Remarks by USAID Administrator Dr. Raj Shah on the World Food Prize Announcement

Tuesday, June 21, 2011
Subject 
World Food Prize Announcement

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: Thank you. It is – it's always so exciting to hear Ken speak and tell this rich history that – of the Green Revolution that did, in fact, save hundreds of millions of lives and remains one of the proudest global achievements we have ever accomplished in terms of just improving the condition of the world.

And it's even more exciting that we have two outstanding award winners this year that absolutely personify a main lesson that I learned from Dr. Borlaug, which was as much as the scientists need to work at it and as much as we need support from so many agricultural experts, at the end of the day, political leadership at the highest levels makes the biggest difference in terms of whether we can end hunger or whether we will continue down the path we've been continuing down of, recently, actual increases in the number of people who go to bed hungry every night.

In honoring President Lula and President Kufuor, we're also honoring leaders who have had the courage to do things very differently. When President Lula introduced Zero Hunger, the first thing so many experts around the world said is that that's not achievable and it can't be done. When President Kufuor talked about a very specific focused agricultural development strategy that brought together commercial partners and private companies with the private sector, people initially questioned the role of the government in agriculture and the role of private companies in food security. But in both cases, they demonstrated that by thinking differently and bringing broader partnerships into the solution set, you can achieve great, great outcomes.

This week is a very important week for the United States Government in both honoring Presidents Kufuor and Lula and in taking forward the United States Feed the Future Initiative, an interagency initiative led by Secretary Clinton, which includes all parts of the U.S. Government that have come together to reassert our leadership on food security and global hunger in a way that we hope lives up to the legacy and the demands of Dr. Norman Borlaug.

During this week, we will have a consultation to get input and guidance from research institutions and universities from across this country, which will build on an e-consultation we've already done to hear, and we've had more than 2,000 comments come in on how we should prioritize our investments in agricultural research, science, and technology for the purpose of alleviating hunger and global poverty.

Last year, we stood here and announced the Norman Borlaug Research Initiative, and I'm proud to say that in the intervening year we've had some real successes. My favorite one is the one I think Dr. Borlaug would take great pride in, is a partnership between USAID and USDA and the Agricultural Research Service to reinvest in wheat rust, as that disease is again threatening global food production and global stocks at a time when there's real risk and some scarcity.

In the consultation that'll take place this week, we will design a new set of strategic priorities likely to focus on climate resistant cereals, on adapted and livestock research and on human nutrition to address some of the core issues underlying malnutrition in children and child stunting. In addition, this year we're also launching the Borlaug Leadership Initiative. We've heard from so many of you in this room that we need to return to our roots in terms of providing direct investments and fellowship opportunities for students in Africa and Asia and Latin America and in the United States to have the chance to learn about food security, develop scientific expertise, travel around the world, and build institution relationships.

Through this coming week, we will consult with U.S. university partners and with more than 60 partnering research institutions around the world and design and launch a program that we believe will reach 2,300 people with scientific and training opportunities, including several hundred new Feed the Future fellows who will be able to carry on the long tradition we've had of investing in our land grant institutions and partnering U.S. land grant institutions with similar institutions around the world for the purpose of ending hunger and extreme poverty.

And I come back and close with just a recognition of where we started. If Dr. Borlaug taught us that it was real political leadership that was required to solve this problem, and Presidents Kufuor and Presidents Lula highlighted examples of success and what could be done with dramatic leadership from heads of state, in this Administration we are honored to have two members of the Cabinet, Secretary Vilsack and Secretary Clinton, who have been amazing leaders on this issue. I don't think there's been any other U.S. administration that's had such breadth and depth and quality of political leadership on food security.

And I will now turn it over to Secretary Vilsack, who brought me into this Administration to work on this issue, who continues to reshape the excellent work taking place at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, not just in the area of research and training, but on every single issue, ranging from policy to trade to investments abroad so that we can share one of the unique areas of expertise we have – agriculture, agricultural technology, and agricultural productivity with our colleagues around the world, and we can actually envision a world where we don't have a billion people going to bed hungry every night.

Secretary Vilsack. (Applause.)

(Secretary Tom Vilsack delivers remarks.)

ADMINISTRATOR SHAH: Well, hello again. (Laughter.) And if Secretary Vilsack had a challenging task, I think it goes without saying that standing in for Secretary Clinton is a challenge I'm not even going to try to pursue here. But I did want to share just a few thoughts because Secretary Clinton, perhaps unique among Secretaries of State, has been very deeply, specifically, and personally involved in this whole-of-government effort. And she has felt from the beginning that food security is about our national security, and that we cannot have peace and stability when people don't have access to food and when kids go to bed hungry every night.

And so I wanted to share with you just a few of her reflections as we've had a chance to work together on designing this program and on trying to help this effort succeed, and on a few of her specific thoughts about things we should all collectively take away from the examples of Presidents Lula and Kufour.

The first thought I wanted to share is just recently, Secretary Clinton was in Tanzania. And she announced herself, I think under a shady tree, with women's farmers' groups, surrounded by local women farmers, our commitment to the Government of Tanzania, which is a $70 million commitment over the next two years. It will continue for many years into the future. It is focused on investing in agricultural development in the southern agricultural growth corridor there. And something that is very true to the Secretary's heart is the need for us all to work in a coordinated and aligned way.

And over the past several years, a number of partners – including USAID and USDA but also the Millennium Challenge Corporation, that has a compact with the Government of Tanzania, and so many other international partners like the African Development Bank and the World Bank – are all working against the same specific strategy – to build out road infrastructure, to get seeds and fertilizer to farmers, to help change the policy environment so farmers can produce more food and sell it at adequate prices and, importantly, to focus on gender. And she did that trip, she did that visit, to make the case that the women farmers she was with when she made this announcement just a week ago don't represent the problem or the challenge with agriculture. They represent the solution. And she very much wanted to make that point.

In fact, as the United States Government lives up to – and we are living up to the $3.5 billion commitment that President Obama made at the L'Aquila summit. And we are living up to our efforts to get the other 21 countries that made commitments to continue to invest their $18.5 billion in this global effort. As we do that, we've all made gender and the impact on women the absolute top priority of this overall effort, as I think you all would expect for an effort led by Secretary Clinton.

Secretary Clinton also wanted to highlight that both President Kufour and President Lula came into leadership because of their own talents and their own growth. And she was prepared to describe their personal journeys, which she, of course, can do in a way that I could not. But what I took away from her comments were that people who have persistence and commitment and a desire to make the world place – a better place, even if they're not born into a leadership role or born into a situation of great wealth, can work very hard and successfully take the reins and lead our – their countries to do great things. And we've heard a lot about some of the specific great things that have been done.

One program in particular I know the Secretary wanted to highlight was the role of the McGovern-Dole School Feeding Program that has been very active in Ghana and other countries as well. And that's a great example of how we can work – in this case, that's a program run by USDA – how we can work together in a spirit of real partnership to help make sure that every child who goes to school has access to food, has access to nutrition, and has an opportunity to really learn because they're not sitting there hungry and deprived. And I know, because Senator McGovern is here with us today, that we are always in your debt. And Secretary Clinton in particular wanted to highlight the great political leadership that it took, that the World Food Prize has previously honored, to create that program and to continue to sustain it during what are very difficult budget times here in Washington and here in the United States.

And finally, the Secretary was just at the African Union. And I believe it was the first time a U.S. Secretary of State addressed the full African Union. And she wanted to note that President Kufour, during his presidency, served as chairman of the African Union and used that position to ask and demand that other leaders, other heads of state from around the continent, follow the lead of investing in their people, of prioritizing agriculture, of making the tough policy decisions that allow international partners like the United States and the multilateral institutions to work in a spirit of real partnership that drives results. And I know that she wanted to highlight that that institution and the role of African leadership more broadly is absolutely critical to our ability to be successful at ending hunger and extreme poverty around the world.

And finally, there are two quotes, one that is Secretary Clintons quote that is my favorite, which she says regularly, that we know how to address hunger around the world and how to solve it. It is not a question of whether we know how to do it; it is a question of whether we will choose to get it done.

And she wanted to quote Dr. Borlaug, who closed – who – which is a point that takes us back to Secretary Vilsack's closing, and the quote is that, “Food is the moral right of all who are born into this world.” And she believes that from a policy perspective, but she also believes that in a deeply and fundamentally personal way.

And it's why we're fortunate to have a Secretary of State who goes into rural Tanzania, sits under a shady tree, and listens to women farmers as they tell their stories, and then comes back and asks us to do more, to do it in a spirit of service, and to get real results on behalf of the people we're trying to serve, because she knows it's possible to achieve this moral right if we put our minds to it.

So I wish she could have been here today. She's been here each of the past two years. But she was so excited to be able to part of this event and continues to offer her great leadership to make sure that the work of everyone in this room gets the adequate support and visibility and encouragement that it greatly deserves.

Thank you. (Applause.)

Ben Franklin Room at the U.S. Department of State, Washington, DC

Last updated: January 23, 2014

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