“Cause you can’t build a peaceful world on empty stomachs and human misery” – Paul Schickler, President of Pioneer Hi-Bred

This week I had the privilege of attending the release of Feed the Future (FTF), the Obama Administration’s strategy to address global hunger and food insecurity. Approximately 300 senior leaders from the Administration, Congress, and the business, policy, and NGO communities packed into the Mayflower Renaissance Hotel to hear USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah unveil the Administration’s plan.

With more than a billion people – one sixth of the world’s population – now suffering from chronic hunger, the U.S. is stepping up its game. At the G8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy last summer, President Obama pledged $3.5 billion over three years (to be leveraged in conjunction with the more than $18.5 billion pledged by fellow heads of state) to “scale up” U.S. investments and impact towards achieving Millennium Development Goal #1: Eradicating Extreme Hunger and Poverty.

Some of us have expressed skepticism with respect to the Administration’s initiative and the Global Food Security Act in the past: namely with respect to money earmarked for corporate biotech research and U.S. investments being funneled through “multi-lateral” institutions such as the World Bank.

While those concerns remain, I want to take a moment to highlight the points of this plan that deserve applause:

  • FTF puts addressing global hunger and poverty back at the forefront of the US foreign policy agenda
  • FTF supports country-led strategies, supporting effective governments and active citizens’ efforts in determining which goals to pursue and how to allocate resources

  • FTF elevates investments in research, appropriate technologies and creativity (the Malian Ministry of Agriculture has been taking tips from the U.S. Amish community!)
  • FTF demonstrates commitment to sustainable solutions that protect the Earth’s natural resources
  • FTF proposes an integrated approach focused on each piece of the agricultural value chain—from lab to farm, farm to market, market to table
  • FTF strives to avoid “constructionitis”, but instead in invest in access to markets and the development of regional trade corridors
  • FTF calls for increased investment in public/private partnerships and more effective models for supporting endogenous growth
  • FTF recognizes the importance of investing in and empowering women farmers (contrary to popular belief, the majority of the world’s farmers are not men!)

As I’m sure you can imagine, many advocates are breathing a sigh of relief. The President’s plan reflects many of the demands that have been made by the NGO community for years. But there’s still significant work to be done to keep this initiative on track.

  1. It needs a coordinator.
  2. It needs corresponding bills (the Global Food Security Act) to pass Congress, and
  3. It needs funding approved by the House and Senate appropriations committees.

It also needs and engaged civil society—both domestically and internationally—to make sure it lives up to its promises, keeping the needs of small scale farmers and women front and center, and empowering countries and citizens to lead their own development.

So what’s the bottom line?  While exciting changes are taking shape, we need energetic advocates like you to make sure it’s implemented successfully.  That one day, African countries and communities are equipped with the right tools and sovereignty to respond to their own food needs, and U.S. aid is no longer needed.

In the words of USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, “we must hold each other’s feet to the fire.” So, consider that an invitation!