Africa: U.S. Global Food Security Program Receives $1 Billion Pledge

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Photo: Lauren Everitt/AllAfrica
Healthcare professionals recommend adding grains, such as millet, to the diets of young children.

Washington — The Obama administration's food security and nutrition initiative Feed the Future has received a $1 billion pledge from U.S. civil society organizations, boosting its efforts to address the root causes of hunger and poverty around the world and forge long-term solutions to chronic food insecurity and undernutrition.

Speaking September 27 in New York, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said InterAction, an alliance of 198 U.S.-based nongovernmental organizations "is pledging more than $1 billion of private, nongovernmental funds over the next three years to improve food security and nutrition worldwide."

She said that World Vision, Heifer International, Catholic Relief Services, Save the Children and ChildFund International together pledged $900 million of the $1 billion sum, which will help countries transform their agricultural sectors to sustainably grow enough food to feed their people.

Nearly 1 billion people worldwide suffer from chronic hunger, and more than 3.5 million children die from undernutrition every year. By 2050, the world's population will exceed 9 billion, and global demand will require a 70 percent increase in food production.

Food security "is now at the top" of the U.S. national and foreign policy agenda "because we understand that it is a humanitarian and moral imperative, but it also directly relates to global security and stability," Clinton said.

The Obama administration began Feed the Future in 2009 with a pledge of $3.5 billion over three years as part of its support for agricultural development worldwide. Clinton said that was followed in 2010 with the 1,000 Days partnership program, devoted to improving nutrition from the critical period between pregnancy though a child's second birthday.

In 2011, Feed the Future focused on supporting women in agriculture because they are involved in every aspect of food production, from planting seeds to weeding fields to harvesting and selling crops, but have access to fewer resources than their male counterparts.

For 2012, the initiative is focusing on the role of civil society organizations in the public and private sectors that have "long-standing relationships in communities and valuable expertise" and are constantly working to "make the world a better place for all of us," she said.

Clinton said the U.S. government's strategy is to ultimately work itself out of the need to provide development assistance by empowering countries, farmers and local businesses with the tools to run their own agricultural programs and set their own priorities.

But she said the United States plans to continue to use its resources to help in global emergencies, especially those that are too much for a country to respond to on its own, such as the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

NEW ALLIANCE FOOD PROGRAM EXPANDING IN AFRICA

In New York on September 26, a senior Obama administration official announced that the Group of Eight (G8) New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition program launched in May is expanding from its original partnership with Ethiopia, Tanzania and Ghana to include Mozambique, Cote d'Ivoire and Burkina Faso.

The $4 billion program, funded by more than 60 companies from Africa and around the world, is creating businesses in seeds, fertilizer, small-scale irrigation and food marketing in local African communities in a manner designed to reach small-scale farmers.

"At the end of the day, this effort is designed to move 50 million people out of poverty and hunger and reduce malnutrition amongst probably more than 15 million children who suffer from chronic stunting," the official said.

The official said that companies that made commitments in May are now reporting on their progress and noted that DuPont had doubled its seed production capacity in only four months, allowing it to provide 32,000 small-scale farmers with improved seeds that will more than triple their production and productivity.

To be part of the alliance, countries need to increase their domestic spending on agriculture to fight hunger; restrict export bans and reduce or eliminate excise taxes on foreign direct investment in the agriculture sector; and enact policy reforms to improve land titling, particularly to allow access for women and families.

Four months into the program, "Ghana, Tanzania and Ethiopia are all, frankly, ahead of their timelines and schedules in implementing these reforms. We're seeing that that is, in fact, unlocking real progress," the official said.

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