Remarks by USAID Deputy Administrator Donald K. Steinberg to the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa

Tuesday, March 1, 2011
Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa

 [As prepared for delivery]

It's an honor to be here today and thanks to the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa for inviting me. You've long been a thought leader and a powerful voice in the fight for global security.

I am now just a little into my fourth month as Deputy Administrator at USAID, and I have to say, it's an exciting time to be both at USAID and working in development. Coming off the heels of the first-ever Presidential Policy Directive on Development and followed by the QDDR, this administration, the President, and the Secretary of State have made three points.

First, they said that the field of development matters. It matters because it is in America's interest, from a national security perspective as it relates to human trafficking, refugees, counter-terrorism, and preventing sending in troops on the ground; it matters because it is in our economic interests, creating opportunities for jobs and exports; and it matters because it's essential to reinforcing our collective values and promoting a world that is peaceful, prosperous, democratic and respectful of human rights and human dignity.

Second, they announced that USAID would lead this effort and be re-empowered as a global development. And in response to that call, USAID is building a modern development enterprise to better generate prosperity and security for the developing world. The agency, under Administrator Shah's leadership, is hiring staff through our DLI program; restoring the agency's policy planning and budget capability, and creating new systems of monitoring and evaluation. The agency has also been entrusted with top development initiatives, including Feed the Future.

Third, they said that USAID, and the US Government as a whole, needs to adopt a new development model. We need to apply our limited resources with the depth and scale necessary to ensure game-changing impact and sustainability. We need to work in greater partnerships with the private sector, foreign governments, development NGOs; we need to incorporate science and technology into all that we do, and we need to take a more active role in ensuring our resources are producing the right results. Most importantly, they said that we cannot be all things to all people and need to focus and prioritize our efforts. This is not “Lake Woebegone” anymore where all children are above average.

As you all know, in 2009, President Obama launched the Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative – now called “Feed the Future” - and pledged at least $3.5 billion for agricultural development and food security between 2010 and 2012. This pledge, in turn, helped leverage more than $18.5 billion from other donors.

This initiative renews our commitment to invest in combating the root causes of chronic hunger and poverty. In fact, the United States is more focused today on global food security than at any other time since the earliest days of the Green Revolution.

The Feed the Future strategy recognizes that food security is not just about food, but it is also closely linked to economic security, environmental security, and human security.

It recognizes that acute hunger threatens the stability of governments, societies and borders around the world. The FAO has warned, for example, that at least 11 countries – from Mozambique, Mali and Uganda to Tajikistan, Honduras and Guatemala – are extremely vulnerable to instability because of high and volatile food prices

It also recognizes that sustainable agriculture acts as a common engine for economic growth, energy and climate security, poverty reduction, improved nutrition, and human opportunity.

The Feed the Future Initiative is driven by five guiding principles.

  • First, we invest in country-owned plans that support results-based programs and partnerships. Our cooperation assistance is tailored to the needs of individual countries through consultative processes and plans developed and led by country governments. For example, in Tanzania, we are aligning our Feed the Future work with the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor, joining President Kikwete and eight major companies in the launch of the investment program at Davos this year.
  • Second, we are focused on mobilizing and aligning the resources of our diverse partners and stakeholders – including the private sector, civil society, and particularly, women, as planners, implementers and beneficiaries. We recognize that no one entity has a monopoly on good ideas, resources, ground truth, or commitment. For example, our Collaborative Research Support Programs are harnessing the unique capability and contributions of U.S. land-grant universities.
  • Third, we want to ensure we support a comprehensive approach that accelerates inclusive agricultural-led growth, addresses the entire value chain and improves nutrition, while also bridging humanitarian relief and sustainable development efforts. We are proud that since World War II, the U.S. food aid has directly reached some three billion people in 150 countries.
  • Fourth, we seek to leverage the benefits of multilateral institutions so that priorities and approaches are aligned, investments are coordinated, and financial and technical assistance gaps are filled. We are continuing to push for international support or the Global Security Food Trust Fund at the World Bank, which has created an avenue to broaden global participation in food security efforts by donors and recipients, and has recently announced a private sector window. Similarly, we have been proud to support the WFP's Purchase for Progress initiative, contributing $20 million to directly increase incomes of nearly half-a-million smallholder farmers.
  • Finally, we will deliver on sustained and accountable commitments. We are phasing-in these investments in a responsible manner to ensure the best possible returns; and we are using benchmarks and targets to measure progress toward shared goals and learn while doing. We will also use these metrics to hold ourselves and other stakeholders publicly accountable.

These principles are reflected in our choices of the preliminary set of focus countries, which are chosen on the basis of need, opportunities for partnership, the potential for agricultural-led growth, regional synergies and resource availability. We have made significant advances, and I would like to take this opportunity to highlight some of our progress.

As of last December, with the release of the QDDR, it was agreed that USAID would house the Global Food Security Coordination effort, accountable for Feed the Future leadership and strategy, resource allocations, donor coordination, coordination with other U.S. government agencies, including State, Agriculture, MCC, and Peace Corps, and engagement with other development partners (Congress, civil society, the private sector and other stakeholders).

The new Bureau of Food Security has been established, complete with 50 new agriculture Foreign Service positions and other detailees who are already driving our food security efforts.

We have completed food security implementation plans for all Feed the Future potential focus countries, which describe foundational activities for the first year.

In our effort to encourage transparency, the approved plans are available publicly on the Feed the Future website, as are the list of indicators that we will use to measure our efforts. Last week, the multi-year strategies for Bangladesh, Tanzania, Rwanda, Ghana, and Senegal were approved.

We have designed a comprehensive set of indicators to capture the results and impacts of Feed the Future investments which will be used by all USG agencies with food security activities.

The Feed the Future Research Strategy was shared with representatives of universities, the private sector, and international research communities at a jointly hosted USAID-USDA meeting at Purdue University this past January.

We are also reaching out to civil society, including through a series of stakeholder webinars focusing on such issues as the 1000 Days movement, gender, and the link between sustainable food security and food assistance.

But this is just the beginning and we've set even more ambitious goals for 2011.

We are working with our focus countries on multi-year strategies to ensure that food security efforts are aligning with the strategic vision of country leadership and with other donors.

We are building new private sector partnership models to promote inclusive market growth and leverage the resources and expertise of both the private sector and civil society toward our common pursuit of food security.

We are creating new procurement mechanisms, using host country systems and working directly with host country NGOs and private sector entities.

We are scaling up nutrition programs. In at least eight of the Feed the Future countries, USAID will introduce a core package of nutritional interventions proven to reduce under-nutrition.

In conclusion, the question everyone is asking is in today's weak global economy and constrained budget environment, can we afford this commitment with a renewed emphasis on global food security? I would ask that question in a different way: can we really afford not to?

Over the past decade, we have seen the consequences of a world whose attention was distracted from the issue of food security.

We saw a Green Revolution largely bypass Africa

We saw famine after famine decimate countries from within.

We saw a global food crisis that pushed millions back into the grips of poverty and hunger.

So let me conclude where I started. Together, let us pledge to build and maintain a lasting constituency – domestically and globally – that prioritizes global food security and shows the world the power of our vigilance. Thank you

Washington, DC

Last updated: October 19, 2017

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