June 21, 2011 / 7:08 PM / 8 years ago

Brazil's Lula, Ghana's Kufour win World Food Prize

* As president, each halved hunger rate in his nation

* $250,000 prize is the Nobel of food and agriculture

WASHINGTON, June 21 (Reuters) - John Kufuor of Ghana and Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil won the $250,000 World Food Prize for cutting hunger in half while serving as president of their nations, the prize organizers announced on Tuesday.

It was the first time the award, created 25 years ago by Nobel Peace Prize winner Norman Bourlag, recognized the seminal role of national leaders in fighting hunger. Some 925 million people, roughly one-in-seven worldwide, are chronically hungry.

“President Kufuor and President Lula da Silva have set a powerful example for other political leaders in the world,” said Kenneth Quinn, president of the World Food Prize. The prize foundation said the proportion of hungry people in each nation had been cut in half under Kufuor and Lula.

The prize will be awarded formally during a three-day symposium in Iowa in mid-October. The 2011 winners were announced during a ceremony at the State Department.

With his “Zero Hunger” program, Lula gave top priority to combating hunger and poverty in Brazil, a rising economic power of 203 million people, while president from 2003 to 2010. His programs included cash aid to poor families, food purchases from small-scale farmers and a school meals program.

Kufuor, president of Ghana from 2001-09, used public- and private-sector initiatives to improve food security and reduce poverty. They included a program to provide one meal a day to schoolchildren and educating farmers on best farming practices. Ghana, with 25 million citizens, was the first nation in sub-Saharan Africa, to cut hunger in half.

Bourlag founded the World Food Prize in 1986 to recognize people who improved the quantity, quality or availability of food. A wheat breeder, Bourlag won the 1970s Nobel Peace Prize as a founder of the “Green Revolution” whose high-yielding food crops foiled predictions of famine in the developing world.

Winners have come from 11 nations and the United nations.

Reporting by Charles Abbott; Editing by Bill Trott

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