MSU president to address world hunger during U.N. presentation

By Miss State Media Relations

STARKVILLE – During an invited presentation next week in Rome, the president of Mississippi State will outline the university’s capabilities for addressing food security and hunger.

During his Monday-Wednesday [June 21-23] visit to the Italian capital, Mark E. Keenum will address officials of the United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization, a multi-country collaboration which leads international efforts to defeat hunger.

“It’s a high honor to be asked to address this international organization that brings special focus to the needs in developing countries,” Keenum said. “I’ll also meet individually with Director General Jacques Diouf and senior staff members about possible future collaborations.”

Keenum said MSU “is in a strong position to provide research, education and technological assistance in areas as broad as post-harvest processing, livestock production, water resources, and biotechnology, among many.”

Before becoming MSU’s chief executive in 2008, Keenum was an undersecretary in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He also holds degrees in agricultural economics from the 132-year-old land-grant institution.

“One focus of Mississippi State’s land-grant mission is to apply knowledge that can improve lives,” he observed. “I’m delighted to be able to share some of these capabilities with an organization that serves 70 percent of the world’s hungry people.”

FAO core activities include agriculture; fisheries and aquaculture; forestry; natural resources; and technical cooperation. By its estimates, nearly 1.2 billion were hungry in 2009, when the group held its World Food Summit.

While in Rome, Keenum also will visit with Etharin Cousin, U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Agencies for Food and Agriculture. A longtime advocate for the hungry and former chief operating officer of Feeding America, Cousin was appointed in 2009 by President Barack Obama. In 1997, she received a presidential appointment to the Board for International Food and Agricultural Development.

Keenum also has been invited to meet with Josette Sheeran, executive director of the World Food Program. Part of the United Nations System, the World Food Program has a special mission of responding to civil conflict, natural disasters and other emergency situations. In 2010, the agency expects to assist more than 90 million people in more than 70 countries.

It is the world’s largest humanitarian agency fighting worldwide hunger. “The organization’s work is significant, because WFP estimates that a third of all deaths in children under the age of 5 in developing countries are linked to malnutrition,” Keenum said.

Rounding out a busy schedule, he also is to meet with top-level officials at the International Fund for Agricultural Development, a specialized U.N. agency devoted to eradicating poverty in developing nations.

The International Fund for Agricultural Development was established in 1974 as an international financial institution. It focuses on country-specific projects that increase access to financial services, markets, technology, land, and other natural resources. Improving agricultural technologies and production services are among primary goals.

“Through these visits, we hope to identify productive collaborations that can help these organizations build capacity in nations where Mississippi State University expertise can make a difference,” Keenum said.