Participants in the World Food Prize Borlaug Dialogue in Des Moines are discussing how they can help the world’s smallest, poorest farmers improve their operations. Prabhu Pingali, deputy director of agricultural development with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, says farming is only viable option for many people to survive.

Pingali posed this question, “If you’re living in a country with a high proportion of the population in agriculture, with very low economic growth rates, very low employment opportunities in the nonagricultural sector and very low private sector investments…if not agriculture, then what is your way out of poverty?” He says a larger farm strategy is not the answer.

Instead, Pingali believes the keys to helping poor farmers thrive include technology, research and development. Today’s World Food Prize events include a roundtable discussion chaired by U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, featuring the Ministers of Agriculture from Afghanistan and Pakistan. Tonight, the 2010 World Food Prize laureates will be recognized at a ceremony at the Iowa State Capitol. This year’s award winners, Jo Luck of Heifer International and David Beckmann of Bread for the World, will split the $250,000 prize.