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More Crop Per Drop: Micro-Irrigation Pioneer Wins 2012 World Food Prize

By Deputy Coordinator for Diplomacy for Feed the Future

This morning, Secretary Clinton announced that Dr. Daniel Hillel, a U.S. and Israeli citizen, is the winner of the 2012 World Food Prize for pioneering work in micro-irrigation and promoting sustainable agricultural development.

His work over 50 years, in over 30 countries, has allowed countless farmers to maximize water efficiency in agriculture, improve crop production, and minimize environmental impacts. Dr. Hillel is an international authority on soil and water management, and we congratulate him on today’s well-deserved announcement.

Micro irrigation technologies such as drip irrigation are simple yet highly effective techniques of applying water in small, continuous amounts directly to plant roots. This method is a cost-effective alternative to the flood irrigation method of saturating soil then allowing it to dry over time, which was widely used in the first half of the twentieth century.

Dr. Hillel follows in the footsteps of Dr. Norman Borlaug, the father of the Green Revolution who founded the World Food Prize to encourage work in sustainable development and food production. Dr. Borlaug’s research in hybrid seeds increased agricultural production worldwide and spurred investment in agricultural development that we still reference today through the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future.

President Obama articulated the United States’ commitment to fighting hunger and poverty at the L’Aquila G8 summit in 2009, and called on global leaders to act with urgency and join efforts to advance global food security. Since then, we have focused our $3.5 billion commitment in 19 countries to support country-led investment plans that empower people to feed themselves, nourish their children, increase their income, develop businesses, enrich communities, and expand trade. Our pledge helped leverage and align more than $18.5 billion in pledges from other donors.

Feed the Future investments incorporate integrated watershed management and practices that link water and other resource use with climate change adaptation and food security strategies.

And the Feed the Future research strategy promotes a model for agriculture-led economic growth called “sustainable intensification,” which integrates environmental approaches, global research breakthroughs, and innovative practices, systems, technologies, and policies to maximize long-term agricultural productivity while minimizing environmental impacts from food production. As Secretary Clinton noted this morning, Feed the Future has invested over $100 million since last year to support water productivity in agricultural development.

Water management is not only critical to agriculture, but also to national and international security. This past March, the intelligence community released an assessment of global water challenges and their impacts on U.S. security interests. The primary finding was that while wars over water are unlikely within the next 10 years, water problems, including shortages, poor water quality, and floods, will likely increase the risk of instability and state failure, and exacerbate regional tensions.

Dr. Hillel’s award is a tribute to his dedication to sustainable development and innovation. Today’s announcement in the Benjamin Franklin Room reminds us that getting water management right is more critical than ever for getting to a world that is secure in addition to being healthy, wealthy, and wise.

This post originally appeared on the U.S. Department of State’s DipNote blog.

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