Remarks by Peace Corps Director Carrie Hessler-Radelet at the 43d meeting of the Committee on World Food Security
October 17, 2016
“Sustainable Food Systems, Nutrition and Climate Change”
The stakes are high, as we come together for this forty-third meeting of the Committee on World Food Security. For the first time in human history, the end of hunger, undernutrition, and extreme poverty is within our grasp. And yet, as we all know too well, significant challenges remain.
Our task in the next few days is to build upon our collective experience in order to most effectively address the challenges – and the opportunities – through knowledge exchange, improved coordination and development of more powerful platforms for partnership and synergy.
This past July, the U.S. Congress passed and President Obama signed the Global Food Security Act of 2016. This legislation sends a clear message that the United States is committed to ensuring food security, improving nutrition, and strengthening communities and economies around the world.
The agency that I lead, the Peace Corps, is a US Government agency that strengthens the capacity of communities and individuals around the world through the service of trained Volunteers. Peace Corps Volunteers live and work in community with the people they serve, where they play a vital role in bringing food security best practices and innovations to households at the last mile.
We are proud of our new U.S. Global Food Security Strategy, which is inspired by the agenda laid out in the SDGs. Our strategy brings an increased focus on building resilience, improving nutrition, promoting agricultural-led development, and empowering small-holder producers, especially women.
The strategy emphasizes investments throughout the value chain to better connect producers to markets and offers a more coordinated approach to finance and data; as well as an increased focus on strengthening capacity, systems, policies, and markets for lasting return on investment.
But no single government, no single nation, and no single sector can address the challenges of global food security by working alone. We must all work together in true partnership to reach those most in need.
Finally, I want to talk to you about Let Girls Learn, a new US government initiative that we are implementing with First Lady Michelle Obama, to break down the barriers for girls around the world.
As we know the issues of food security and girls’ education are inextricably linked. Just two weeks ago, I was in Malawi, in an area ravaged by drought, where crop failures and lack of food are beginning to compromise other development gains, such as girls’ education and HIV treatment.
People in the communities I visited often don’t have the food they need to take their HIV medications. Taking the drugs without food impairs drug effectiveness and causes severe side effects. When students take their meds without food they experience side effects and then they stay home from school which affects their school performance.
And yet, there is hope. I visited a women’s cooperative, where HIV positive women are boldly addressing the issue of food scarcity and adherence. With our support they have built fish ponds and bee hives and community gardens to ensure that their HIV-positive daughters have the food they need to adhere to their medication and stay in school. Theirs is a story of action and resilience.
As we open this 43rd meeting of the Committee on World Food Security, let us work even more strategically and ensure even greater progress in realizing the vision of a world without hunger. Let us support, and empower and learn from and honor the hope and resilience of communities around the world, which, like that of women’s cooperative in Malawi, are boldly addressing the issue of food security head on.