WASHINGTON, D.C., U.S. —  Cargill joined food and agriculture leaders on Nov. 18 in a conversation about how diverse stakeholders can work together to increase access to affordable and nutritious food for the world’s expected nine billion people by 2050.

Convened by food and agriculture policy think tank AGree, the session “A Better Path from Farm to Fork: Policy Solutions for the Future of Food” featured Cargill Executive Chairman Greg Page and fellow panelists Betti Wiggins, School Nutrition Services at Detroit Public Schools; Anim Steel, Real Food Generation; and Pam Johnson, National Corn Growers Association. The conversation was moderated by National Geographic Executive Editor Dennis Dimick.

“At Cargill, we are engaged every day, all over the world, in the workings of the global food system and trying to better understand them,” said Page. “It’s a system that is complicated in some ways, simple in others, but definitely unforgiving. If we don’t make the right policy decisions, the unforgiving elements will come back to hurt us.”

With respect to policies that will help the world become more food secure, Cargill believes the most promising solutions will be built around several core principles. These include honoring comparative advantage; enabling trust-based free trade; supporting commercial smallholder farms; embracing sound science; preserving and enhancing the resilience of farmers and their adaptive capacity; and realizing the food production potential of Africa.

Asked to elaborate on what would help Africa realize its food production potential, Page cited property rights that allow farmers to pledge their land as collateral and incent them to invest in improving the yields and productivity of their farms. “Without property rights, all else will bear less fruit,” said Page.

Page added, “It sounds counter-intuitive, but off-farm income is also critically important to African agriculture, which cannot be based on transfer payments and aid if Africa is to realize its potential.” Noting how off-farm income from Zambia’s copper mining sector boosted Zambia’s agricultural output, he explained that farmers and farm output benefit when urban workers have incomes sufficient to purchase food at prices that encourage farmers to produce more.

Page also noted the need for all stakeholders in the global food system to work together to make the world more food secure. “There is an African proverb I cite often when talking about what is required to ensure everyone everywhere has access to safe, affordable and nutritious food: ‘If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.’ Making the global food system work better for all its stakeholders definitely requires making the journey together.”