By Matt Styslinger
The Chicago Council on Global Affairs held its annual Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security in Washington, D.C. Tuesday, May 24th, featuring keynote presentations from Bill Gates, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Rajiv Shah, and the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Tom Vilsack. The event coincided with the release of the 2011 Progress Report on U.S. Leadership in Global Agricultural Development by the Chicago Council’s Global Agricultural Development Initiative.
USAID Administer Rajiv Shah was a keynote speaker at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security on May 24th. (Photo credit: Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network)
The initiative is funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates foundation, and the report gives the U.S. government a grade of B minus for its overall leadership role in global agricultural development. “After several decades of decreased investment in international agriculture, the U.S. has made significant new commitments and its new initiatives are gaining momentum in a short period of time,” said project co-Chairs Catherine Bertini, former Executive Director of the UN World Food Program, and Dan Glickman, Former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “Now the government as a whole must continue to support these efforts if they are to engender material reductions in global poverty,” they said.
For the U.S. government’s efforts to improve national and international institutions that deliver agricultural development assistance, the report gave its highest mark of B plus, citing improvements in USAID’s structure, effectiveness, and coordination with other agencies. A grade of D was given to the effort to improve U.S. policies currently seen as harmful to agricultural development abroad, noting that although lively discussions continue in this area, little action has been delivered.
“I see the B minus as not a final grade,” said the Center for Global Development’s Rethinking U.S. Foreign Assistance Program Director Connie Veillette at the symposium. Veillette believes that USAID’s Feed the Future initiative was likely to show greater success in the coming years. “As we get into the implementation of Feed the Future I expect that many of these benchmarks will change, and we’ll see a lot more progress.”
Shah reminded symposium attendees that this report comes at a time when nearly a billion people worldwide are chronically hungry and food prices have hit an all-time high. “We all know what this means,” said Shah. “In 2008, when this type of food price spike happened, 100 million additional people became hungry.”
Shah says that Feed the Future is making a number of improvements in the quality of food aid programs. More effective aid programs, according to Shah, are giving the world more reason than ever to be hopeful about reducing hunger. “Part of the reason I’m so hopeful springs from recognizing what hasn’t worked in the past, learning from those experiences, and doing things differently as we go forward,” said Shah. “For years, a commodity-based focus to food aid did not do enough to improve nutrition outcomes or build sustainable economic growth in vulnerable communities.”
Matt Styslinger is a research intern with the Nourishing the Planet project.
To read more about the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and Feed the Future see: New Initiative Aims to Influence UN Policy Discussions on Agriculture, Food, Non-Communicable Diseases, An Agricultural Success Story, Women Farmers: An ‘Untapped Solution’ to Global Hunger, Successes in Agriculture and How We Can Succeed Again, On International Women’s Day, Thinking About the Majority of Small-Scale Farmers, and Using Appropriate Technologies to “Feed the Future”.
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