USAID Administrator Outlines Feed The Future Initiative At World Food Prize Symposium

USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah on Friday in Iowa “described the Obama administration’s international agricultural development effort, Feed the Future, as a flagship effort for” his agency and “a key plank in the administration’s global development strategy, but said it can’t succeed without more support,” CongressDaily reports (Hagstrom, 10/18).

“Shah spoke in Des Moines as part of the World Food Prize events,” according to the Des Moines Register. He said Feed the Future projects could serve as a model for a sustainable, new green revolution (Brasher, 10/16).

“Shah said in his speech that the U.S. government is focused on agricultural development in the Third World in a way that has not been seen since USAID pushed the Green Revolution in India in the 1960s,” CongressDaily notes. Through the course of the speech, he highlighted USAID’s actions to prioritize agricultural development, including the hiring of 40 Foreign Service officers who specialize in agriculture. Now the total number of USAID employees working on agriculture is 300, he said (10/18).

He also said that $250 million in U.S. food aid expenditures this year has been allocated to purchase food in developing countries rather than from U.S. farmers, a second CongressDaily article reports. “Shah noted that U.S. purchases of foreign food aid amounted to ‘nothing a few years ago.’ Shah did not say in what countries the U.S. government has bought food for the aid, but he said the administration had been careful about where it bought the food because its wants ‘to create markets for vulnerable farmers'” (10/15).

According to a USAID transcript from the symposium, Shah said, “Now, we should be honest about the stakes involved. For USAID, our agricultural investments are a flagship effort representing a new way of doing business – strategic, data-driven, and results-oriented. Our credibility – and my credibility as administrator – rests on this effort” (10/15).  

“Noting that some donors to the international agricultural development effort have pulled back on their commitments, he urged the development advocates and agribusiness leaders at the symposium to become ‘loud, persuasive, vocal advocates’ to build a constituency in the United States and abroad for agricultural development,” CongressDaily writes. Shah told CongressDaily “that he recognizes the ‘tough budget environment,’ but the program is achieving results and Congress should recognize that high commodity prices and international concern have made this ‘a unique point in time’ for agricultural development” (10/18).

Also in the speech, Shah described one of Feed the Future’s projects in Tanzania. “The project will focus on regions in the middle of the country that have the highest potential for growth and encompass major road and rail systems and electrical transmission. The State Department is working to liberalize the seed sector and government policies that limit lending to farmers. The World Bank is providing a regional rice research center. Private companies also are playing a part: Food giant Unilever is looking to source products there, while General Mills will provide technical assistance to millers. Local seed suppliers and companies that transport crops also will be involved,” the Des Moines Register’s “Green Fields: Agriculture and Alternative Energy” blog writes (Brasher, 10/15).

The new Feed the Future Private Investment Center, which Shah announced in his speech, is based on some of the best practices from Tanzania. Shah said it is a “public-private partnership hub that will ensure we see this same level of private sector engagement in all 20 Feed the Future pilot countries,” according to the transcript. “This hub will expand on existing relationships with multinationals and local businesses, and facilitate engagement with new private sector partners,” he said (10/15).

In related news, East African Business Week reports that “smallholder farmers in the East African region are still grappling with the opportunities and challenges of finding lasting solutions to hunger and malnutrition. … [And] many East Africans cannot afford to buy a complete meal a day, a situation that is reflected throughout the continent.”

The article reports on a event in Uganda highlighting a recent report about hunger in the developing world. It also highlights data about farming and hunger in Uganda. “Generally the [East Africa] region recorded a bumper harvest this year although household incomes have not improved significantly because of other factors like lack of value addition, poor storage and transportation,” the publication writes (Olanyo, 10/19).

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