Two Buffetts kicked off the Rural Futures Conference on Wednesday night at the Lincoln Innovation Campus.
In the first session of the conference, which ends Friday, Howard G. Buffett and son Howard W. Buffett, co-authors of the book “40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World,” first discussed the people and places that have influenced their work around the world, and then moved into a more general discussion of the importance of rural communities and agricultural security.
“I make $10 million decisions in 30 seconds sometimes,” Howard G. Buffett said.
Even if some efforts fail, he said, risk goes hand in hand with philanthropic work.
He heads the Howard G. Buffett Foundation, which is funded by his father, Warren Buffett. The foundation works especially in countries with political strife and natural disasters. Howard W. Buffett, listed as a UNL lecturer, lives in Omaha and farms the family-owned property near Tekamah, Nebraska. He has worked for his father’s foundation and within the Obama administration.
When asked why he dedicates his philanthropy to agriculture and food, Howard G. Buffett said that one of the biggest problems in the world is food insecurity, and that grabs his attention as a farmer.
“Something is wrong when people die because they can’t feed themselves,” he said.
In response to shifting his focus to food from conservation, Howard G. Buffett said he’s learned that if you don’t take care of people, you won’t have an environment to worry about.
Repeating a phrase he heard during one of this trips abroad, he said, “No one will starve to save a tree.”
The two Buffetts also emphasized the role that women have played in their lives, as well as the important role that women have in the future of rural communities.
When working in many rural areas, Howard G. Buffett said he saw firsthand what women are capable of. In addition to often sacrificing for family and putting kids first, women add value when solving problems because they look at things in a different way, he said.
His son added that gender empowerment is a key component when talking about agricultural development.
He noted that 80 percent of the food grown in Africa is cultivated by women and that focusing on agricultural development makes the biggest difference for the biggest amount of people around the world, especially the disenfranchised.
Howard W. Buffett concluded by saying that while he and his father have spent countless days talking to farmers around the world, he appreciates the sense of community he feels when returning to his own farm.
One of the greatest strengths of rural towns is that sense of community, he said.
“People stepping up and lending a helping hand” is a founding principle of the United States, he said.
Howard G. Buffett continued the sentiment by saying “conferences like this are one of the most important things happening in America.”
This country was built on rural communities, he said, and it’s important that they continue to grow. “Rural America has to survive and stay strong.”
Wednesday’s talk marked the fifth season of the lecture series. The first conference was hosted in 2011.
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