What’s next in food security?

September 10, 2012 By Zach Silberman

While all eyes were focused on Tampa and Charlotte for the party conventions the last two weeks, action has continued on the food security front.  In May, President Obama announced the implementation of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition that emerged out of the G8 summit at Camp David.  The initiative was set up to end poverty for 50 million people around the world over the next decade through “inclusive and sustained agricultural growth.”  As part of the alliance, the United States launched workshops in Africa last week that are geared towards implementing the initiative’s goal of boosting public-private partnerships through cooperation between the G8 nations, African countries, and the private sector.

When President Obama announced the initiative in May, he emphasized that it was important for Africa to regain its place as a key player in food security.  President Obama said, “Fifty years ago, Africa was an exporter of food.  There is no reason why Africa should not be feeding itself and exporting food again.” A key component of this framework is to align an expansion of public and private agricultural investments to ensure implementation and complement efforts that are already in place to enrich food security and increase economic growth.

According to the U.S. Agency for International Development, kick-off workshops to support implementation of actions outlined in the alliance’s Cooperation Frameworks took place in Ethiopia on August 21, Ghana on August 29, and Tanzania on September 6-7.  The plans are designed to improve food security and nutrition while pushing African partner countries to develop plans and priorities.  The president has argued, this alliance “challenges more nations, more organizations, more companies, more NGOs, challenges individuals — some of the young people who are here — to step up and play a role — because government cannot and should not do this alone.  This has to be all hands on deck.”  The initiative already has widespread support from over 45 multinational and African companies that are investing more than $3 billion to improve irrigation, crop protection, and infrastructure, which will have a positive impact on food security, including USGLC members Monsanto, Cargill, and DuPont.

In the coming year, food security could become a hot-button issue for global development.  While these programs are getting off the ground, countries are running into roadblocks with restrictions on exporting important food products.  Under Secretary of State for Economic, Business, and Agricultural Affairs Robert Hormats wrote recently that agricultural export restrictions should be removed in order to prevent an oncoming food crisis and implored “world leaders to acknowledge that export restrictions undermine the goal of food security.”  With the looming zeroing out of President Obama’s signature Feed the Future program, we’ll be watching the Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition’s work, which could potentially impact greater food security in the region.