WASHINGTON, Oct. 25- The Howard G. Buffett Foundation (HGBF) announced a two-year, $2.4 million commitment to scale up the World Food Programme’s (WFP) Purchase for Progress (P4P) program in Honduras before a global hunger conference hosted by World Food Program USA and the U.S. Department of State last night. Last night’s event emphasized the benefit of private sector commitments to preventing world hunger by improving the production supply chain and boosting access to reliable markets for farmers in struggling economies.
The P4P initiative to fight global hunger is a five-year pilot that aims to help more than 500,000 smallholder farmers in 21 countries. The World Food Program USA recognized the achievements of private investment in P4P, which has helped train more than 100,000 farmers, warehouse operators and small and medium traders in agricultural production, post-harvest handling, quality improvement, marketing and finance skills since it began in Sept. 2008.
The P4P program will “set a standard for public-private partnership for years to come,” said Vice President Joe Biden in his keynote remarks. “Nobody wants to have to ask to feed their child,” he said. “We are taking a comprehensive approach aimed at ensuring countries need not rely on food aid in the future by focusing on women as part of the solution and by meticulously and rigorously measuring our results."
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton presented the George McGovern Leadership Award last night to Howard G. Buffett and Bill Gates, in recognition of their leadership in addressing food security among small scale farmers. Contributions to the World Food Programme for this initiative from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation total more than $67 million. WFP received $29 million in donations from the Howard G. Buffett Foundation.
Clinton said the Gates Foundation was awarded for its research in development in staple crops, strengthening farmers’ access to markets and making sure every grant supports an optimal role for women. The Buffet Foundation was recognized for its achievements in research to improve soil health and finding localized solutions in places that face famine on a daily basis. Secretary Clinton was awarded the George McGovern Leadership Award in 2010 in recognition of the Obama Administration’s commitment to fighting global hunger.
“What we’ve tried to do is latch up the aid and investment side of the equation; Howard and Bill are able to bring both sides together,” Clinton said. “We want to be able to create enough demand and quality supply so that people are better able to move forward themselves.”
Clinton said the potential to improve the entire production supply chain in these countries is possible through the expertise and investment of private sector companies.
“After just two years, we have seen how our investment in other countries in the region has transformed smallholder farmers, enabling them to think like business people who can turn their operations and farming organizations into profitable rural businesses,” Buffett said.
Clinton emphasized the importance of helping women farmers in the nations where agricultural aid is needed. When the program began, “there was an enormous lack of knowledge that 60-70 percent of people who labor in the fields are women. If you don’t focus on women we’re not going to be successful.”
Last night’s event included a panel discussion highlighting private sector efforts to address global hunger. Panel participants included former Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman, Howard G. Buffett, Chairman and CEO of Cargill Greg Page and USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah.
“For too long in this field we have not adequately recognized the role of the private sector,” said Shah. “The American people can support investment if we can demonstrate results.”
The P4P program has the potential to be more successful than previous aid initiatives due to the fact that it includes an exit strategy by bringing farmers into the marketplace, according to Buffett.
“The key is that they can now deliver quality and they have got to do it on time,” he said.
The panel touched on the fear of possible reductions in international aid from the national budget, as well as criticism of how the U.S. government invests in its own agriculture. Buffett condemned the potential one-third cuts to the nutrition and conservation titles being suggested in some Farm Bill discussions.
“Our Farm Bill is about how to protect income for farmers,” Buffett said. “Our Farm Bill should be about how to protect natural resources.”
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