documentBy Kathryn Mcconnell
Washington — During 2012, the United States bolstered its commitment to agriculture and economic growth around the world with new systems that monitor the effectiveness of assistance efforts, new agreements with public and private sector partners and more resources for agricultural research.
The United States also integrated its short-term humanitarian assistance with its longer-term development aid with the aim of building resilience in communities vulnerable to recurrent crises.
Progress began early in the year. In February, the U.S. Feed the Future program, the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute and the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative of Oxford University launched a Women's Empowerment in Agriculture Index.
The index is the first tool to measure how much women are included in agriculture production, control how family income is used and are leaders in their communities. It is used to evaluate how Feed the Future programs support women's role in reducing hunger and advancing prosperity.
President Obama established Feed the Future in 2009 following a pledge by leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized nations to invest more in country-driven efforts to form long-term solutions to chronic food insecurity and malnutrition.
February also saw the introduction of a system to record how U.S. agencies perform against key Feed the Future indicators, the first time multiple agencies have reported to a common food-security monitoring system. In October, Feed the Future released its evaluations of information captured from May 2009 through May 2012 and concluded: "By improving the way we do development, Feed the Future is already making a difference." The system helps planners make decisions about future programming and spending.
On the eve of the 2012 G8 Summit in May, President Obama announced that the group's leaders, African leaders and leaders of nearly 50 companies agreed to commit new resources to a New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition to lift 50 million people out of poverty by 2022 through inclusive and sustained agricultural growth. The private sector partners promised collectively to invest $3 billion in Africa's agriculture sector, while African leaders promised to adopt policies to improve investment opportunities and to drive their countries' food-security plans.
Efforts to advance global food security came in other forms. In September, the U.S. Peace Corps said it will increase to 1,000 the number of its volunteers working with U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) offices around the world to help communities produce more food and to conserve water.
The Overseas Private Investment Corporation expanded its agriculture investment portfolio to nearly $400 million, up from less than $50 million in 2011. The portfolio helps fund startup costs for businesses that show promise of increasing crop yields. And Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced that an alliance of nearly 200 U.S.-based civil society groups called InterAction pledged more than $1 billion over three years to improve agriculture production and nutrition worldwide.
In October, the United States pledged up to $475 million more for the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program, a multilateral effort to implement pledges made in 2009 by leaders of the world's 20 largest economies.
The following month, USAID partnered with seven leading U.S. and international universities to develop innovative solutions to agricultural and other development challenges. Meanwhile, Feed the Future invited manufacturers, research institutes and entrepreneurs to submit grants ideas for how farmers can use a new or existing technology to quickly and sustainably increase food production.
By the end of November, the United States had pledged $3.8 billion to promote a lasting solution to hunger through agricultural growth, improved nutrition and better governance, surpassing the president's 2009 pledge of $3.5 billion. It said that it more than doubled the amount of its research investments in food security from $50 million in 2008 to $120 million in 2011.
The year ended with USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah calling for more coordination among governments and research institutes to help farmers access technologies that can boost food production and make them available at affordable prices.
More on the Women's Empowerment in Agriculture Index (PDF, 2MB) is available on the Feed the Future website. More about the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program is available on the group's website.