Agriculture and Food Security

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Given scarcity of resources and other challenges, we will also have to be more efficient in how we meet this demand. Ensuring that people have sufficient food requires aligning short-term assistance with a long-term development strategy to help countries feed their own people.

What is Food Security?

Food security means having, at all times, both physical and economic access to sufficient food to meet dietary needs for a productive and healthy life. A family is food secure when its members do not live in hunger or fear of hunger. Food insecurity is often rooted in poverty and has long-term impacts on the ability of families, communities and countries to develop. Prolonged undernourishment stunts growth, slows cognitive development and increases susceptibility to illness.

Today, nearly 800 million people across the globe will go to bed hungry tonight, most of them 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 with less water and land.

In 2009 at the G-8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy, the United States rallied global leaders to refocus on addressing the root causes of global food insecurity through agricultural development and nutrition. This set the foundation for the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future, which is the U.S. contribution to this global effort to combat global hunger, poverty, and malnutrition.

Led by USAID, Feed the Future draws on the strengths of agencies across the U.S. Government and leverages resources and efforts with multilateral organizations, NGOs, the private sector, research institutions and other stakeholders to accelerate inclusive agricultural growth.

Feed the Future is also the primary way the U.S. Government contributes to another global effort on food security: The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition(link is external). Launched in 2012, the New Alliance brings partners together to unlock responsible private investment in African agriculture to drive country-driven approaches to development with input and collaboration from local organizations and leaders to ensure lasting results for smallholder farmers and their families.

In 2016, enactment of the Global Food Security Act solidified the U.S. Government’s continued, bipartisan commitment to reducing hunger, malnutrition and poverty around the world.

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

  • Leading the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative in collaboration with 10 other U.S. Government agencies and departments.
  • 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.

Through efforts like Feed the Future, USAID is advancing global food security by helping to improve the most basic of human conditions: the need that families and individuals have for a reliable source of quality food and sufficient resources to purchase it. This, in turn, supports global stability and prosperity.

Last updated: July 31, 2018

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