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Native Memphian becomes key leader for global food security

Published: May. 18, 2022 at 9:55 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - The war, COVID-19 and climate change have made many more people across the globe “food insecure.”

Now, a native Memphian, who has a golden resume when it comes to seeing that people everywhere have something to eat, has become one of America’s key leaders on global food security.

The images show joyous 2022 graduates filling Fisher Garden on Rhodes College’s gorgeous campus on Saturday.

Dr. Cary Fowler, in full regalia as Chairman of the college Board of Trustees these last six years, led his last Commencement exercise at Rhodes.

”It’s really been one of the most meaningful experiences of my life,” said Fowler.

Thanks to US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Fowler has a new mission as of May 5: U.S. Special Envoy for Global Food Security:

”So it came unexpectedly. I had not applied for the job. Didn’t expect it. I’m fairly old-fashioned. I was retired at that time and thought: when you get a call from the White House and they ask you to do something – the correct answer is yes,” said Fowler.

The challenge is immense, widespread famine in Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen for starters.

”There are countries where a large portion of the children growing up today are stunted. They are so malnourished, they’re having real physical problems,” said Fowler.

Fowler says while America remains the world’s most generous food provider, it also serves to help so many struggling countries improve their agricultural systems.

Fowler’s resume includes leadership at the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization as well as the Global Crop Diversity Trust.

At the “Crop Trust,” Fowler became father of a global seed bank buried deep for safekeeping in a mountain on a Norwegian island in case of natural or man made disaster.

“So what I would like to do at the State Department during my time there is to better position our institutions and agriculture systems to assure we have adequate supplies of food for everybody on earth. That’s a tall order, but we have to work in that direction,” said Fowler.

Fowler looks on improving food security as a “relay race,” and, while the baton is in his hands as U.S. Special Envoy for Global Food Security, he hopes to leave the world a little better off.

Fowler graduated from White Station High School in 1967.

He was at Mason Temple on April 3, 1968, and he was present for the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King’s famous speech on the last night of his life.

Fowler has a long list of awards for his life’s work and has written a number of books including “Seeds on Ice: Svalbard and the Global Seed Vault,” winner of the 2016 Nautilus Book Award Gold Medal for best book in the Ecology/Environment category.

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