Some lessons from a life in food policy

When I was 15 years old, I learned something startling about myself. For the first time, a doctor told me that I was malnourished. The doctor pointed out that my night blindness and anemia were symptoms of vitamin A and iron deficiencies, and so he gave me nutrition supplements and recommended that I eat more meat and fish. For 15 years, I had lived in a small village in southeastern China, subsisting on a diet largely of rice (which contains calories but has little nutritional value) and vegetables. Occasionally we ate fish and eggs. Meat was a once-a-year treat at the Chinese New Year, when the whole village would slaughter and share a couple of pigs. Everyone in my village ate the way I did. We did not recognize malnutrition when we saw it, because to us it looked normal. We were all malnourished.

Now, as I look back on my past decade as director general of IFPRI, I can see how my own life illustrates the promise of food policy to change human lives. At the end of 2019, my term as director general comes to an end, and both IFPRI and I will begin new chapters. I have been able take this opportunity to reflect on some of my experiences and lessons I have learned about how we can best exploit the promise of food policy to eradicate hunger and ensure food and nutrition security for all while we also protect our environment and planet.

Photo Credit: Patrick de Noirmont/IFPRI