Ten Questions with William Warshauer, CEO of TechnoServe

From foodtank.com
Jacob Siegler

Food Tank, in partnership with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, is hosting the 1st Annual Chicago Food Tank Summit on November 16, 2016. 

This event will feature more than 30 different speakers from the food and agriculture field. Researchers, farmers, chefs, policymakers, government officials, and students will come together for interactive panels, networking, and delicious food.

Food Tank recently had the opportunity to speak with William Warshauer, CEO of TechnoServe, who will be speaking at the summit.


Food Tank (FT): What inspired you to get involved in food and agriculture?

William Warshauer (WW): Thirty years ago, I served as a Peace Corps agriculture volunteer in Sierra Leone. I worked with smallholder farmers there on rice production and on oil palm.  It was there that I first met people who experienced a "hungry season" each year and where agriculture became a personal issue for me.

FT: What do you see as the biggest opportunity to fix the food system?

WW: With more than half of all the world's food being grown by smallholder farmers, I believe the biggest opportunity lies in helping these smallholders increase their productivity and enhancing their links to the food system.

FT: What innovations in agriculture and the food system are you most excited about?

WW: At TechnoServe, we are excited about precision agriculture, and the opportunities it presents to increase climate-smart agricultural practices. We are also very engaged in using mobile phones and particularly mobile money (and other financial products) to improve smallholder farmers’ access to value chains and financial products.

FT: Can you share a story about a food hero that inspired you?

WW: I’ll never forget my visit to the bakery of Lufefe Nomjana, a young man in South Africa who grew up in a poor township with limited nutritious food options. After participating in one of TechnoServe’s entrepreneurship training programs, he started a business selling baked goods enriched with spinach, improving people’s nutrition with food they actually enjoy eating. His bakery has done so well that he also now sells to several local retailers on a daily basis. We have the privilege of working with many “food heroes” like Lufefe, who find creative solutions to local challenges.

FT: What drives you every day to fight for the bettering of our food system?

WW: I'm motivated by the entrepreneurial men and women I meet when I travel around the world who support their families (and help feed their communities) by growing food and participating in the food system. It has been said that talent is universal, but opportunity is not. By improving food systems, we can provide better opportunities for millions of people around the globe.

FT: What’s the biggest problem within the food system that our parents and grandparents didn't have to deal with?

WW: Climate change has now become an enormous challenge to the global food system. We do a lot of work at TechnoServe with smallholder farmers, and they are absolutely on the front lines of this issue. They are also contributors to climate change, but they have the fewest resources and tools to implement adaptation or mitigation strategies. 

FT: What’s the first, most pressing issue you’d like to see solved within the food system?

WW: Finding ways to make basic technologies (e.g. drip irrigation) affordable to the majority of the world's farmers.

FT: What is one small change every person can make in their daily lives to make a big difference?

WW: Since it takes up to 20 pounds of grain to produce one pound of beef, consuming less red meat would help feed more people using fewer resources.

FT: What’s one issue within the food system you’d like to see completely solved for the next generation?

WW: If we could get rid of even half the waste in our food systems, we would save $375 billion, an amount exceeding foreign aid from every source.

FT: What agricultural issue would you like for the next president of the United States to immediately address?

WW: I'd like to see her improve factory farming practices here in the U.S., so we can become a global leader in sustainable and humane animal husbandry.


To find out more about the event, see the full list of speakers, and purchase tickets, please click HERE. Interested participants who cannot join can also sign up for the live-stream HERE.

Want to become a sponsor of the Food Tank Summit? Please contact Bernard at Bernard@foodtank.com.

Want to suggest a speaker for one of the Summits? Please click HERE

Want to watch videos from previous Food Tank Summits? Please click HERE

Want to volunteer for a Food Tank Summit? Contact Vanesa at Vanesa@foodtank.com.

Sponsors for this year's Food Tank Summit in Chicago include: Almond Board of California, Annie’s Inc., Barilla Center for Food and Nutrition, Blue Apron, Booth School of Business at the University of Chicago, Chicago Council on Global Affairs, Clif Bar & Company, Driscoll's, Elevation Burger, Farmer’s Fridge, Food and Environment Reporting Network, Inter Press Service (IPS), Niman Ranch, and Organic Valley. More to be announced soon.

Join the discussion using #FoodTank across Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter!