By Jon H. Harsch

© Copyright Agri-Pulse Communications, Inc.

Washington, May 20 – Fresh back from Dafur and headed for Bangladesh next week, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah released the Obama administration’s “Feed the Future” initiative Thursday, outlining a long-term global hunger and food security strategy. Agriculture Sec. Tom Vilsack and State Department Counselor & Chief of Staff Cheryl Mills took part in the release to reinforce the message that the initiative is a “whole of government” commitment.

The three key officials explained the new plan – focused on helping farmers in developing countries increase their production and income – at a Chicago Council on Global Affairs Symposium on Global Agriculture & Food Security in Washington. Addressing a ballroom filled with 450 ag development stakeholders from private industry, non-profit aid organizations, members of Congress, and government officials from the U.S. and overseas, Dr. Shah said Feed the Future aims at carrying out the pledge President Obama made at the G-8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy last July, promising $3.5 billion in new U.S. funding over three years. That pledge triggered $18.5 billion in commitments from other countries to support the international agricultural development effort.

Shah noted that more than one billion people worldwide suffer from chronic hunger – and that hunger is causing more than 25,000 avoidable deaths per day. He said the need to combat this problem is urgent and that while the problem grew worse due to the recent global financial crisis, a major cause has been “years of drift and lack of attention from the global community and from the donor community, including the United States of America.” He pointed out that “In 1979, agricultural programs made up 18 percent of all foreign assistance. By 2007, that number was three and a half percent.”

Shah said that with the new program, “We believe this will reach 40 million people over 10 years, increasing their incomes significantly, by more than 10 percent a year. And we expect to reach 25 million children directly with nutritional interventions that will prevent stunting in 10 million kids.”

Directly addressing the conference participants, Shah said that:

·        “If you’re here representing a partner country, we will follow your lead. Once you commit to a comprehensive plan, we will commit to helping bring the global community together to support you in its execution.”

·        “If you’re here representing an NGO or a USAID implementing partner, your expertise will continue to be indispensable.”

·        “If you’re from the private sector, tell us what countries and donors can do to reduce constraints on business operations. And please explore with us whether our tools to encourage investment . . . would help you make the commitment to invest greater resources in these specific value chains and countries.”

·        “If you’re in Congress, we need you now more than ever to help fully fund this initiative.”

Liberia’s President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf welcomed the administration’s new approach to helping Liberia “grow its own food and be self-sufficient.” She said that “We can bring prosperity to a nation once characterized as a failed state. We can become a post-conflict success story, building upon our agricultural potential.”

Agriculture Sec. Vilsack said that “Statistics tell us past approaches to global hunger, which focused efforts on providing food aid, are not enough. In the short term, we must still provide food to those who need it most. But in the longer term, we need a comprehensive approach focused on developing sustainable solutions to eliminate food insecurity. Our goals should be to increase the availability of food by helping people and countries produce what they need, to make food accessible to those who need it, and to teach people to use it properly so that they receive the nutrition they need from it.”

Vilsack said that as part of the Feed the Future initiative, USDA  is committed to “sharing our expertise in the agricultural sector on everything from research and extension, to production and processing, and marketing products to consumers. USDA has capacity to both engage institutions abroad and work in a government-to-government capacity. And our efforts are coordinated with the Department of State and USAID, among other agencies and partners.”

For more on the Obama administration’s “Feed the Future” initiative, including a webcast of launching the new program, go to:

To read the 42 page Feed the Future guide, go to:

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