Remarks by Feed the Future Deputy Coordinator for Development Ambassador William J. Garvelink at the 2010 International Food Aid and Development Conference in Kansas City, Missouri

Wednesday, August 4, 2010
2010 International Food Aid and Development Conference (IFADC)

Thank you very much, Brooke, for that kind introduction. Also, thank you Under Secretary Miller, for your words this morning and for continuing to be an essential partner in our united efforts to combat global hunger.

I am very pleased to join you all here today at the International Food Aid and Development Conference. Take a moment, look around you and reflect on the unique gathering of diverse stakeholders who have come together the past three days and who are in this room right now: farmers, shippers, grain and processed commodity vendors, trade associations, private voluntary organizations (PVOs), the United Nations, government employees and representatives, congressional staff and many more. We represent the complexities and scale of the human endeavor in which we are collectively involved. Together we provide the considerable strength and capabilities needed to translate humanitarian concerns of the American people into food aid and development assistance to address the needs of the hungry half a world away.

As Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said, "The question is not whether we can end hunger, it's whether we will."

The theme of this year's conference, "Partnerships for a Better Future," reminds us that this is very much a collective effort toward a future where hunger is no more.

For over 56 years, our collective efforts have enabled the USAID Food for Peace program to feed over three billion of the world's most vulnerable. That is perhaps the largest and longest-running expression of humanity ever seen in the world. While we can look back on this unique American achievement and partnership with pride, we must also look forward and address the challenges facing us in this new century. And there are many.

As just noted by Under Secretary Miller, for the first time ever, the number of people suffering from chronic hunger topped 1 billion this year. The food crises, the global financial crisis, have all contributed to this rise in chronic hunger. But let's be honest: so did years of drift and lack of attention from the global community and from the donor community.

In 1979, agricultural programs made up 18 percent of all OFFICAL DEVELOPMENT assistance. By 2007, that number was reduced to 3.5 percent. In the early '80s, agricultural productivity growth in developing countries topped 3 percent per year. A few years ago that number was below 1 percent, and not nearly enough to keep up with the rate of population growth in precisely the places that were most affected.

The human effects of this neglect are clear, far-reaching, and disturbing. Children chronically undernourished are unable to learn and suffer from a lifetime of lost opportunity because of their nutritional status in the first two years of their life.

But these effects also threaten our own global stability. We've seen time after time - examples of food riots, instability and conflict - as communities fight over scarce productive resources.

We know agricultural development is a springboard for broader economic development and we know food security is the foundation for peace and opportunity, and therefore, our own national security.

In his inaugural address, President Barack Obama pledged that the United States would work alongside people in developing nations to help their farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. We know food security facilitates stable communities and resilient nations. We know agricultural development growth is more effective at reducing poverty than general economic growth. And we know children need nutritious food to learn and grow. President Obama followed up his inaugural address with a promise to commit at least $3.5 billion to food security assistance.

Feed the Future is President Obama's signature initiative on global food security. It renews our commitment to combat chronic hunger and poverty. The strategy for Feed the Future recognizes that food security is not just about food, but it is also closely linked to economic security, environmental security, and human security.

At the G8 Summit in L'Aquila, Italy, in July 2009, the heads of 40 states and international organizations committed to "act with the scale and urgency needed to achieve sustainable global food security" and committed more than $20 billion to do so. Just as importantly, they committed to new ways of doing business by endorsing five principles:

  • Invest in country-owned plans;
  • Strengthen strategic coordination;
  • Ensure a comprehensive approach;
  • Leverage the benefits of multilateral institutions; and
  • Deliver on sustained and accountable commitments

Our L'Aquila partners have committed to invest their $20 billion in pledges in country-led, evidence-based strategies, giving us an unequaled opportunity to collectively contribute to increasing agricultural growth, raising incomes, improving nutrition, and enhancing food security.

We can amplify these returns by significantly increasing our investments in research and helping to increase the movement of food from areas that have too much to areas that don't have enough. 'Game changing' innovations, like improved crop varieties, can change the lives of millions; and the indirect benefits of our investments - like improved partner capacity and policy environments - can accelerate a process of sustainable development that can benefit millions more.

We know these types of interventions work in Africa. In 2008, in response to the spike in food prices, the United States implemented the Global Food Security Response, which focused mainly on West Africa. We have already achieved some impressive results:

  • In Mali, farmers using new seed varieties increased their yields and sales of commodities like rice, potatoes, and tomatoes by 141 percent.
  • In Liberia, USAID support helped establish the country's first certified rice program in almost 30 years, and in areas where farmers adopted improved management practices, rice yields doubled.
  • Across the region, working with ECOWAS and the West Africa Economic and Monetary Union, USAID helped reduce the cost of using regional trade corridors by 14 percent.
  • In Ghana, USAID support to small farmers and producer groups has generated $31 million in sales of their agriculture products.
  • In Senegal, USAID support generated $22 million in sales for agricultural firms and producer organizations, created 8,000 jobs, and increased small farmers' sales by almost 200 percent.
  • In Nigeria, USAID's support for agribusiness development generated more than 100,000 new jobs and incomes of $66.5 million for producers and agro-processors.

While there are many individual successes such as these, we have still not done enough. We need to identify and scale-up strategic interventions that will dramatically transform agriculture - AND the lives of the millions of people who depend on it. We need to do development differently, and we believe that Feed the Future is doing just that.

This initiative has the support, resources, and expertise of multiple agencies across the United States Government. We are investing the talents of experts from USAID, State Department, The Department of Agriculture, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Office of the US Trade Representative, Treasury, and the Peace Corps in this effort. We are taking a whole-of-government approach, linking it to other donor and multilateral efforts, and following the strategic visions of focus countries.

We will see the future by supporting partner countries develop their own agriculture and food security plans; feed the future through sustainable and strategic investments in agriculture and nutrition; and change the future by increasing incomes for millions of the developing world's most vulnerable people and reducing the number of stunted and underweight children by millions. I encourage you to visit to learn more.

As outlined in L'aquila, the most important principle within the initiative is that we will follow country-led and country-owned plans. Country-led efforts are the only way to amplify the impact of donor projects and reach real scale.

Under the Feed the Future initiative, we are working with countries across Africa, Asia, and Latin America to develop country investment plans. These plans will outline a comprehensive approach to food security - including investments in improving agriculture productivity, improving access to markets, reducing undernutrition, and improving country and community resilience to food security shocks.

By the end of 2010, six FTF FOCUS COUNTRIES WILL HAVE COMPLETED THEIR country investment plans. These plans will represent countries with a total population of almost 250 million people, and these must serve as the basis for our engagement.

These plans and the political leadership they demand show the signs of strength that we are looking for: clear investment priorities. Countries are showing that they pick specific breadbaskets, specific areas within a country and specific crop value chains and say that those are the investment priorities everybody should organize themselves around.

But we all know that it's not just about increased investment. It's about the quality and the focus of how those resources are spent, which brings me to the second principle agreed to at L'Aqulia: taking a comprehensive approach to food security across the whole value chain.

That comprehensive approach starts with a larger but also more targeted research agenda. New programs will focus on staple commodities - crops, livestock and aquaculture, with an emaphasis on productivity gains through drought tolerance, nutrient use efficiency, and pest and disease resistance. In addition, we will tackle the challenge of transforming regional production systems, such as the East African highlands or South Asian cereal-based systems, integrating productivity gains with natural resources and market development. Finally, research will focus on improving nutritional quality, from promoting legume productivity gains to combatting mycotoxin contamination of grains.

And we are asking our land-grant university partners to push the frontiers of productivity through greater focus.

In FTF focus countries we will expand efforts to develop robust country regulatory systems so farmers themselves can choose which technologies are most appropriate and which ones they need to feed their families and lift their communities out of poverty.

But increasing agricultural productivity will only get us so far. An initial USAID survey of draft African agricultural plans shows that developing effective markets is their top priority.

We have considerable capabilities in this area, and we've done a lot of project work to solve this problem. But too often, our investments have resulted in a collection of projects that fail to transform a value chain and leave a lasting, market-oriented agricultural system.

So we will do things differently. First, we're getting feedback from the private sector on our investments, and aligning investments in grain storage, market-information systems and feeder roads with private-sector priorities.

Second, we will refocus efforts to increase agricultural business investments in priority countries. We have a range of tools, including philanthropic and corporate partnerships; the use of the Development Credit Authority (DCA), which provides expanded access to bank-lending; and grant mechanisms that effectively allow us to provide small-and medium-sized firms with equity finance. The DCA alone has unlocked more than $2 billion in private-sector lending, and could be used far more aggressively in agriculture. So we are recruiting local banks and local agricultural businesses to participate.

Third, we are encouraging more creative partnerships with large-scale buyers of food to create the type of durable market demand and supply-chain management that could be the basis for greater investment. Examples range from Wal-Mart's efforts to help Central American farmers improve post-harvest handling to similar programs that link cocoa buyers to small farmers through the West African Sustainable Tree Crop Program.

Fourth, and last but certainly not least, is our effort to use regional investments to actually implement the trade and investment corridors that so many African partners have asked for and called their top integrated, regional agriculture priority.

But we know the people who matter most aren't the financiers or the agriculture ministers or the assistance workers and partners. They are the women farmers, the untapped solution to this problem.

Women produce 60 to 80 percent of the food in countries where we work. And when women control gains in income, they're far more likely to spend those gains improving their families' access to health, education and nutrition.

For years, we've talked about the importance of women. Now it is time to define them as the pivotal force behind achieving a more food-secure world. So, we will start by focusing on those crops such as sweet potatoes and legumes that we know disproportionately enhance women's standing, women's production and women's incomes.

And we're working to ensure that women get equal access to services and support, such as financial services that preferentially target women and extension services delivered by female extension workers. We are also including nutrition interventions that target women and children with high-intensity feeding programs for children in the minus-9-to-24 high-risk age group through our 1000 day campaign.

So how can you help join our effort?

First, your expertise is indispensable. We ask that you align that expertise behind country priorities. If you're from the private sector, tell us what countries and donors can do to reduce constraints on business operations. Explore with us whether our tools to encourage investment would help you make the commitment to invest greater resources in these specific value chains and countries. Let us know what some of the best models or best practices for civil society and the private sector working with country governments are. If you are a PVO, let us know what elements your organizations can do as part of a collaborative partnership to help ensure lasting results.

But by far, the most important thing that everyone in this room can do is hold each others' 'feet to the fire'. Like the President, the Secretary of State, and usaid administrator shah and the staff of all participating partners and like you, I am acutely aware that today a lack of food will lead to the death of approximately 25,000 people. We are gathered here today because we know that doesn't need to happen.

In this regard, the challenges that U.S. food aid must address are increasingly complex and much larger than they have been in the past.

As many of you know, the United States plays a global leadership role as a humanitarian food aid donor. Our priorities are to get food aid quickly to emergencies to save lives, strengthen beneficiary impact and to expand integration of non-emergency food aid with other development programs. We do this with a clear focus on those countries with the most need.

Food aid does not exist within a vacuum. Rather, it addresses needs within an international and local economic and political context, and that context has substantially shifted in recent years. Let me give you a few examples:

Devastating wars and natural disasters have often brought in their wake an emergency food crisis. However, over the last years, we have seen a significant increase in the number of people affected. Take drought, for example. Over the last decade, we have seen large population groups - pastoralists in East Africa, poor farmers in the Sahel, HIV/AIDS-affected populations in southern Africa - whose lives and livelihoods are at severe risk. These groups are increasingly unable to cope with recurring droughts that used to cause major food crises once every ten years, then every five years, and now, possibly as little as every two or three years.

The cumulative effect is that more and more people are becoming chronically vulnerable to major food crises now triggered by relatively small changes in rainfall. What represented a minor dearth of rainfall in the past now may trigger a food crisis.

This is why USAID's Food for Peace continues to focus emergency food aid on preventing famine and saving lives where the need is greatest. For this reason, each year Food for Peace puts considerable effort into prioritizing the countries that receive emergency food aid. This is a difficult task because the situations in each country cannot easily be compared. A number of relevant factors come into play, including overall level and severity of need, as well as the ability of aid organizations to reach those most in need.

With this in mind, Food for Peace is undertaking a series of initiatives to improve the timeliness and appropriateness of emergency food assistance. Let me give you a few examples:

To better link early warning and response to emergencies, Food for Peace developed a new Famine Early Warning System Network (FEWS NET) resource - the Food Assistance Outlook Briefing - which provides warning of food assistance needs six months in the future. These predictions are critical because of the time required to purchase and ship in-kind food aid from the United States.

To react to crises more quickly, Food for Peace is increasing the number of sites in which U.S. food aid is prepositioned abroad, and will have the capability to open additional sites rapidly.

To complement the Title II food aid program, USAID started the Emergency Food Security Program using International Disaster and Famine Assistance funds. This new program, launched in April 2010, supports local and regional procurement, cash transfers, and food vouchers. This program will be used primarily when Title II food aid cannot arrive in time or other forms of assistance, such as cash and vouchers, are more appropriate than Title II food aid due to market conditions.

To ensure the appropriate type of food is available in each situation, Food for Peace is increasing the range of products available under the Title II program. The new products will include emergency bars that can be quickly distributed to displaced populations, and ready-to-use foods developed for supplementary and therapeutic feeding programs. Food for Peace is also working with the Tufts University School of Nutrition and other experts to develop the next generation of food aid commodities.

Food for Peace has also developed an urban food market price watch, which tracks price changes for staple foods in 142 markets in 32 countries. This price information provides advance warning to better target our food aid resources to the most vulnerable.

and Working through FEWS NET, Food for Peace has defined and tested a non-presence-based monitoring strategy, referred to as the "remote monitoring" initiative. This strategy will allow us to be aware of significant changes in food availability and food access that might potentially lead to a food security crisis. Ultimately, a successful remote monitoring initiative may encourage national governments to consider implementing their own low-cost food security early warning systems.

As you know, the problems and issues that U.S. food aid must address are increasingly complex. Food for Peace believes that the area for greatest convergence of our interests is in ensuring what we have long held as a basic principle: that the right food should get to the right people at the right time, while doing no harm.

In closing, let me say that this audience here today has the potential to be the "surge" capacity in all of our efforts to combat global hunger and poverty. The private sector must continue to contribute valuable human capital and technical expertise, technological resources, market access, cutting-edge business practices, and in-country distribution networks. Civil society, including farmer associations, private voluntary organizations, teachers, and other non-state actors, have the trust of their communities and must continue to share their vast experience in communicating change, and disseminating best practices.

As we look ahead, let me assure you that USAID remains committed to supplying food aid and much needed development assistance to vulnerable populations overseas. With you as our partners and the tremendous support of Congress and the American people, we have won many battles in the eradication of worldwide hunger and malnutrition. Our programs have saved millions of lives, averted famines, and helped countries lift themselves out of poverty and dependence. We hope you are as proud of our collective accomplishments as we are. And, we hope you will remain our partner for a better future.

Thank you.

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Last updated: October 17, 2017

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