BIG BRAINS ON LITTLE BRAINS
Little brains were on the minds of some pretty big brains in the fight against hunger at the Chicago Council’s Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security this week.
Bill Gates, USAID administrator Rajiv Shah and World Food Program executive director Josette Sheeran all talked about the impact of malnutrition and stunting on the children of the developing world, particularly Africa. We are all familiar with the pictures of the outward manifestation of hunger, but we give little thought to the harm it causes to a young person’s ability to think.
The deficit of micro-nutrients in the diets of many people around the world is called “hidden hunger.” Hidden, too, is the mental damage of hunger – the stunting of the development of the brain.
These three speakers brought it out into the open.
By Sylvia Mathews Burwell
Sylvia Mathews Burwell, president of the Global Development Program, oversees the foundation’s efforts to help the world’s poorest people lift themselves out of hunger and extreme poverty. Burwell leads Global Development’s grantmaking and advocacy in agricultural development; financial services for the poor; water, sanitation, and hygiene; global libraries; and special initiatives.
Money invested in agricultural development pays off. Just ask Odetta Mukanyiko, a Rwandan farmer who recently quadrupled her income through a World Food Program-sponsored initiative.Odetta, a 38-year-old single mother of two, spent much of the last two decades scratching out a living on a small plot of land in eastern Rwanda. She and her family ate what she grew and sold whatever she had leftover to local traders paying rock bottom prices. She made less than one dollar a day.
But a year ago, Odetta’s life began to change when she started working with the World Food Program’s (WFP) Purchase for Progress initiative (P4P), a groundbreaking effort to transform the way the WFP sources its food aid and connects small farmers to reliable markets. Odetta borrowed money, expanded her plot, and planted more than she ever had before. She sold all of her crops to the WFP and in one year, quadrupled her income. With this extra money, Odetta adopted two children, built herself a larger home, and is now able to pay for food, school fees and health insurance for all four of her children.
By Roger Thurow
Lael Brainard, undersecretary for international affairs at the U.S. Department of Treasury, made an urgent call for contributions to the multi-donor Global Agriculture and Food Security Program. The U.S. commitment was slashed by three-quarters in the latest budget battle, and other countries have been slow to contribute.
In June, she said, the GAFSP steering committee will make its third allocation of grants to fund agriculture development projects in some of the world’s poorest countries. After that, she said, “GAFSP will be without additional resources.”
By Roger Thurow
Bill Gates came to the Chicago Council’s Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security with a confession. “I’ve never been a farmer,” he said. “Until recently, I rarely set foot on farm.”
Farmer Gates, no. But Innovator Gates, certainly.
So this was one of his messages to a standing room crowd. In ending hunger through agriculture development, innovation is the key.
First, the challenge:
“Right now,” he said. “the average farmer in sub-Saharan Africa gets just over a ton of cereal per acre. An Indian farmer gets twice that; a Chinese farmer five times that; an American farmer seven times that. Why is there this huge disparity? Farmers in other regions have tools and techniques and resources that African farmers do not. By offering farming families in Africa and South Asia those advantages, the least productive farms can come closer to the most productive.”
By Paul Schickler, President, DuPont business Pioneer Hi-Bred
I congratulate The Chicago Council for their tireless work to understand the complexities associated with ending world hunger and ensuring food security. As many of us know, a “one size fits all” answer does not exist. The Council’s recent policy paper, “Leveraging Private Sector Investment in Developing Country Agrifood Systems,” underscores a fundamental truth I’ve witnessed firsthand – collaboration among NGOs, governments, academia and private sector is the right path to bringing solid tools and solutions to farmers and communities around the world.
The need for increased collaboration and the support of public sector involvement has been echoed in many recent discussions. Prior to attending The Chicago Council Symposium this week, I participated in the Fourth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LCDs) in Turkey. Held every 10 years, this forum brings together leaders from UN agencies, government, business and NGOs to identify actions to help 48 countries that are at "the base of the global pyramid" to achieve more stable, prosperous and sustainable economies and communities. Both events brought together leaders passionate about ensuring food security. After listening to the discussions and idea sharing, I’m convinced we are on the right path.
As reaffirmed in The Council’s policy paper, a strong agricultural foundation is critical for all countries to build their economies. But barriers still impede progress. In fact, farmers in many parts of Africa and Asia live in poverty today and are unable to break the subsistence cycle without access to credit, modern inputs, advanced agronomic knowledge and route to market. Meaning, one-third of all farmers would benefit from another Green Revolution as they lack these components necessary to improve their livelihoods.
By Chris Policinski, President and CEO, Land O’Lakes, Inc.
Chris Policinski is President and CEO of Land O'Lakes, Inc., a national,farmer-owned food and agricultural cooperative. Policinski also is Chairman of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition's Business Advisory Council . Policinski has over 30 years of experience in the food industry. He is a member of Board of Directors of several industry associations (Grocery Manufacturers Association, National Milk Producers Federation, and National Council of Farmer Cooperatives), is involved in local community boards, as well as a member of the board of the U.S. Global Leadership Campaign and Xcel Energy.
Today, we live and do business in an interconnected world. All of our futures are tied to the health of the global economy – and we’re only as strong as our weakest link.
This is one reason why Land O’Lakes has been deeply involved in international development efforts for the past 30 years. Through our International Development Division, we’ve invested in and nurtured small farmers all over the world – supporting hundreds of development projects in more than 75 developing nations and positively impacting the lives of 20 million people.
At first glance, it may seem strange for a farmer-owned cooperative to be so deeply involved in international development. The reason we’ve invested our time, expertise and resources is that we recognize the critical link between food security and economic prosperity and political stability. Ultimately, investing in development isn’t just “doing good,” it’s an economic and social imperative.
This important topic was the focus this week of the Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security, organized by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. The event explored solutions for alleviating hunger, promoting economic development and encouraging agricultural entrepreneurship around the globe. Through public-private partnerships between companies and programs funded by the U.S. International Affairs Budget, America is working to bring food security to the world – sometimes one farmer at a time.
By Roger Thurow
There’s an old African saying: If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.
Opening the Chicago Council’s Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security, USAID administrator Rajiv Shah stressed the importance of partnerships in ending hunger through agriculture development.
“Agriculture depends,” he said, “on the strength of public and private institutions working and investing together, building new markets and supply chains, sustainably taking new initiatives to scale and improving global economic potential.”
He mentioned working with the World Food Program to increase the flexibility of U.S. emergency response by boosting procurement of locally grown food, expanding the use of community development funds and creating new cash voucher programs – instead of just sending over U.S.- grown food at higher costs. And he hailed the broad front forming to focus on nutrition programs – to improve the nutritious quality of food while increasing production.
By Dr. Julie A. Howard, Deputy Coordinator for Development, Feed the Future Initiative
Dr. Howard was appointed as the U.S. Government’s Deputy Coordinator for Development for Feed the Future, President Obama’s global hunger and food security initiative, on March 28, 2011. In her new role, she will lead communication, donor and NGO engagement, interagency coordination, and initiative-wide strategy and policy development, as well as overall USG Feed the Future budget management and monitoring and evaluation. Since 2003, Julie Howard has served as the Executive Director and Chief Executive Officer of the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty in Africa, an independent nonprofit coalition dedicated to increasing the level and effectiveness of U.S. assistance and private investment through research, dialogue and advocacy.
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:
By Roger Thurow
One year ago, USAID administrator Rajiv Shah told a full house at the Chicago Council’s Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security that, “By far, the most important thing that each of us can do is to hold each other’s feet to the fire.”
Today, the U.S. government is feeling the heat as the first report card on its efforts to provide leadership in global agriculture development is in. The overall grade: B- . In words: Good --if you like Bs -- but not nearly good enough.
“Key changes have put the U.S. in a position to lead,” the progress report states. “Success in the field will depend on increased funding; leadership; whole-of-government coordination, both in Washington and in target countries; and sustained commitment.”
The grading reflects the Chicago Council’s evaluation of the degree to which the Obama administration and Congress have made progress in achieving the changes in U.S. government policy recommended in the Council’s 2009 report, Renewing American Leadership in the Fight Against Global Hunger and Poverty.
The administration, through its Feed the Future Initiative, gets high marks for beginning to reverse the neglect of agriculture development spending over the past three decades. It has begun to rebuild USAID’s capacity to deliver agricultural development assistance, and it has revitalized the agriculture extension and research work at universities in the U.S. and in Africa and Asia.