the world with his father, Howard G. Buffett, at 13. Together, they’ve seen the tough issues facing many areas of the world when it comes to poverty and food security. While observing many horrific scenes at such a young age, Howard W. Buffett began to question why there is so much needless suffering around the world.
“Part of what we wanted to explore in ‘40 Chances’ was to start digging deeper,” said Howard W. Buffett. “Why are there so many people living in these conditions that really don’t have to be?”
While all farmers across the world are facing similar challenges when it comes to insects, drought or flooding, not all have the same resources available to face those challenges. The solutions farmers find in the United States might not translate into solutions for farmers in Africa.
“Diversity is what changes the risk profile of a small farmer and you can’t take that away from them,” said Howard G. Buffett. “When you go to those countries and you meet people that have experienced horrendous things in their lives, you can’t go home from those experiences without saying, ‘That’s a place I want to work in, and those are people I want to work with.’”
Observing these situations firsthand is what has driven the Buffetts to lead the effort to find solutions through the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, a private charitable foundation working to catalyze transformational change in the most impoverished areas of the world. It is also what has led Howard W. Buffett to inspire students as a lecturer at UNL. Students have had the opportunity to meet and learn from people profiled in “40 Chances,” which highlights the work of those who have inspired the Buffetts in places many don’t have exposure to.
“’40 Chances’ gives a whole mosaic of information and knowledge around international development and agricultural policy that students get a real kick out of,” Howard W. Buffett said.
While he has made an impact in the classroom at UNL, according to him, the opportunity to work with students in Nebraska has been a great opportunity for him.
“It has been a very rewarding experience for me because there is an amazing student group here at UNL,” he said. “I see a lot of former students here and they have been absolute superstars – off the charts – so I commend UNL.”
The discussion took place in conjunction with the third national Rural Futures Conference, hosted by the Rural Futures Institute at the University of Nebraska. The conference presents opportunities for people to work together to build hope and develop a vision for invigorating rural communities. According to Howard G. Buffett, there has been a decline in rural America over the years so he believes the conference is one of the most important things happening in the country.
“We built this country from rural America up,” he said. “Rural America has to survive and stay strong. It’s the people sitting in this room and coming to this conference that can do that.”
For more information on the conference, visit http://rfc.nebraska.edu or follow the conversation on Twitter using hashtag #RFC2015.
Heuermann Lectures in the Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources at UNL are possible through a gift from B. Keith and Norma Heuermann of Phillips. The Heuermanns are longtime university supporters with a strong commitment to Nebraska’s production agriculture, natural resources, rural areas and people. Lectures stream live at http://heuermannlectures.unl.edu and are archived at that site soon afterward. They also air on NET2 World at a later date.