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IRIN Examines Possible Changes To U.S. Food Aid Policy

IRIN examines the Obama administration’s efforts to expand U.S. food aid beyond the distribution of domestically-produced food to countries in need.

“Soon after taking office in early 2009, the Obama administration announced that the U.S., the world’s largest provider of food aid, would focus on agricultural development in the countries it helped support, rather than having them remain recipients” – a focus of the Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative (GHFSI). The decision, writes IRIN, was “informed by the realization that supporting poor communities in the developing world often did not seem to have a long-term effect of enabling them to produce their own food.”

The article details some of the politics surrounding a new farm bill anticipated in 2012 before describing the GHFSI’s plan to provide technical support and assist with investment plans in countries including “Ethiopia, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mozambique, Uganda and Zambia in Africa; Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal and Tajikistan in Asia; Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras and Nicaragua in the Western Hemisphere” in fiscal year 2011, and plans for programs in Ghana, Mali, Rwanda, Senegal and Tanzania, according to the news service.

IRIN goes on to describe a recent study by the U.S. “Government Accountability Office (GAO), an independent congressional watchdog, [which] said the [U.S.] strategy was ‘vulnerable to weaknesses in funding data and risks associated’ with an approach led by a host country.”

The GAO report also noted that “[d]eveloping countries had weak capacity to absorb significant increases in donor funding of agriculture and food security, and to sustain projects on their own over time; shortage of expertise in agriculture and food security at relevant U.S. agencies to strengthen capacity in developing countries; policy differences between the host country, donors and the U.S. on agriculture development and food security.”

Additionally, IRIN notes the complications presented by the U.S. having “10 agencies involved in various food security initiatives … [and the absence of a] single information database with the entire range of programmes and activities.”

The piece includes comments by Ambassador William Garvelink, GHFSI deputy coordinator, who describes additional aims of GHFSI, and Daniel Maxwell, of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, who reflects on the Obama administration’s view of the U.S. role in global food security and examines the concept of USAID leading the GHFSI (5/5).

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