Feeding the Future, Today

July 27, 2012 By Nicholas Rogacki

From Guatemala to Ghana, Kenya to Tanzania, new food security projects are taking center stage around the world.  Designed to raise yields, educate farmers, expand irrigation, and improve nutrition, these projects have more than just agriculture in common; they are all the result of the Feed the Future initiative.

Feed the Future is the product of a three year, $3.5 billion pledge by President Obama following the 2009 G-8 Summit.  The intent has been to address global food insecurity using a country-driven approach aimed at creating sustainable agricultural development.  Thus far that strategy has built on efforts begun under the Bush Administration and proven to be an effective way of combating the crippling effects of global hunger and its ability to undermine economic growth.

Tanzania is already demonstrating real results from U.S. investments.  Last month’s Global Economic Statecraft day highlighted Uwawakuda, a collaborative farmers association whose membership is close to 1,000 and comprised of nearly fifty percent women.  The group, with training and support from USAID, has expanded irrigation and cut production costs while more than tripling yields, all in the course of three years.  In Kenya, USAID partnerships with Vodafone and TechnoServe are set to expand mobile money transfer systems to improve farmer’s access to market prices, credit, and transaction management.

New projects in Malawi and Guatemala were just announced as well, underscoring the global value and appeal of Feed the Future.  Guatemala, which currently has the highest chronic malnutrition rate in Latin America and the fourth highest worldwide, is the target of a $32 million USAID cooperative agreement designed to improve access to health services and prevent malnutrition in infants.  Meanwhile the U.S. African Development Program has identified the dairy sector in Malawi as having the potential for substantive increases in production and exports, and has subsequently announced a million dollar investment expected to generate over $3.5 million in new economic activity.

With over one billion hungry worldwide and 3.5 million nutrition related deaths among children less than five years old per year, these food security programs are addressing issues a growingly interconnected world cannot ignore.  As USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah has noted, “Undernutrition robs the developing world of critical human capital and capacity, and undermines other development investments in health, education and economic growth.”  As the United States continues to work toward a full economic recovery, it cannot afford to ignore the subversive effect hunger has on the global economy, security, and sustainable development worldwide.