Chris Barrett is a professor of applied economics and management at Cornell University. His focus is on rural communities, primarily in Africa, concentrating on the dynamics of poverty, food security, and hunger.
In his research, Dr. Barrett is working on improving agricultural production technologies, improving markets for the poor, provision of public infrastructure, and interactions between natural resources management and poverty. One of his current studies is exploring the phenomenon of “poverty traps”, particularly in Kenya and Madagascar.
Dr. Barrett is the editor of the American Journal of Agricultural Economics, an associate editor of Environment and Development Economics and the Journal of African Economies and World Development, co-director of the Cornell African Food Security and Natural Resources Management Program, and a former president of the Association of Christian Economists. Dr. Barrett co-authored a book Food Aid After Fifty Years. More details about this book can be found in the Recommended Books section of this website.
» Silent Killer Film Brochure
There are still a billion hungry people in the world. 15,000 children-the equivalent of five times the victims of the World Trade Center bombings-die each day of hunger. Yet it doesn’t have to be this way. We can end hunger-if we make a commitment to doing so. SILENT KILLER shows how it can be done.
SILENT KILLER begins in the 100-degree heat of South Africa’s Kalahari Desert. Three members of the Khomani San tribe-commonly called Bushmen-search for, and find, the Hoodia, a cactus-like plant with appetite-suppressant properties. The razor-thin San use the cactus to fend off hunger, but now, a pharmaceutical firm has patented the appetite-suppressant properties of Hoodia and is using it to make a diet product for obese Americans and Europeans. The Hoodia is a metaphor for a world where some people have too much food, but millions of others have far too little.
We discover how serious the problem is in Kenya, as we meet Jane Ininda, a young scientist who is trying to make agriculture more productive in her country, while her own brother Salesio barely survives against the drought, poor soils, diseases and pests that constantly threaten his crops. We meet other scientists who are working with Africans to improve harvests: Hans Herren, an imaginative Swiss biologist who is finding low-tech ways to control insects, invasive weeds and diseases; Florence Wambugu, a native Kenyan, who looks for improvements through biotechnology; Moses Onim, who provides high-quality seeds to the poor. We also meet local poor farmers such as Triza Mairani, who has successfully diversified her tiny farm to produce all she needs and more.
At the World Food Summit in Rome, we learn how activists have been working to end hunger since John Kennedy declared war on it in 1963. Soon after Kennedy spoke, the so-called “Green Revolution” dramatically increased food production and prevented the widespread famines that many observers had predicted at the time. But today, the commitment is no longer clear.
In fact, at Mexico’s Center for the Improvement of Corn and Wheat, where the Green Revolution was born, and where scientists look to further improve its yields while correcting its mistakes, we find that world financial commitments to hunger research have fallen sharply.
But SILENT KILLER does not leave viewers feeling helpless. A visit to Brazil finds a nation energized by a new national campaign called FOME ZERO-Zero Hunger. In the huge city of Belo Horizonte , we meet a remarkable leader, Adriana Aranha. Under the programs she supervises, the right to food is guaranteed to all. We see how the city’s efforts reach into the slums and shantytowns, dramatically reducing malnutrition while strengthening local farmers and organic producers. In the countryside, we visit a camp of the MST, the Landless Peasants’ Movement that is giving hope to millions of Brazilians.
Can we end hunger or will it always be with us? Why should we try? What will it take? What are we doing now? How do U.S. efforts to end hunger compare with those of other developed countries? Can biotechnology play a role, and if so, how? Is hunger just a problem of distribution or do we still need to produce more and better crops? These are the questions addressed in SILENT KILLER.
Compelling stories and characters raise and answer these questions in a powerful, exquisitely photographed documentary that will get people talking again about an international crisis that keeps haunting the world.