Jerry Steiner is guest blogging for the Forum. He is the Executive Vice-President, Sustainability & Corporate Affairs, Monsanto Company and will be attending the Annual Meeting.

Monsanto_farmer photoIn the last two years, farmers have gained a voice at the World Economic Forum. This year their voice is growing thanks to a project called the New Vision for Agriculture. It’s one of the reasons why I’m excited about attending Davos next week. I hope world leaders can take this opportunity to listen to farmers, and then prioritize investments in agriculture.

This New Vision is designed to understand the actions government, business and NGO’s can take to create a virtuous cycle to benefit farmers and ultimately all of us. This year among heads of state, business and civil society, a farmer advocate and leader from India will join the panel to talk about helping farmers unlock the potential of agriculture.  His insight will be vital.

After 18 months of work, and thousands of points of input, this Vision lands on a simple central point; it is farmers whom we must keep as our focus. Their work, whether on half-hectare plots or farms of  thousands of acres, can drive global food security, environmental sustainability and economic opportunity. That’s what we all want and need.

If we can identify ways to unleash the entrepreneurial spirit of farmers the world over, supply the right tools to choose from, and create opportunities, they will succeed. These are smart women and men, that take pride in stewarding the land and whose business is feeding and clothing a booming population, including their own families. With the right policy and infrastructure in place, they can achieve great things.

In many places, they already have. Landlocked Malawi, which ranked 160 out of 181 countries in the 2009 UNDP Human Development Report, contributed to surplus grain harvests from 2006 to 2009 by broadly using for the first time yield-boosting hybrid seeds and fertilizer; technologies enjoyed inSteiner_highres_0800F
the developed world for more than 70 years. Indian farmers have done the same with cotton. On small plots of land, millions of Indian farmers have transformed their country into the second largest producer of cotton in the world.

These are important wins. And importantly when farmers win, we all win.