Promoting Global Food Security: Next Steps for Congress and the Administration

Jacob J. Lew
Deputy Secretary for Management and Resources 
Testimony Before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Washington, DC
April 22, 2010

Chairman Kerry, Ranking Member Lugar and members of the Committee: thank you for this opportunity to speak with you about Feed the Future, the Administration’s global hunger and food security initiative. We applaud the Committee’s leadership on food security legislation which underscores the critical importance of this initiative to addressing global hunger. Many of you were working on this issue long before this initiative began. And we look forward to continuing to work with you and your staff on this vital cause.

Let me begin by setting the context for our work. President Obama and Secretary Clinton have committed the United States to a new vision for development—one that embraces development as a strategic, economic, and moral imperative, as central to solving global problems and advancing American national security as diplomacy and defense. We seek to balance, align, and leverage these three Ds as we pursue our national objectives in accordance with our fundamental values. This is a core characteristic of smart power and a guiding principle of our work around the world.

The strategy for Feed the Future exemplifies our new vision for development. It starts with the recognition that food security is not just about food, but it is all about security—national security, economic security, environmental security, and human security.

In too many places, agriculture has deteriorated to such a degree that people cannot grow enough to feed their families or earn an income from selling their crops. Or, if they can grow the food, they have no way of transporting it to local or regional markets. As a result, in cities and villages throughout the developing world, food is at times scarce and prices can be volatile and often beyond what people can afford.

This broken system fosters hunger and poverty. That, in turn, can lead to violence and political instability. Since 2007, when global food prices skyrocketed, there have been riots over food in more than 60 countries. People’s inability to grow or purchase food has shaken fragile governments. In Haiti, the government fell after violent demonstrations over the rise of food and fuel prices. Food insecurity has also contributed to tensions between nations; for example, restrictions on food exports during the crisis limited the flow of food and sent prices even higher in neighboring countries. And, hunger has a cascading effect for families and communities; it makes people more vulnerable to illness and disease and makes it harder for children to learn and adults to work—which further deepens poverty.

At the G8 Conference in L’Aquila, Italy last year, President Obama spoke of the billion people worldwide who endure hunger, and said, "Wealthier nations have a moral obligation as well as a national security interest in providing assistance." We want to deliver that assistance in a manner that does not only temporarily alleviate hunger for some, but attacks the problems of hunger, poverty, and malnutrition at their roots, leading to sustainable and systemic progress on a broad scale.

This is what we are striving to accomplish with Feed the Future. We seek to make strategic, long-term investments that will increase agricultural productivity, boost rural incomes, and improve household nutrition. As we have seen in country after country throughout history, agriculture can be a powerful engine for broader economic growth—particularly in developing countries, where agriculture can account for more than one-third of total economic output and more than half of the total workforce. The Green Revolution that began in the 1960s led to soaring productivity rates in India and other countries in Asia and Latin America. In East and Southern Africa, the application of scientific innovations to maize production led to yield increases of one to five percent per year, comparable to growth rates in the U.S. By improving agriculture and nutrition, the United States has the chance to help a significant percentage of the world’s people achieve the stability, prosperity, and opportunity to which we all aspire. And, in so doing, we can protect our own security, promote our own interests, and lay the foundation for a more peaceful and prosperous future.

Earlier this year, Secretary Clinton set forth a vision that reflects our strong commitment to development. Feed the Future is an exemplar of that vision.

First, we are concentrating our work in specific sectors where we have a comparative advantage. In the past, we’ve invested in many programs across many fields, often spreading ourselves thin and reducing our impact. Through Feed the Future, we will target our investments and develop technical excellence in agriculture and nutrition, to help catalyze broad, sustainable change in countries.

The President’s FY2011 budget request includes $1.6 billion for Feed the Future, reflecting the President’s pledge to invest a minimum of $3.5 billion in agricultural development and food security over three years. We are committed to leveraging this investment through a number of coordinated funding mechanisms that reinforce and leverage one another. In addition, the budget request includes $200 million to fund nutrition programs in the Global Health Initiative that will be coordinated with and integral to Feed the Future.

Second, this initiative aligns our diplomatic and development efforts. Feed the Future will require the best of our development efforts in each country, and will also require strong diplomatic support to coordinate with other donors and work with host governments. Our diplomats will reinforce our development experts, and vice versa. With that in mind, the Secretary recently named two senior Foreign Service officers to lead this initiative: Ambassador Patricia Haslach, who will serve as Deputy Coordinator for Diplomacy, and Ambassador William Garvelink, who will serve as Deputy Coordinator for Development.

Third, as we work to connect development and diplomacy to get better results, we have adopted an expansive whole-of-government approach. Led by a joint team at the State Department and USAID, Feed the Future brings together the Department of Agriculture’s expertise on agricultural research, the U.S. Trade Representative’s efforts on agricultural trade, the Treasury Department’s close partnership with multilateral institutions, and the contributions of many other agencies, including the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the Department of Health and Human Services.

Fourth, the Administration’s commitment to partnership extends not only to the countries where we work, but to other countries and organizations working there as well. That is why the budget includes $408 million for multilateral institutions—funds that will harness additional support and expand our impact. These funds, along with the $67 million appropriated in FY2010, will enable the USG to contribute $475 million as a founding investor of a new multi-donor trust fund managed by the World Bank. Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner is announcing this investment in the World Bank’s Global Agriculture and Food Security Program today. The Administration’s initial pledge of $67 million helped encourage $400 million in investments from Spain, Canada, the Republic of Korea, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. The diversity of these donors reflects a growing engagement in foreign assistance and the vital role that other stakeholders—including foundations, NGOs, and the private sector—will play in this initiative as we move forward.

Since last year, when President Obama announced the $3.5 billion American commitment to combat poverty and hunger, 193 countries have endorsed a common set of principles in a collective effort to combat the reality of global hunger and food insecurity. Our global commitment must be commensurate with the problem we are facing. The U.S. contribution through Feed the Future is a portion of the global commitment—including more than $18.5 billion from other donors—which has helped move hunger to the front of the global development agenda.

Fifth, and perhaps most critically, Feed the Future applies a model of development based on partnership, not patronage.

Our new approach is to work in partnership with developing countries that take the lead in designing and implementing evidence-based strategies with clear goals that address their unique needs. One of the best lessons we have learned from past aid programs is that clear country ownership and strong country commitment are absolutely critical to long-term success.

We are working with countries to develop approaches that strengthen the entire agricultural chain—from the lab, where researchers develop higher-performing seeds; to the farm, where we can help improve productivity through better water management, fertilizer use, and farmer training; to the market, where we’re helping to share product information and build the infrastructure that will let people process, store, and transport their crops more effectively; and finally to the table where families break their daily bread. Our objective is to give people the opportunity to buy and grow nutritious food and receive a balanced diet.

And we will ensure that women and girls are at the heart of this initiative. A majority of the developing world’s farmers are women and it will simply not be possible to make significant progress in enhancing food security, improving nutrition, and fighting poverty without creating more economic opportunities for women.

There’s a proverb that speaks to a central lesson of development: "Give a man a fish and he’ll eat for a day, but teach a man to fish and he’ll eat for a lifetime." Secretary Clinton has offered an addition to that proverb: if you teach a woman to fish, she’ll feed her whole village. We recognize the power of women to lead change in their communities and countries. So we are working to ensure that women have equal access to seeds, education and financial services, and that they play an equal role in leadership and decision-making in all of our programs.

Through Feed the Future, we will also increase our investment in innovation. Simple technologies like cell phones can help farmers learn the latest local market prices, conduct mobile banking, know in advance when a drought or a flood is on its way, and learn about new seeds that can help corn grow in drought conditions. Given the potentially enormous return on investment, Feed the Future will invest in approaches that confront significant threats to food production, such as crop and livestock diseases, the decline in soil fertility, and the challenges of climate change.

Sixth, our approach will focus on results, and on progress that can be sustained over time.

At each link in the agricultural chain, we will work with our partners to strengthen in-country capacity, create sustainable practices, and put into place accountability mechanisms that measure the impact of our investment. We will keep in mind that the right thing to do in one country may not be the right thing in another. We will scale up the efforts that yield strong results and learn from those that indicate that improvement is necessary. And we will share the proof of our progress—or underperformance should that be the case—with the public.

Secretary Clinton has insisted that we measure our results, not just by tallying the dollars we spend or the number of programs we run, but by the lasting changes that these dollars and programs help achieve in people’s lives.

For too long, developed nations, including the United States, have believed that food aid alone was the right response to hunger. We tried to alleviate hunger for all the right reasons, but our approach fell short of creating sustainable solutions—and inadvertently created a sense of dependency that has held countries back.

I want to be clear that Feed the Future will not supplant emergency food aid. As we recently saw in Haiti, emergency food assistance is a vital tool for saving lives, and will continue to be. But with Feed the Future, we take the next critical step: investing in our partners’ futures by spurring long-term economic progress.

Today, the United States has a unique opportunity. Several critical factors have converged. Our country and many others around the world have made significant commitments to this issue. We have learned important lessons from the past, which we are applying today. And the need for our leadership is greater than ever. One billion people around the world go to bed hungry every night. We can help change the conditions that cause hunger, and replace them with conditions that lead to greater opportunity, health, stability, and prosperity for people worldwide. It’s an opportunity too valuable to let pass us by.

Chairman Kerry, Ranking Member Lugar and members of the Committee: thank you again for your tireless work to combat global hunger and food insecurity. We look forward to continuing our joint efforts on this critical issue.