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GHI Joins CSIS Panel on Global Food Security and the American Interest
By Edona Dervisholli, Global Harvest Initiative Policy Intern
On April 9, GHI was invited to participate in a panel presentation at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), entitled “Global Food Security and the American Interest: An Address by Senator Mike Johanns.” Four energetic and passionate experts discussed global agriculture and food security through a development lens. Each shone a spotlight on food security and its current fragility across the globe. Senator Mike Johanns (R-NE), who serves on the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry, and was a former Secretary of Agriculture, provided a keynote speech on the foundational role of agriculture and its contribution to global food security. Three panelists — Peter McPherson, Margaret Zeigler, and Jonathan Shrier — responded to his speech and also spoke about how improving agriculture can reduce global poverty.
Food Security: Short vs. Long Term Goals
Senator Mike Johanns (Nebraska) – Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition & Forestry
Senator Johanns opened his remarks by explaining how his vision for agriculture in the world comes from his own direct experience with farming in his home state of Nebraska. For Nebraskans, agriculture has historically been the major economic sector, and they know that global development and rising incomes overseas provide markets for agricultural goods produced in Nebraska. Senator Johanns reminded the crowd about the childhood story of teaching a man to fish compared to giving the man a fish. Providing education and support, particularly for agricultural development, is the key to creating a more food secure world. This is particularly relevant because “global food security is one of the most important challenges of the 21st century,” and therefore, the question becomes “how do we address this challenge?” According to the senator, the answer lies in that childhood story. Although providing food aid to developing nations has been efficient for the short term, our ultimate goal should aim towards enacting long-term solutions via better farming practices, better crop production capabilities, better supply chains and better overall governance. All these actions contribute solutions to feed the hungry.
Employing Research and Development Tools
Peter McPherson – President, Association of Public and Land Grant Universities (APLU), and Former Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)
Mr. McPherson stated how agricultural development is a very complex problem with multiple layers. By focusing on applying the latest research and development tools in agricultural sciences and by strengthening the capacity of National Agricultural Research System (NARS), countries can in time make significant strides in improving their food and agriculture systems. McPherson wants this technology work effort to be a global endeavor. The US, EU and countries such as Brazil, India and China can guide developing nations to move forward. With “water scarcity, rising prices of energy and increasing carbon footprints”, the market is eventually going to demand solutions. McPherson believes a focused technology work effort with strategic priorities can create the momentum to more rapidly improve agriculture systems worldwide.
Bolstering the Private Sector Role in Agricultural Development
Margaret Zeigler – Executive Director, Global Harvest Initiative
Dr. Zeigler outlined the Global Harvest Initiative (GHI) policy priorities, which include involving the private sector more fundamentally in international agriculture and rural development. How can developing countries meet their critical need for investment in rural infrastructure and food systems? GHI and FAO have estimated an $80 billion per year investment gap to meet estimated food and agriculture needs by 2050. We must continue to encourage the involvement of private sector expertise to solve problems and challenges that farmers face locally and globally. Developing countries must improve their governance and can also be more proactive in supporting their local farmers with good policies and fostering public-private partnerships. GHI, as a policy voice, emphasizes an enabling environment so that stable investments can be made to develop the agriculture sector. The investments also need to have a long-term impact. The demand for food, fiber, feed and fuel by 2050 will dramatically increase as a result of billions of people moving into the middle class and thereby changing their diets to higher value, protein rich foods. She closed by sharing examples of new public-private partnerships that GHI member companies of DuPont, Monsanto and John Deere are implementing in the developing world.
Feed the Future’s Progress and Collaborative Partnerships
Jonathan Shrier – Acting Special Representative for Global Food Security, U.S. Department of State
Mr. Shrier reminded the audience that President Obama emphasized global agriculture and food security as a U.S. government priority in his first inaugural speech. In 2009, a comprehensive government initiative was created to provide long term solutions, entitled “Feed the Future.” It essentially strengthened and coordinated the U.S. inter-agency approach to agriculture and food security and created new partnerships. Feed the Future helps target investment and infrastructure development and includes government, private businesses and local farmers. Shrier emphasized the program’s success in reaching approximately 9 million households, which have benefited from new technology and better agriculture management. Feed the Future also tackles the critical issue of nutrition and provides measurable targets to improve nutritional status of women and children and to reduce stunting, a condition in which children are permanently impacted by lack of proper nutrition during the first 1000 days of life. Another area of success for Feed the Future is in mobilizing private sector resources to help agriculture development, via commitments from companies such as DuPont, Monsanto and John Deere.