Agriculture and Food Security

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Almost 1 billion people across the globe will go to bed hungry tonight, 200 million of them children. Most of those people are smallholder farmers who depend on agriculture to make a living and feed their families. Despite an explosion in the growth of urban slums over the last decade, nearly 75 percent of poor people in developing countries live in rural areas. That’s why growth in the agriculture sector has been found, on average, to be at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as growth in other sectors.

Investing in these smallholder farmers—most of whom are women—is more important than ever. A spike in world food prices in 2008 hurt economies across the world and led to destabilizing riots in over 30 countries. In order to feed a population expected to grow to 9 billion people by 2050, the world will have to double its current food production, all while climate change increases droughts and leads to less predictable rains.

In 2009 at the G-8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy, President Obama called on global leaders to reverse a decades-long decline in investment in agriculture and to strengthen global efforts to reduce poverty, hunger and undernutrition. As a result, countries committed more than $22 billion in investments in agricultural development and food security. The president also launched Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global food security initiative, designed to transform agriculture in 19 focus countries so they can grow enough to feed their own people.

In 2012 at the Camp David G-8 Summit, President Obama again led global food security efforts by launching the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, a partnership designed to increase private sector investment in African agriculture. Thanks to the New Alliance, more than 70 global and local companies have committed to invest over $3.75 billion on the continent—many for the first time.

As part of these efforts, USAID is scaling up a comprehensive approach to fighting hunger and strengthening food security by:

  • Investing in cutting-edge scientific and technological agricultural research to develop stronger seeds and greener fertilizers so farmers can grow more.
  • Developing agricultural markets, expanding trade and using mobile phones to provide real-time prices, so farmers can sell what they grow at a profit.
  • Helping farmers access capital, so they can expand their farms and buy equipment.
  • Offering extension services, so farmers can learn the best techniques to grow and store their crops.
  • Developing sustainable agriculture strategies, so countries can feed their populations without depleting their natural resources.
  • Providing emergency food assistance, so vulnerable populations and malnourished can survive and quickly bounce back in times of crisis.

As a result of these efforts, we will:

  • Reduce the prevalence of poverty and the prevalence of stunted children under five years of age by 20 percent in the areas where we work over five years;
  • Lift 50 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa out of poverty by 2022—more than one out of every eight people who currently live in poverty in the region.

Learn more about our agriculture and food security efforts at FeedtheFuture.gov.

Last updated: April 09, 2014

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