Today I have the privilege to participate in a discussion as part of The Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security: Progress to Date and Strategies for Success. The Chicago Council’s efforts have been instrumental in elevating global food security as a U.S. policy priority.  We are grateful to them for the opportunity to reflect on the progress we have made so far and remaining challenges we all face in tackling this issue.

At a time when food prices are reaching all-time highs, drawing millions into poverty and undermining global stability, it is critical that we maintain our focus on establishing long-term agriculture-driven economic development. And that’s just what Feed the Future, the U.S. Government initiative to address global hunger and poverty, is about.

In 2009, President Obama pledged $3.5 billion through 2012 for food security, signaling a new era of U.S. investments in agricultural development and elevating its importance. I am proud to say we are on track to meeting that pledge. We are:

  • Responding to country-driven priorities to maximize impact and sustainability.  We have supported focus countries as they have analyzed the evidence and consulted with stakeholders to determine their own investment priorities and developed solid strategic investment plans.
  • Launching innovative private sector partnerships.  We are partnering with major companies like Pepsico to source  products from farms in focus countries; working with retailers such as Walmart to establish supply chains for developing country crops; and collaborating with millions of smallholder farmers—the ultimate small business—to improve  yields, increase incomes and create markets . In Tanzania, for example, we are facilitating investments along the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor, a public-private partnership that will promote clusters of agribusinesses with major benefits for smallholders and local communities across one-third of mainland Tanzania.
  • Strengthening partnerships with U.S.  universities to address  critical research challenges to food security, including wheat stem rust, a disease that threatens wheat productivity worldwide. We are also supporting long-term partnerships to strengthen African agricultural universities and enable them to train the next  generations of researchers, extension workers and agribusinessmen and women.  

Investing in agricultural development and food security is critical to economic growth. It is also the right thing to do. From my perspective — as an agricultural economist, a civil servant, and as an American — that’s the kind of investment I am proud of.

This post and a number of other posts providing expert commentary on food security were crossposted on Global Food for Thought the official blog of the Global Agricultural Development Initiative.  Be sure to check it out!