USAID Administrator Samantha Power on the Agriculture Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM for Climate)

Speeches Shim

Saturday, November 6, 2021

As Prepared for Delivery November 6, 2021

ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Secretary Vilsack, Senator Casey, UAE Minister of Climate Change and Environment, Almheiri Elizabeth Cousens, UN Foundation President. It is an honor to be here with all of you today.

Just last week, the Agency I have the privilege of running, USAID, celebrated its 60th anniversary, after its founding by President Kennedy. Today, we still live by a goal he articulated in 1961: “that all nations, all people, all inhabitants of this planet have all the food that they need; all the food that they deserve as human beings.”

Yet after decades of struggle in the fight against hunger, we now have a new enemy. All around the world, we have already seen climate change posing a dire threat to food security. It is causing more heat, droughts, and flooding, and these extreme weather conditions make it harder to do the basic activities that have sustained human life for millennia: grow food, fish, raise livestock.

And as is the case with so many aspects of the climate crisis, those least to blame are suffering the harshest consequences. Two-thirds of the world’s rural poor depend on agriculture for food and livelihoods—and wealthy nations like the United States, responsible for much of the carbon pollution currently in our atmosphere, bear a special responsibility to these communities that are being most directly harmed.

In support of AIM for Climate, USAID will undertake a number of efforts to dramatically increase research and innovation to develop cutting-edge climate-smart agriculture that is effective and sustainable, so that families and communities, particularly those on the front lines of the climate crisis, are better equipped to face a rapidly changing climate.

As part of our commitment, this week we announced an investment of at least $215 million in CGIAR, the world’s largest public sector agricultural research partnership. And now, for the first time in its storied, fifty-year history, the entire CGIAR network—8,000 scientists and 15 world-class research centers all around the world—will focus on one core mission: transforming food, land, and water systems to address the climate crisis. USAID’s investment will support scientists and researchers at CGIAR—19 of whom have been awarded the World Food Prize since its founding—to make it possible for people in the developing world to feed themselves and their families in ever more harsh conditions, by creating resilient new crop varieties and seeds, like drought-tolerant maize, that can weather extreme conditions.

We will also continue to partner with the research institutions that hold the potential for the next breakthrough technologies, including Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Land Grant Universities, and research institutions in low-and-middle income countries through our Feed the Future Innovation Labs. These labs, like CGIAR, use science and technology to address some of the most urgent challenges posed by the climate crisis to agriculture and food security. They are also cost-effective: for every $1 invested in climate-smart agricultural technologies through these labs, smallholder farmers have gained $4 in benefits.

And today, I am pleased to announce that the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Current and Emerging Threats to Crops is being awarded to Pennsylvania State University. The lab at Penn State will lead efforts to prevent and forecast pests, diseases, and weeds that harm crops like peanuts, cassava, and cowpea, which are vital to food security. Pests and diseases can destroy food production and livelihoods for millions of people, and we are partnering with Penn State because of its researchers’ expertise in pest management, its global networks, and its proven approach to tackling pests and diseases that are exacerbated by climate change. It is wonderful to have Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey here to celebrate this collaboration. Senator Casey has been a steadfast supporter of U.S. leadership in the fight against food insecurity and malnutrition. And as a leading sponsor of the Global Food Security Act, Senator Casey has equipped USAID with the tools and resources we need to reach millions around the world.

For all I’ve said about technology and innovation, at its heart, what we are trying to achieve with AIM for Climate is straightforward. We want to prevent people from going hungry. We know that no one entity alone can tackle the threats to food security posed by climate change. But, as President Biden said when he announced AIM for Climate earlier this week: “there’s virtually nothing we’re unable to do, particularly when we do it together.”

That is why we are partnering with developing countries, with smallholder farmers and businesses, with universities and researchers at home and abroad, with Congress and with our counterparts in the US government—we must build a broad coalition to develop climate-smart solutions to end malnutrition and hunger.

As the pioneer of the Green Revolution, Norman Borlaug said when someone once mentioned to him a region’s “potential” in producing food: “Yes, but no one eats potential.” What they eat is food, so we need to bring innovation to bear as climate change puts this basic necessity more at risk.

Thank you.

Last updated: November 06, 2021

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