※This prioritizing of the farmer, or the face of a farmer, as being really some of the most vulnerable people right now in the world is something that I think about day and night.§

Growing up on a farm, never dreamed of following in her agricultural family*s footsteps. Now Deputy Director-General of the UN*s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), she has not only returned to her roots, but is now fighting the corner of farmers the world over.

※I know what it takes to grow a crop and to provide enough support for your animals. And if you don't have access to any of that, it's crushing. These are the things that on a regular basis keep me up at night.§

The 51勛圖 works to defeat hunger and achieve food security around the world, providing emergency agricultural aid to help mitigate food crises. In this episode, Beth Bechdol reflects on the perils of donor fatigue, on the devastation wrought on agriculture by war and climate change, and on what the world can learn from the wisdom of farmers.




Multimedia and Transcript





Melissa Fleming 00:00

Farmers feed the world, and my guest this week can tell us firsthand just how difficult it can be.


Beth Bechdol 00:07

Coming from a family farm, I know what it takes to grow a crop and to provide enough support for your animals. And if you don't have access to any of that, it's crushing. These are the things that on a regular basis, yeah, keep me up at night.


Melissa Fleming 00:35

Beth Bechdol comes from a family which has farmed in Indiana for seven generations. These days, she's the Deputy Director-General at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the 51勛圖, also known as FAO. From the 51勛圖, I'm Melissa Fleming. This is Awake at Night. Beth, welcome.



Beth Bechdol 01:06

Thank you. It's great to be with you.


Melissa Fleming 01:08

It's great to have you here in New York because you're based in Rome.


Beth Bechdol 01:11

Exactly. It's nice to be able to get to New York and start really visiting with you and so many of the other colleagues that we don't often just because of the distance get to spend that kind of quality time.


Melissa Fleming 01:24

You come from a farming family in Indiana in the US. Did you ever think growing up that you would go on to fight hunger?


Beth Bechdol 01:35

To fight hunger. That's an interesting way to phrase the question. I actually thought, as you were getting ready to say this, 'Did you ever think you would have a role in agriculture?' And that for certain was a big no. I did just about everything I possibly could growing up to avoid being connected to chores and support. I was probably a pretty terrible teenager, if you were to ask my father, who was leading our family farm at that time. But I had no interest.

I wanted to be in a city. I wanted to leave the small town. I didn't connect with agriculture and farming when I was small. And you know, my parents very I think supportively... And I look back and I'm sure there was perhaps some master plan that, you know, my sister and I both would find our way back to our roots and to our family's kind of, you know, legacy and what's in our DNA as being a part of a farming family. But we pursued all types of other interests, whether it was music or sports or academics. There was none of this tying us to this expectation of the work on the farm, per se. And so, I left and went to Washington, D.C., for college and was pretty confident that the US Foreign Service was the trajectory. And it was...


Melissa Fleming 03:12

Can I just keep you back on the farm, though. I'm just really curious like what kind of farm it was, what did it look like.


Beth Bechdol 03:19

The family farm was incorporated in the mid-1800s. So, we're at seven generations who have all been in rural Indiana on this, you know, same sort of homestead where we operate now. The farm has changed and evolved over time. I mean, obviously, as agriculture has evolved and changed over time. It's a cash grain corn, soybean, and wheat operation. And interestingly, my sister has found her way too back into agriculture, and she is now the president and CEO of the family farm business. And she drives tractors, and she knows how to operate boom sprayers, and she makes seed planting decisions, and she markets the crop, and she takes care of the finances along with her husband. But she really has been, really, the first woman leader in our family to really take this on. And for the work that I do - really trying to support women in agriculture in all of these other countries - I'm just so incredibly proud of her.


Beth sits on a rural house stoop with two women on each side of her.


Melissa Fleming 04:38

You know, as little girls and as sisters, I wonder if you could just paint the picture of what your house looked like and what it looked like#? Did you have to...? One always believes if you grow up in a farm, you have to wake up at 5:00 and do chores before going to school and then come home. And yeah.


Beth Bechdol 04:55

Some of my friends did probably because they were, again, either required to or they were a little just generally more helpful or enthusiastic in fact to really be a part of their family farm activities. I had probably a 6:30-7:00 a.m. wake-up call. You know, had to wait 20-30 minutes on the yellow school bus that, you know, picked up children that lived miles and miles apart from one another. Right? We lived probably about 15 miles from town. And town is, again, about 12,000 people, where we grew up. But, no, a lot of beautiful cornfields, as far as the eye could see. Pretty traditional white farmhouse with four or five big red barns, lots of machinery moving in and around. You know, I would say pretty picturesque in the way that people sort of imagine farms today.

But behind that, I think one of the things that I realize is how far so many people in the world are today from really understanding what it takes to be in agriculture and what it takes to be a farmer. So, there's a lot of risk involved. There's a lot of difficult workdays. There are a lot of days that things go completely the wrong direction and machinery breaks down. Or you know, the cows get loose, and disease strikes or bugs come into the crop and it's ruined. And so, there's so much of that I think what's just very realistic about agriculture and farming and that's the same if you are in Auburn, Indiana, or you are in Bangladesh.


Melissa Fleming 06:57

It's a fundamentally difficult job and we*ll come to that. I mean, you decided to leave Indiana and the farm, and you said you weren't terribly enthusiastic about staying. You were drawn to the city. So, what did you decide to do and where did you study?


Beth Bechdol 07:12

Yeah. So, I did go to Georgetown, again, School of Foreign Service.


Melissa Fleming 07:19

But that's quite a leap for a farm girl from a small...


Beth Bechdol 07:22

It was. It was.


Melissa Fleming 07:24

How did you get into Georgetown? I mean, this is one of the most prestigious schools in the country, and also a school that is known for foreign relations.


Beth Bechdol 07:33

Yes. So, I had one teacher, who I think really pushed me into thinking about these issues of the world. He pulled me into the high school speech team and pushed me very specifically into one particular category of event called foreign extemporaneous speaking. So not debate, but basically...


Melissa Fleming 08:03

Foreign extemporaneous speaking.


Beth Bechdol 08:03

Foreign extemporaneous...


Melissa Fleming 08:05

I didn't have that in my US school.


Beth Bechdol 08:07

So, you would go on a Saturday morning with the speech team to another local high school, and there'd be a whole speech competition. And out of an envelope you'd draw three slips of paper, and on each slip would be a particular question about global foreign relations issues of the day. There was a lot happening with the post-Cold War Russia, Gorbachev, glasnost, perestroika, and so there were issues that you just had to sort of start learning about.


Melissa Fleming 08:46

And how because you couldn't just Google it, right?


Beth Bechdol 08:49

No. Yes, so we actually as the speech team, I mean, we practiced every night of the week and Tuesdays were our research night. And we had hard copy subscriptions to Christian Science Monitor, Financial Times, The Economist, Newsweek, Time. In the course of navigating all of this, this particular teacher said to me, 'You know, you staying here and going to school in Indiana, you've got so much more opportunity to keep going with this.' And he could tell that I was genuinely interested in these topics.

And fortunately, I got into Georgetown and interestingly at Georgetown I did have a moment where agriculture found its way back into issues around that I was focusing on. International trade, NAFTA was sort of right on the cusp of kind of coming into the global trading landscape. Agriculture for the first time was being included in a global trade negotiation. And so, after I finished at Georgetown, I actually went back home to Purdue University, where every member of my family has gone, every member. My grandparents met at Purdue, my parents went to Purdue together because, you know, they met in high school and, you know, they went to the... So, I was the first person in the family not to go to Purdue as an undergraduate but made my way back there for a Master's in Agricultural Economics. And so now I have found through my career this blending of international relations, international issues with this fundamental understanding of agricultural sectors and production agriculture.

Beth surrounded by people as they inspect emaciated livestcok


Melissa Fleming 10:45

I believe that by this time you had already also got married or decided...


Beth Bechdol 10:51

No. So we got married...


Melissa Fleming 10:55

But you met your husband in...


Beth Bechdol 10:56

In high school.


Melissa Fleming 10:57

High school.


Beth Bechdol 10:57

High school. Yeah. So, I was a senior and he was a sophomore. So, you know what kind of scandal that creates in a small-town high school. Now, he asked me out, but I had already... Our first date, I had already been accepted to Georgetown, and there was a little bit of a 'Well, this will be fun.' And, yeah, ten years later, we finally got married. So, we did a ten-year long-distance relationship while he was still in high school. I was in college not admitting to many of my friends that I still had a boyfriend in high school.


Melissa Fleming 11:36

Who was two years younger. At that age it's... I mean, if it were the other way around.


Beth Bechdol 11:39



Melissa Fleming 11:40

And he was the older one, nobody would care, right?


Beth Bechdol 11:42

Yeah, exactly right. But with you it...  Yes, so.... And then he went to college. I studied overseas. He studied overseas. And we then ended up coming to Washington, D.C. when I got my first job. He was going into graduate school. And so, we lived together for a couple of years. And then when he got through grad school and jobs were settled and we were ready, we finally got married.


Melissa Fleming 12:07

And it's all... So, you're both, he's also in the agriculture field.


Beth walks with FAO Emergencies Director Rein Paulsen and other men, some in traditional Afghan attire.


Beth Bechdol 12:12

He is. He is now. He wasn't necessarily anticipating that that would be the space that he goes into. But he fell in love in his undergraduate experience with this very early-days field of remote sensing and geographical information systems, what we now all very understandably know as GIS [Geographic Information System]. He runs a small startup now - big drones, big data, a lot of sensors and imagery work for plant breeders all around the world.


Melissa Fleming 12:47

Interesting. Well, you must be very much aligned. Your dinner conversations must be very...


Beth Bechdol 12:54

We have to find...


Melissa Fleming 12:54

Specific to... Yeah, you have to find other areas.


Beth Bechdol 12:59

We have to find other topics sometimes.


Melissa Fleming 12:59

You went on to work both in the public and in the private sector in the US. But your connection to Indiana would always take you back. I believe you went back in 2005.


Beth Bechdol 13:11

We did.


Melissa Fleming 13:11



Beth Bechdol 13:12

We did. My husband and I - and our daughter was three at the time - moved back home because my mom had a terminal health diagnosis just a little bit before that. And we're a small family. It's just my sister and me. And my dad is, you know, was at the time really, you know, the farmer in the family. And, yeah, I mean, there was....


Melissa Fleming 13:38

How old was she?


Beth Bechdol 13:38

She was 54, 53-54. And it was a situation where it was not a, 'You need to be home in six months.' It was, 'This will be years, but it will be a continued slow deterioration of, you know, her capabilities and capacities.' And so, we had to recreate our lives. Even though you sort of think, 'Okay, going home is going to be simple and comfortable.' After the experiences we'd both had and what we had started in Washington and the places I think we both felt we were going in each of our different careers, to go back home and to have to try to reset that was no small task. But I will never ever regret the decision we made to be with our family and...


Melissa Fleming 14:41

To spend time with your mother.


Beth Bechdol 14:41

And spend time with my mom and our daughter got to grow up in Auburn, Indiana and found her way to Abu Dhabi for school. And now she's here in New York. And so, you know, from that same 12,000-person small town she's been able to, I think, use it as a springboard to even more amazing experiences and things that I never could have imagined.


Melissa Fleming 15:08

But she didn't choose that agricultural path.


Beth sitting in a rural classroom with other adults


Beth Bechdol 15:11

That's right, that's right, that's right.


Melissa Fleming 15:14

Studying Arabic and Middle Eastern studies.


Beth Bechdol 15:16



Melissa Fleming 15:17

That's another... But interesting. She had the farm experience. She got to know her grandmother.


Beth Bechdol 15:21

She did. And she got to see. She has... She is not a farm girl either. We all sort of laugh about that. But she appreciates it. You know, she too found other passions, and we pushed her into the things that she loved and that she was drawn to. But...


Melissa Fleming 15:43

Was that teacher still there at the school?


Beth Bechdol 15:45

No. And she ended up going to a different school in the community. He had since retired. But as she was growing up those were the kinds of people that I would talk about. You know, 'Mr. [inaudible] was just like, you know, this teacher that you have who's pushing you into things that you didn't really understand were going to be special or meaningful for you.'


Melissa Fleming 16:10

Yeah. I think if we all look back, there's always one...


Beth Bechdol 16:14

There is.


Melissa Fleming 16:14

Who pushed us in a direction. But what pushed you into the direction of the 51勛圖 and FAO?


Beth Bechdol 16:21

You know, when we left Washington, I'd had experiences at the Department of Agriculture. I'd been on Capitol Hill and the Senate Agriculture Committee staff. And when I was at USDA, I was actually in an office that had oversight for the relationship with the US government and FAO. And it just turned out that in September of 2019, working from my home office in rural Indiana, my phone rings. And it's a former colleague from the US Department of Agriculture who actually, after he left that position, he came to FAO. But we'd lost touch. There had been no interaction, no reason really for us to stay connected.

And he was clearly retired and out of that position, but basically said to me, 'There's a new Director-General in the Food and Agriculture Organization.' I said, 'Oh, okay.'  I hadn't seen or it's not news that I had been following. And he said, 'Well, you know, there's a current DDG [Deputy Director-General] who's retiring, an American.' And this particular deputy role has historically tended to be filled by an American national. And he said, 'So the Director-General has been given a number of candidates to think about taking on this role, but he's not really seeing the qualities or the attributes in some of these candidates that he's looking for.'

And I remember so naively, Melissa, saying to this friend, 'Boy, you know, I have not been connected to so many people in that global sort of network. You know, I've been back here in Indiana for 15 or more years now. So, my community of resources and people that I work with are just not likely good candidates. So, I'm sorry that I don't really have any good names for you.' And he says, 'I'm not calling to ask if you have names for me. I'm calling to ask if I could put your name in front of him.'

And I remember I did, I laughed. And sometimes I'm now realizing as I give my daughter, you know, career advice or when she starts [inaudible] like, 'Please keep a straight face. I mean, sometimes, you know, don't have that immediate inside reaction. Don't always let it come out.' But he took it very nicely. He understood why it created a little bit of a reaction to me, because it was not something I had even imagined. Again, 20 years earlier, we didn't have such a great, sort of relationship or history with this organization. And so, entering it at a leadership level just seemed almost comical.


Melissa Fleming 19:22

In these four years, though, I mean, your job has been tough.


Beth Bechdol 19:25



Beth addressing the Security Council


FAO*s Deputy Director-General Beth Bechdol calls to invest in agriculture, scale up anticipatory action and build resilient agrifood systems

30/04/2024 〞 FAO*s Deputy Director-General (DDG), Beth Bechdol, called for all stakeholders to rethink responses to food crises, urging greater investment in agriculture and the need for emergency agricultural aid as part of our response, during her recent two-day mission to New York.


FAO on the road to the High-Level Political Forum 2024

Preparing for critical review of SDG 2, Zero Hunger, FAO and DESA publish report of Expert Group Meeting on SDG 2

29/05/2024 〞 With 6 years to 2030, about 735 million people still face hunger (2022), a similar number continue to live in extreme poverty, and pressures on natural resources and the environment persist. With multiple crises encountering old and new challenges, the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF) 2024 will meet under the theme ※Reinforcing the 2030 Agenda and eradicating poverty in times of multiple crises§ to review progress towards SDG 2 along with SDGs 1, 13, 16 and 17. FAO is contributing to this process providing updated data and analysis, co-organizing and participating in expert group meetings, highlighting the potential that agrifood systems have to help accelerate progress towards SDG 2 and the full 2030 Agenda, and exploring how to unlock the full potential of agrifood systems.


Melissa Fleming 19:26

I mean, the state of the world has meant that you've had to deal with just incredible emergencies linked to wars, linked to horrible climate situations, which have led to food crises. And when it comes to hunger and food insecurity, and especially when it comes to wars and conflict, what is keeping you awake at night?


Beth Bechdol 19:52

It's two things. One, it is really about how in my role and representing the entirety of the FAO, how do we bring the world's attention to the people who are most affected by these unbelievable levels of acute food insecurity? And for me, very personally, we, finally, I think are beginning to have people understand that the majority of these people who are in these IPC [Integrated Food Security Phase Classification] categories, you know these numbers very well - 3, 4 and 5. Right? So, this is...


Melissa Fleming 20:34

IPC, if you could explain.


Beth Bechdol 20:35

Yes. So, IPC is a classification structure whereby we collectively as the UN put numbers of people in emergency or crisis-oriented countries into levels of acute food insecurity. And so, 3 is crisis, 4 is emergency and 5 is catastrophe/famine. And so, there are currently 282 million people in 60 countries who fall into those three categories. So, this...


Melissa Fleming 21:09

3, 4 and 5.


Beth Bechdol 21:10

3, 4 and 5 together. When you add those numbers up, 282 million people in 59 countries. The part that we don't, I feel, talk about as much - and I think this is again, this is an FAO responsibility - is that at least two thirds of those 282 million people are farmers. And yet at the same time, only 4% of the entire global humanitarian spend goes to emergency agricultural responses. So, our very traditional response - even from us as the entirety of the UN system - has been driven and focused on direct food assistance. It's also water. It's emergency shelter. It's medicines and other public health services. These are all critically important first frontline within hours after, whether it's a climate-related weather event or it is the start of conflict or war or other problems.

But we're missing a really important complementary response that also needs to be seen as a frontline response, which is support for agricultural production. And what do I mean by that? It's seeds. It's fertilizer. It's animal vaccines. It's animal nutrition. If you can help people still grow small amounts of vegetables that they have the ability to keep a few animals in their farm or in their village, we've got a better opportunity, I think, at building resilience into these places while we are still in the midst of an emergency response. And so, this prioritizing of the farmer, or the face of a farmer, as being really some of the most vulnerable people right now in the world is something that I think about day and night all the time.


Melissa Fleming 23:21

The most probably extreme of these categories is 5, and it's been declared in Gaza. I remember being on a call recently, our crisis communications call, and your colleague from communications was telling us about deliveries that you were undertaking of animal fodder.


Beth Bechdol 23:42



Melissa Fleming 23:43

I remember also reading that people were resorting in the north to eating animal fodder. What can you tell us about that? And did the food reach them?


Escalating crises and hunger require urgent response, says FAO Deputy Director-General Beth Bechdol

Feb 12, 2024 〞 Acute hunger is escalating worldwide. The growing number of people impacted by pressing humanitarian crises in conflict-affected places like Gaza, Ukraine, and Sudan, or by climate extremes, requires urgent and collective action explains Beth Bechdol, FAO Deputy Director-General. Watch the interview to learn more.

Gaza: Every day, more and more people are on the brink of famine-like conditions

Rome 〞 Conflict and hunger are inextricably linked to one another. Conflict often leads to severe humanitarian crises, resulting in heightened levels of hunger in specific regions. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the 51勛圖 (FAO) plays a crucial role in addressing these challenges, often operating on the front lines alongside other UN and stakeholder partners to preserve lives and livelihoods.

In an interview with FAO Newsroom, Deputy Director-General Beth Bechdol, who oversees the Organization?s work in emergencies, provided insightful updates on FAO's efforts in conflict-affected regions, including Gaza, Sudan, and Ukraine, shedding light on the challenges faced and the progress made in addressing food insecurity and promoting stability.

She also discussed FAO's largest work program in Afghanistan and delved into the impacts of El Ni?o in Latin America, highlighting the organization's multifaceted approach to tackling complex issues and fostering resilience in vulnerable communities.


Beth Bechdol 23:53

This is the worst situation that we have seen since the data has been collected - to have 1.1 million people in Gaza in IPC 5, this highest-level catastrophe famine situation, half of the entire population. We've seen nothing like this in terms of scale. Interestingly, I think a lot of people don't realize, I mean, certainly Gaza, and the territories of Palestine [inaudible] are on a scale level nothing like agriculture in Ukraine, for example. Right? But it is a place where there has been historically great self-sufficiency in feeding its people and its greenhouse production. So, while it's not large amounts of agricultural farmland - olive trees, dairy processing industry, sheep and goats, chickens, a broiler industry that's also got processing that's associated with it. This has been an area that has been really quite self-sufficient.

So, you know, we had really raised the issue around animal feed with a number of the authorities involved, especially the Israeli authorities who were navigating access issues at the time. And we came with a number of our other UN partners to say, 'We have trucks of animal feed ready to move.' Unfortunately, the approvals never came in a really timely fashion. The challenges continued around, as you well know, the checkpoints and just general access issues, where the trucks, you know, for even direct food assistance and support really were not getting in in the volumes that they needed to. And so, the animal feed, just finally 500 tonnes, made it in last month. I think my personal... You know, coming from a family farm, I mean, I know what it takes to grow a crop and to provide enough support for your animals. And if you don't have access to any of that, it's crushing. And so, these are again, the things that on a regular basis, yeah, keep me up at night.


Melissa Fleming 26:35

You mentioned Ukraine, which used to be one of the world's agricultural power houses. I think no one really realized it. You probably knew that but most of us didn't that Ukraine was such a breadbasket for so much of the world. What is your biggest concern there?


Beth Bechdol 26:53

Yeah. So, we, I think, have a current rough estimate of about 40 billion US dollars* worth of damage to the agricultural infrastructure. Agricultural infrastructure.


Melissa Fleming 27:07

40 billion just to agriculture.


Beth Bechdol 27:07

40 billion just to agriculture. So that's everything from grain silos and ports to the processing industry, to equipment, to the land itself. And the land, I think it will be important in a place like Ukraine for all of us to also focus on not just first the demining exercise that is actually underway. In fact, the World Food Programme, along with FAO and another NGO has really been...


Melissa Fleming 27:38



Beth Bechdol 27:38

Exactly. Has really begun to take very important leadership role in trying to address that. It's one of the highest priorities actually expressed to us by the Ukraine Ministry of Agriculture. But the other... Beyond the mines themselves is also the soil contamination. So, you know, we also have to think about the health of soil. So, when you have all of these bombardments, you know, there is an after effect. I'm not a weapons expert by any stretch, but the heavy metals that come, the contaminants that come from these kinds of explosions and disturbances to the soil means that the soil itself will have very high content of these types of metals and other substances. And so there will also not just from a removal of mines perspective, there will also have to be a sort of regenerative bringing back the health of the soil itself. And that's a time consuming and complicated and very technologically intensive oftentimes process.


Melissa Fleming 28:52

I mean, again, we've talked about just the devastating impacts of war on food security and just what it does, the damage it does to the agriculture that people depend on. I mean, we have this horrific war raging in Sudan.


Beth Bechdol 29:10

And yet we don't seem to...


Melissa Fleming 29:13

It's a forgotten war. It was on the...


Beth Bechdol 29:15

It is.


Melissa Fleming 29:16

Just on the cover of The Economist. That's what it was being called, and yet people are suffering just unbelievably.




Beth Bechdol 29:25

Sudan, this war is, and the conflict is raging in areas of the country that are its own breadbasket. And so, once again, we're going to find ourselves where a country's own ability to produce food, to support its people will be lost because their planting season is now. And it is June through August. And August is even getting to be a little bit too late for a number of the crops that are grown - sorghum, millet, sesame, okra, groundnut, watermelon. These are all... And it's an incredibly diverse agricultural production that also is not just about staple crops and the most basic of nutrition, but obviously with that diversity of crops that I just mentioned, you know, that there's the potential for really nutritious and healthy diets for people locally.

But when all of that is gone, then we're back to depending on direct assistance that has to try to get in cross-border. We have access issues in the UN system right now with many of our colleagues trying to figure out the dynamics between the two forces. And so, for me, I guess maybe on Sudan personally, back to 'What is it that Beth Bechdol can do? What can I, what can FAO contribute to?' This is a place where I'm so disappointed by our donor community to be very honest. And maybe some of that is on us as FAO or even on me personally for not being as vocal, not pounding the table as hard enough, not ringing the alarm bell and saying, 'This is desperation.'

And back to my point about timing. In agriculture, it can't always just be when the whim of a donor or the process, the budgetary... You know, when a congressional supplemental or a fiscal year budget comes. We have to try with our donors and our partners to manage those timelines as best we can, because you get in some places like Sudan one more opportunity, I think, for this particular crop to go into the ground before the cascading effects of a missed or failed crop will really send us into alarming rates of IPC 4 and 5. And so I am trying to say it everywhere I can. It's in Washington. It's in Paris. It's in Berlin. It's in Tokyo. It's with the IFIs [International Financial Institutions], the financial institutions.

And, you know, I'm empathetic. I mean, there's fatigue on the parts of our traditional donors and partners. And their priorities, their politics, nationally and locally are shifting in this particular moment. And so... But somehow, I think for us, we have to take some of that on as a bit of maybe a new operating reality. And how do we change the story? How do we find different outlets, different channels? How do we get more creative? But in Sudan, when you have a conflict the scale and the complexity that you have now, it just makes it hard for any of us to really be there and to be able to respond at scale and to be able to respond in as timely of a fashion as we can.


Melissa Fleming 33:14

I think you're putting a lot on the UN when actually a lot of the blame is on these people who are starting wars and not stopping them. So, if you had one ask in one sentence for what external actors could do to allow more sustainable support for agriculture and less emergency response trying to deliver people one-off food supplies until they are hungry again for the next.


Beth Bechdol 33:52

It's the proverb of teaching a man to fish as opposed to giving a man a fish. Agriculture feeds the world. And so, if we have people who can't do that, then we need to recalibrate and we need to think about our structures and our investments and our old habits a bit more.


Melissa Fleming 34:19

Well, I have no doubt that you will bring many more farmers that capability all around the world. Beth, it's been a real pleasure to have you here and to hear your story.


Beth Bechdol 34:30

Thanks so much, Melissa. I really appreciate it.


Melissa Fleming 34:34

Thank you for listening to Awake at Night. We'll be back soon with more incredible and inspiring stories from people working against huge challenges to make this world a better and safer place.

To find out more about the series and the extraordinary people featured, do visit un.org/awake-at-night. Do subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and please take the time to review us. It helps more people find the show.

Thanks to my editor Bethany Bell, to Adam Paylor, Josie Le Blond, and my colleagues at the UN: Katerina Kitidi, Roberta Politi, Geneva Damayanti, Tulin Battikhi, Bissera Kostova, Anzhelika Devis, and Carlos Macias. The original music for this podcast was written and performed by Nadine Shah and produced by Ben Hillier. Additional music was by Pascal Wyse.