November 22, 2010
Bread for the World 2011 World Hunger Report Release
Remarks by USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah
Good morning. I’d like to thank Bread for the World and David Beckmann in particular for inviting me here today. I saw David earlier this year in Iowa, where he was collecting his very well deserved World Food Prize.
Hunger, both at home and abroad, is not a problem of capability, or a problem of scarcity, or a problem of technological limitations. It is a problem of collective action.
We have no excuse for the state of global hunger today, save the world’s unfortunate inattention to the issue. The work David has done, the grassroots coalition he has built to raise awareness and combat hunger is the key to closing this protracted chapter in human history.
And I appreciate the results David just shared with us from this year’s report. I agree with many of its recommendations, including the need to consider nutrition in food security initiative.
I also appreciate the report’s mention of the need to renew USAID’s technical expertise. It’s no secret that our agency has lost many of its engineers and agronomists to years of attrition and budget cuts.
I’m happy to say the tide is turning; USAID has reestablished a policy bureau, introduced a new science and technology division, and ramped up its hiring of development professionals to levels we haven’t seen in over a decade.
In that same spirit of raising awareness that this Report and David aspire to, I want to recognize Roger Thurow, who’s moderating our conversation today. Roger’s honest coverage has shed a necessary and discomfiting light on the world’s inattention to global hunger. Roger’s work represents journalism at its best: its ability to inform citizens, alter perceptions, and lead to dramatic and meaningful change.
That change is what I want to briefly discuss. I can tell you that today the United States government is more focused on global food security than at any other time since the earliest days of the Green Revolution. And USAID is leading that renewed focus, recapturing our agency’s historical legacy of curbing hunger in the developing world.
We understand, critically, that ending world hunger requires more than emergency food aid; it requires focused and sustained investment in developing the agricultural sectors of developing countries. We must do more than give people food; we must help them produce it for themselves.
That simple understanding forms the basis of USAID’s approach to global food security. Today, I am pleased to unveil our new Bureau of Food Security, charged with driving the collective action necessary to end world hunger.
This bureau will lead a whole-of-government effort to implement President Obama’s Feed the Future initiative, a multi-billion dollar international effort led by USAID to develop the agricultural sectors of a number of countries throughout the developing world.
Through Feed the Future, we have developed comprehensive, selective, partner country-led strategies to increase food security.
For instance, when I visited Bangladesh, I got to see Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina launch an agricultural strategy focused on developing the country’s Southern productive region, intensifying its production of rice, wheat and maize, and using new crop varieties to boost the nutritive impact of these staples.
From Tanzania to Rwanda, Ghana to Uganda, we are working with governments to make tough choices to invest in one-or-two sub-regions, an develop only a handful of crops, allowing donors and private sector partners to concentrate their efforts.
We predict this approach, in just the 5 countries I’ve mentioned, we will work with nearly 6.5 million smallholder farmers, most of them women, to help drive agricultural sector transformation and break the tight grips of hunger and malnutrition.
This Thursday, most of us will be lucky enough to gather with our families, give thanks for our blessings, and sit at a table of plenty. For many of us who have weathered a difficult year, it will be an especially poignant time for reflection.
But in the spirit of the awareness and attention that David and Roger have worked to raise, let us also commit to ensuring every citizen, US and global, can soon appreciate the food security we are privileged to enjoy.
Let us spread this mission in our communities and houses of worship; let us build a strong political coalition for vigilance in our nation’s new congress; and let us ensure that the problem of global hunger is no longer a problem of collective action… but a problem of the past.