Scholar spreads understanding of world hunger

By Tiffanie Reynolds |

Dr. Don Winkelmann doesn’t have the answer to world hunger, but his work has definitely brought the world closer to one.

In his presentation to students and faculty last Wednesday, he presents the issue of world hunger from an agricultural standpoint, one which he has worked on for the past thirty years.

Becoming the first economist and sociologist to join the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) in the 1970s, he traveled to developing countries all around the world, training local farmers on more efficient methods of farming.

His research focused on working with the land and introducing new kinds of corn or wheat that would boost harvest without ruining the soil. Through his training, he was able to incorporate sociologists in Agricultural Research Centers of other countries.

“More and more they adopted these orientations and brought on people with these kinds of skills,” Winkelmann said, explaining the extent of his influence. “Go to the countryside, talk to the farmers, see what they’re up to, see why they are or aren’t doing this, that, or the other thing.”

His research also helped to boost CIMMYT in the scientific community.

In what he considers to be one of his greatest contributions, he and a team of scientists successfully proved that poorer, more traditional farmers can be taught – and would benefit from – new farming techniques. With his research, they debunked the belief that traditional farmers were too set in their ways to change. This brought in extra funding, which enabled them to start programs that now benefit farmers all around the world.

Now retired, he stays involved with the issue by traveling to colleges all across the United States, bringing awareness to students as well as sharing his story. He hopes to influence students to pursue their own passions, as his passions brought him to become a part of something so important, if accidentally.

“Happenstance and chance played a great role in my life,” Winkelmann said. “But I daresay it plays a major role in the lives of anyone. You can’t really lay it out and march that way because something is going to happen along the way.”

Hoping to enlighten others on the issue – especially on how to manage it – Winkelmann also wants to give hope to those that want to do the same.

Despite his long list of his accomplishments, he always remains humble, emphasizing that much of his work was a group effort. Even something as massive as world hunger can still be controlled, but it takes the concentration of driven individuals to accomplish it.

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