UNITED STATES AGENCY FOR INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENT
Office of Press Relations
For Immediate Release
October 21, 2021
October 21, 2021
ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Thank you Secretary Vilsack for multiple references to the great partnership we have between our two agencies.
Linda, a word about you. I think it’s really important what you’re doing there at the White House, just day-in, day-out leadership to keep food security front and center in our foreign policy. You could be doing it for many reasons: because of the scale and complexity of global hunger, or just because we have the ability to make such an impact by coordinating our domestic and our global strategy. And I think Tom and I having these opportunities to come together at events like this, but also for our teams to be working together day-to-day with the backing of the White House is already producing tremendous returns.
We can perhaps do nothing more to lift millions out of extreme poverty and hunger around the world than invest in agriculture. So if that’s the problem that we’re seeking to solve, and it should be, this is the place to do it.
And Secretary Vilsack, I know that you see firsthand everyday, the increasing severity of the challenges faced by families and farms here at home. The flipside though, is you also see the promise that research and innovation hold because we’ve seen those impacts here and we know what they can do to reduce food insecurity worldwide—so it’s great to be with all of you to discuss the Biden-Harris Administration’s vision.
This is just a great opportunity to leverage American ingenuity, private sector investment, and a diverse range of knowledge to strengthen food systems equitably and sustainably, and I should add productively I think, in light of Secretary Vilsack’s emphasis, appropriate emphasis, on being able to do all at once.
USAID’s partnership with USDA is actually as old as our Agency itself, and as we approach our 60th anniversary next month, we are recommitting to the principle that President Kennedy articulated in 1963. As he put it: “the objective that all nations, all people, all inhabitants of this planet have all the food that they need; all the food that they deserve as human beings.” Pretty simple and we’ve got to get there.
Back then, in Kennedy’s day, despite revolutionary changes in farm technology, trade patterns, and economic development, much of the developing world was about to enter its third decade of dire humanitarian need with half of the world’s population undernourished. But the world soon made critical investments in food security, and hundreds of millions of people were actually spared from the misery of hunger and starvation thanks to the roaring success of the so-called Green Revolution.
Unfortunately, that commitment to agricultural investment eventually withered in the face of other priorities, and our focus as a nation, and as an Agency, turned more to providing humanitarian food aid than helping countries grow enough to feed their own populations.
The good news today is that we have a proven model, built over the last decade, to help countries tackle the root causes of global food insecurity and malnutrition.
Since 2010, America’s global hunger and food security initiative, which you all in the audience I’m sure know well, Feed the Future, has worked with businesses, research institutions, NGOs, and of course partner governments around the world to transform food systems globally, lifting an estimated 23.4 million people out of poverty. And today, amidst the changing climate and a devastating global pandemic, we just have to find new ways to build on that effort.
Estimates predict that as a result of COVID-19, 97 million people could be pushed into extreme hunger and as many as 13.6 million more children will suffer from acute malnutrition.
So we have our summons, we have to do more. That is why President Biden has committed this $10 billion to fight hunger and malnutrition and improve food security at home and abroad.
It’s why, today, we’re launching a new, whole-of-government Global Food Security Strategy, which is tailor-made to address today’s interlocking health, climate, inequality, and conflict challenges. And it’s why it’s so important that we bring America’s domestic knowledge and talent to bear in order to end global hunger once and for all.
When these kinds of partnerships happen, they’re game-changing. When the University of Florida developed an app in partnership with Feed the Future, it helped local dairy producers in Nepal formulate more nutritious, less expensive feeding rations that increased their milk production by 20 percent. Today, the Government of Nepal is planning to scale the app as a result of its success.
And in Guatemala, which Secretary Vilsack mentioned, where chronic droughts are routine, Feed the Future and the Inter-American Foundation support a network of over 40 Indigenous and local communities and farmer associations that train local farmers in cutting-edge, sustainable farming techniques. So far, this network, which is called Utz Che’, has protected more than 74,000 hectares of forests and trained more than 750 farmers across the country in collecting native seeds and adopting natural insect repellents and biofertilizers. And this has benefited more than 30,000 Guatemalan families. Investments like these are pivotal to pulling people out of poverty.
According to the World Bank, growth in this sector, the agriculture sector, is two to four times more effective at raising incomes in developing countries than any other sector. Agricultural growth reduces inequality, it empowers women and girls to drive that growth, and it boosts demand for locally produced goods, making food more affordable for everyone.
The benefits, of course, ripple through the American economy as well. Feed the Future investments strengthen and spur new economic links in supply chains. This benefits companies like Keurig and Dr. Pepper which rely on smallholder farmers in Latin America, Africa, and Asia for their coffee, cocoa, soy, and vanilla. By assisting countries to create better business environments through policy reforms and regulatory reforms, Feed the Future creates new investment and trade opportunities for American companies abroad as well. And by lifting communities in developing countries out of poverty and helping fuel the emergence of a global middle class, Feed the Future helps U.S. businesses compete in new markets and increases demand for American goods and services.
Even as the global population continues to grow and the climate crisis threatens more corners of the world each year, it seems each passing day, we still have an opportunity to harness agricultural research and innovation to grow the pipeline of crop varieties that can protect the world’s food supply.
With our $5 billion commitment, as part of this $10 billion, USAID will build on Feed the Future’s decade of progress with a sharper focus on collaboration with all of you: Leading innovators in agriculture and nutrition who can transfer the knowledge needed to boost crop yields and fortify foods with critical nutrients.
Just this week, on Monday, I had the great privilege of visiting Delaware State University to sign the first MOU born out of USAID’s new Minority-Serving Institutions Partnership Initiative. And I will say, Secretary Vilsack, I credit your team, USDA already had its crop of fellows at DSU and I got to chat with them and that has been a tremendous partnership for some time. This initiative will allow us at USAID to tap into the expertise of Historically Black Land Grant Universities—many of whom I think are on this call—where researchers are innovating in water conservation and food safety, and developing new strains of drought-resistant crops that can be cultivated in tropical and subtropical regions. HBCUs and Minority Serving Institutions have so much to offer in the fight to end global hunger—but honestly, we at USAID haven’t done enough to recruit or enlist them.
While it’s a shame it took us a while to engage meaningfully, I am excited to bring their knowledge to bear. Schools like Delaware State, Florida A&M, and Tuskegee University are already contributing to the bodies of scientific knowledge needed to end hunger, and we are eager to benefit from that knowledge in partnering with them in the coming months. This goal—and our shared mission to end global hunger—are within reach, but it’s going to take all of us: donors, development experts, universities, scientists, private companies, and partner countries.
Together, we can form a broad, ambitious coalition and empower millions more people to strengthen food systems and end hunger in their own communities. It can bring us to a 20 percent reduction in poverty and stunting in Feed the Future target countries over the next five years, that is our goal.
Thank you, and I look forward to our discussion.