Plenary Speakers

An overview of all the plenary speakers for the OWC 2017. Click on the images to find out more about each speaker.



Alice Cunningham

Executive Director of International Affairs of Shumei International

Alice Cunningham is the Executive Director of International Affairs of Shumei International, a Japan-based non-governmental organization that has consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations. She currently serves as a Shumei representative to the U.N.. Ms. Cunningham works closely with the president of Shumei as her spokesperson to the international community, promoting sustainable development and a lifestyle in harmony with nature. She has traveled extensively throughout the world visiting Shumei Natural Agriculture farms in order to share program information with other communities, and is a strong advocate for natural and sustainable living. Ms. Cunningham is a regular contributor to the Huffington Post on topics such as food, sustainable agriculture, soil, biodiversity and the relationship with nature.

Dr. Angelika Hilbeck

The agricultural ecologist Angelika Hilbeck studied at the University of Hohenheim, Germany, where she got her diploma in Agricultural Biology. She then received her doctorate at the North Carolina State University in Entomology. From 1994 to 1999 she was the project leader of the Swiss Federal Research Station for Agroecology and Agriculture in Zurich, Switzerland. Since 2000 she works as a lecturer and researcher at the Institute of Integrative Biology at the ETH Zurich.

The expert on insect ecology has repeatedly discussed the effects of GM crops on ecosystems. Dr. Hilbeck's main research fields are: Biodiversity and nontarget effects of transgenic plants; Consequences of gene flow and introgression of transgenes; Post-commercialization monitoring concepts for transgenic plants; Coexistence of agricultural production systems with and without transgenic plants; Environmental risk assessment and international capacity building.

Along with more than 400 experts from around the world Hilbeck has also worked on 2008 published IAASTD, which calls for a shift towards agroecological methods.

She is co-founder (former chairperson) and board member of the 'European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility' (ENSSER) and of 'Critical Scientists Switzerland' (CSS). She is also a board member of the Swiss based development organisation, 'Bread for All'.

Dr. Hilbeck is increasingly involved in broader issues of technology development towards a democratically legitimated, sustainable global future and actively contributes to the debate on agro-fuels, international agriculture, hunger and poverty alleviation.

Bharat Mitra

Bharat Mitra is a visionary heart-centered entrepreneur, whose work manifests in many forms, including business, philanthropy, community co-creation and loving seva. In 1990 Divine Grace brought him to the feet of his master, Sri H.W.L. Poonja, Papaji, whom he has been inspired by and devoted to ever since.

He is the Founder of ORGANIC INDIA, a regenerative and wholly ethical company that, from its beginnings, has been guided by its mission to be a Vehicle of Consciousness in the world. ORGANIC INDIA is now a thriving profitable business that works with thousands of small farmers across India, nourishing land, communities and livelihoods, producing a diverse range of organic Tulsi teas and wellness products retailed in over 30 countries.

Bharat Mitra co-founded UPLIFT with his beloved wife and partner Bhavani Lev. Igniting love and consciousness around the globe, UPLIFT is a living invitation to the field of oneness and selfless service. Together with uniquely talented and gifted people from all walks of life, UPLIFT invites you to be a catalyst for greatness and part of a quantum leap for humanity as ONE uplifted community. UPLIFT is Unity, Peace and Love in a Field of Transcendence.

Core Partner and Director of Peninsula Hot Springs (Australia) and Gold Lake Retreat (USA), President of the Bet Lev Foundation (USA), and Chairman of the Lev Group (Israel).

Bharat Mitra speaks globally on Humanity, Consciousness, and the Evolution of Business sharing his deep commitment to inspire each of us to listen to the deepest longing of our hearts.

“The nature of who we are is beyond a spiritual practice, it is an unconditional reality that we are invited to live. It is vital to move away from the paradigm of separation of consciousness and business, and to embrace the freedom to be connected to spirit while fully engaging in our human experience. When we start valuing happiness, connections and truthfulness in business, we can co-create a new story to express and celebrate the wholeness of humanity.” Bharat Mitra, Enlightened Business Summit, November 2016

With unlimited joy and gratitude, Bharat Mitra is the proud father of Gopi, stepdad to Lauren and Lili, grandfather to Evelyn, and godfather to Gudya, Holley, and Lily. He spends time between the US, Australia and India and loves to share tea, stories and presence with all those around him.

Devinder Sharma

Devinder Sharma is a distinguished food and trade policy analyst. An award-winning Indian journalist, writer, thinker, and researcher well-known and respected for his views on food and trade policy. Trained as an agricultural scientist (he holds a Master's in Plant Breeding & Genetics), Sharma has been with the Indian Express, amongst the largest selling English language dailies in India. And then quit active journalism to research on policy issues concerning sustainable agriculture, biodiversity and intellectual property rights, environment and development, food security and poverty, biotechnology and hunger, and the implications of the free trade paradigm for developing countries.

He has formerly been a Visiting Fellow to the International Rice Research Institute, in the Philippines; Visiting Fellow at the School of Development Studies at the University of East Anglia, Norwich (UK); and a Visiting Fellow at the University of Cambridge (UK).

He is the author of “GATT and India -- Politics of Agriculture" (1994) and “In the Famine Trap" (1997). He chairs the New Delhi-based Forum for Biotechnology & Food Security.

Farida Akhter

Farida Akhter is the Founding Executive Director of UBINIG (Policy Research for Development Alternative) a policy and action research organization in Bangladesh. Its main work is research, campaign and advocacy and to undertake action programmes in the field of social development. UBINIG runs a biodiversity based farming system called Nayakrishi Andolon with over 300,000 farming families are involved in the programme and has set up community seed banks with networks of seed huts in the villages in three agroecological zones of the country. Women lead the movement through their involvement in seed preservation and regeneration. UBINIG runs an organic food shop Shashyaprabartana" in Dhaka, linking farmers products to urban consumers.

UBINIG runs a women's resource centre known as Narigrantha Prabartana, the first an only feminist resource centre in Bangladesh. UBINIG also is the secretariat of the Alliance of Women against Tobacco (Bangla name is TABINAJ). Farida Akhter is the author of many books written in Bangla and in English.

Hayu Dyah Patria

In 2009, Hayu Dyah Patria created an organization called Mantasa to recreate the positive image that traditional Indonesian produce once held before the Green Revolution. In her native language, Javanese, mantasa means bridge. Ultimately, Mantasa is bridging Indonesian communities back to the cultural heritage that stems from their foods. The vision and mission of Mantasa is to transform from something invaluable into something valuable and to try to make people understand and be aware of a Sovereignty in Food and Nutrition to people and to value edible wild plants, and to educate people about food issues.

Helmy Abouleish

Helmy Abouleish was born in Austria, came as teenager to Egypt, is married and has 4 grown-up daughters. He studied Business Administration, Marketing and Finance and has been Managing Director and Vice Chairman of the SEKEM Group for more than 30 years. He is (co-) founder of many organizations and has been or still is serving on 29 boards including the IFOAM Mediterranean and Anglophone African Group.

Helmy Abouleish is a most competent and brilliant speaker and is therefore in high demand worldwide. Besides talking at the UN, FAO and UN DP he meets with world leaders and promotes the organic and sustainable agenda all around the world. Recently, he was invited to a presidential conference with US President Obama and a meeting with Prince Charles on sustainability and organic agriculture.

SEKEM was founded 40 years ago by Ibrahim Abouleish, Helmy's father, as a small, bio-dynamic farm on the edge of the Sinai desert. Today, the farm totals more than 500 hectares.

Until today, the bio-dynamic farm operation remains the backbone of SEKEM. One must see it to believe what a green paradise can grow on desert soil.

SEKEM was the world pioneer in developing organic cotton cultivation. Before, it was believed that industrial cotton production was impossible without the use of chemicals.

SEKEM played a leading role in developing IFOAM's ethical code for organic trade. It has developed into what many consider the most successful and impressive bio-dynamic and organic project in the world.

Currently, he is the Chief Executive Officer of SEKEM Holding that consists of five companies (ISIS For Food Industries, ATOS Pharma, NatureTex, Lotus and SEKEM for Land Reclamation), which cover the fields of Biodynamic agriculture cultivation, production of phyto-pharmaceuticals, Organic textiles and foodstuffs, with a capacity of more than 1700 employees.

Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji

Lyonpo Yeshey Dorji is Bhutan’s second democratically elected Minister of Agriculture and Forests from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). His excellency was appointed as the Minister for Agriculture and Forests on 27 July, 2013.

Born on 20 February 1972, His Excellency is from Zhongmaed, Metsho, Lhuentse. He is married with three daughters and a son. He has a Masters in Biology specializing in plant systematics from University of Missouri, USA. He also attended several meetings, workshops and seminars related to natural resources both abroad and in country. He served as a researcher and as a senior planning officer in the Ministry of Agriculture before joining politics in 2008. He then worked as a consultant and at the UN office of Project Operations Services (UNOPS) as team leader for four years and resigned to contest in politics again.

Su Kahumbu-Stephanou

More than 18 years ago, Su Kahumbu Stephanou, a musician, stumbled into farming. Today, she is one of Kenya's most passionate organic farmers and technology entrepreneurs.

In 2000 Su founded an organic farm in Tigoni, Kenya, dedicated to serving local consumers. She found her life passion in training and educating small holder farmers and providing them markets for their organic products whilst developing new marketing models for this new emerging sector.Through her company, Green Dreams Ltd she went on to market certified regional organic produce and opened a chain of organic outlets in Nairobi.

In 2010 faced with the challenge of educating thousands of farmers at scale against encroaching climate change and resulting famine and food insecurity, Su developed a mobile application dubbed iCow, an agricultural educational e-extension platform designed for low end mobile phones. ICow emerged first in the 2010 Apps4Africa competition sponsored by the U.S. Department of State. The application also won the Vision 2030 ICT innovation award for Agriculture and was profiled by Forbes Magazine as one of the best African mobile Apps. Today iCow educates tens of thousands of farmers in Kenya, Ethiopia and Tanzania.

Su Kahumbu-Stephanou is the CEO and Founder of Green Dreams TECH Ltd., a company that develops agricultural mobile phone solutions for small holder farmers across the developing world. She is also a TEDGlobal Fellow. She sits on the advisory Board of Changing Course in Global Agriculture, the technical Board of the Changing Course in Kenyan Agriculture and the Board of Governors of the Mpesa Foundation Academy.

Dr. Vandana Shiva

Dr. Vandana Shiva trained as a Physicist at the University of Punjab, and completed her Ph.D. on the 'Hidden Variables and Non-locality in Quantum Theory' from the University of Western Ontario, Canada. She later shifted to inter-disciplinary research in science, technology and environmental policy.

In 1982, Dr. Vandana Shiva founded an independent institute – the Research Foundation for Science, Technology and Ecology in Dehra Dun – dedicated to high quality and independent research to address the most significant ecological and social issues of our times.

In 1991 she founded Navdanya, a national movement to protect the diversity and integrity of living resources – especially native seed – and to promote organic farming and fair trade. For last two decades, Navdanya has worked with local communities and organisations, serving more than 500,000 men and women farmers. Navdanya's efforts have resulted in the conservation of more than 3000 rice varieties from across India, and the organisation has established 60 seed banks in 16 states across the country. Dr. Shiva combines sharp intellectual enquiry with courageous activism, and her work spans teaching at universities worldwide to working with peasants in rural India. Asia Week has called her one of the five most powerful communicators in Asia.

Dr. Shiva has contributed in fundamental ways to changing the practice and paradigms of agriculture and food. Her books The Violence of the Green Revolution and Monocultures of the Mind pose essential challenges to the dominant paradigm of non-sustainable, industrial agriculture.

Dr. Shiva chairs the Commission on the Future of Food set up by the Region of Tuscany in Italy. Dr. Shiva has campaigned internationally on issues surrounding biotechnology and genetic engineering. She has helped movements in Africa, Asia, Latin America, Ireland, Switzerland and Austria with their campaigns against genetic engineering. In 2003, when the US initiated a dispute against the EU to remove the bans and moratoria on genetically modified crops and foods, Dr. Shiva launched a global citizens campaign on GMOs in the WTO.

Dr. Shiva is on the National Board of Organic Standards of India.

Internationally, Dr. Shiva serves on Prince Charles's expert group on Sustainable Agriculture and she is a member of President Zapatero's Scientific Committee in Spain. Dr. Shiva advises governments worldwide, and is currently working with the Government of Bhutan to make Bhutan 100% organic.


© IFOAM - Organics International 2017