Rajiv Shah in Africa

June 15, 2010 By Eric Peckham

 width=Today, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah is in Senegal for a conference of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS). He is reviewing agricultural development efforts in Western Africa and overseeing the allocation of funds from the President’s $3.5 billion Feed The Future initiative for combating global hunger and improving food security. Feed The Future­ – along with other development programs in the International Affairs Budget – serves as humanitarian assistance to the world’s poorest communities, benefiting not only local economies, but America’s as well. As a tool of public diplomacy, these agricultural programs create vital friendships abroad with people in developing countries. Thanks to our initial outreach, communities will be able to reinvest their earnings into the local economy and improve living standards.

In the West African country of Mali, for example, USAID has worked with over 2,000 shallot farmers, teaching them better ways to grow and store crops and providing them with the resources to acquire basic agricultural technology to improve their efficiency. The net result has been a 27% improvement in shallot production and a jump in average annual revenue from $10,700 per hectare to $21,300 per hectare. In a poor nation with one of the world’s highest infant mortality rates and over one-third of the population living below the poverty line, America’s investment allows many more rural farmers to feed their families and contribute to their local economy.

A simple cost-benefit analysis shows agricultural development programs are good for both the local communities and America. Recipients are able to grow their own food and provide for their families without assistance. Through Feed The Future, we are truly helping people help themselves and improving the United States standing in the in the world. And as countries like Mali develop, they become trading partners and new markets for American businesses, bringing revenue back into our domestic economy.

Combating hunger and poverty in Africa is also an investment in our national security. Tensions build in communities when there is not enough food to go around, and this has the potential—as demonstrated in Somalia and Sudan—to unfold into violent conflicts. Such an environment also serves as a rich breeding ground for terrorist groups who seek to harm the United States.