22 July 2010
By Phillip Kurata
Washington — The U.S. government, backed by U.S. scientists and corporations, is investing money and energy into reducing global hunger and poverty on a huge scale by 2015.
A State Department official overseeing the Feed the Future program, Patricia Haslach, told a congressional subcommittee July 20 that President Obama’s pledge of $3.5 billion at the G8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy, for agricultural development and food security through 2012 has attracted an additional $18.5 billion pledged by other donors. Haslach said the U.S. government is holding them accountable for their commitments.
“In the year since global leaders at L’Aquila announced their renewed commitment to agricultural development and food security, we have made significant progress in holding donors accountable,” Haslach said. “Our ambassadors and embassy staff are reaching out regularly to encourage donors to fulfill their financial pledges.”
The Feed the Future program is the Obama administration’s vehicle to support the United Nations’ goal of halving global poverty and hunger by 2015. Haslach said L’Aquila donors’ pledges, totaling $22 billion, can “increase significantly the incomes of at least 40 million people, including 13 million people living in extreme poverty on less than $1.25 per day.”
Haslach added that at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh in September 2009, President Obama pledged an additional $475 million to establish the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program. Private foundations and other governments have pledged or contributed more than $400 million more for this program.
Haslach said the Feed the Future program is one element of a collective global effort involving governments, agricultural researchers, corporations and nonprofit foundations.
“This is not just a U.S. initiative, but rather a global initiative. Other countries recognize that it is in our collective interest to tackle the root causes of hunger and poverty,” Haslach said.
Speaking at the same hearing with Haslach, William Garvelink of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) said Feed the Future is designed to create long-term development solutions, which go far beyond delivering food aid to relieve acute suffering. With regard to children’s health in Africa, “we need to address the multiple dimensions of nutrition, spanning access to health services, women’s control of incomes, and improving dietary quantity and quality, particularly for women and young children,” Garvelink said. Women farmers in Africa, who account for the majority of the small holder producers, are a big focus of the Feed the Future program, he said.
Garvelink, who has spent much of his career as a development officer in Africa, said the U.N. goal of halving global poverty and hunger by 2015 will be difficult to achieve. “Fifty-one percent of Africans live on less than $1.25 per day. That is only 7 percent less than in 1990, and a very long way from the … target of halving the proportion who live on $1.25 per day,” he said.
William Danforth, chairman of the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis, said scientific advances that are leading to more food being produced with less water, land and energy will benefit the program. Biotechnology has increased food availability and affordability, reduced use of pesticides, and preserved fertile topsoil through the use of no-till farming, he said.
He said, for example, the center has developed a more nutritious strain of cassava that has vastly higher levels of vitamin A, iron, zinc and protein and is more resistant to disease. Two hundred fifty million people in sub-Saharan Africa and 700 million people worldwide rely on cassava as a major source of calories. With funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Danforth said that the center and its partners in Africa are establishing cassava biotechnology laboratories in Uganda, Kenya and Nigeria. The center also is engaged in developing more nutritious varieties of sweet potatoes and peanuts.
Gerald Steiner, an executive of Monsanto Company, a biotechnology and agriculture corporation, said Monsanto is committed to supporting Feed the Future.
“We will do our part to help farmers double yields in our core crops — corn, cotton and soybeans — between 2000 and 2030, while producing each bushel or bale with one-third fewer resources such as land, water and energy. And, just as importantly, in doing so we will help farmers to earn more and improve the lives of their families and rural communities,” Steiner told the subcommittee.
Steiner said Monsanto is donating what he called a “gem” from its biotechnology pipeline: a drought-resistant strain of white maize and know-how in accelerated plant breeding.
“We estimate it could result in new white maize varieties that yield between 20 percent and 35 percent more during moderate drought, enough to help keep hunger at bay,” he said.
Read statements on “Oversight of Feed the Future: Meeting the MDGs” by:
Ambassador Patricia Haslach, Deputy Coordinator for Diplomacy (July 20, 2010)
Ambassador William Garvelink , Deputy Coordinator for Development (July 20, 2010)
Dr. William H. Danforth, Chairman of the Board, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, St. Louis Missouri (July 20, 2010)
Mr. Gerald Steiner, Executive Vice President, Sustainability and Corporate Affairs, Monsanto Company (July 20, 2010)
Feed the Future – A Fact Sheet