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President Obama in Africa: Investments in Agriculture Key to Ending Poverty
President Obama continues on his historic three-country trip to Africa. So far, the president has met with leaders from government, business, and civil society. The trip agenda includes reinforcing U.S. commitment to global food security; expanding economic growth, investment, and trade; strengthening democratic institutions; and investing in the next generation of African leaders.
U.S. leadership on global hunger and food security has been instrumental in leveraging substantial additional resources and reversing decades of decline in funding for agricultural development. In 2009, once the L’Aquila principles for strengthening bilateral and multilateral support for agricultural development had been put in place, the United States developed a plan to fulfill its own pledge and went a step further by making food security a top pillar of its global development agenda. Launched in 2010, Feed the Future is the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. It focuses on smallholder farmers, particularly women, and builds on the standard set by the African Union when its members committed to developing comprehensive food security plans.
Yesterday in Senegal, the first stop on his trip, President Obama officially launched (see video here) the 2013 Feed the Future Progress Report: Growing Innovation, Harvesting Results. The report says that in the 19 Feed the Future focus countries, the program has:
- helped more than 7 million smallholder farmers adopt improved agricultural technologies or practices;
- brought nearly 4 million hectares of land under improved cultivation and management practices;
- helped increase the value of exports of targeted commodities by $84 million;
- forged more than 660 public-private partnerships to improve food security locally and globally;
- increased the value of agricultural and rural loans by more than $150 million.
President Barack Obama participates in a joint press conference with President Macky Sall of Senegal at the Presidential Palace in Dakar, Senegal, June 27, 2013 (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
According to a statement released by the White House yesterday, the experiences of global food security programs such as Feed the Future and the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) underscore the critical role of coordinated multi-stakeholder engagements in the fight against global hunger and malnutrition.The statement indicates that the United States is not only keeping its commitments to leverage its investments, provide more open access to agricultural data, and improve agricultural productivity through technology, but has also launched a $25 million Agricultural Fast Track Fund, along with Sweden and the African Development Bank, to increase the number of investment-ready agricultural infrastructure projects in New Alliance countries. In April 2013, the statement continues, the United States, other G-8 countries, and the World Bank convened the International Conference on Open Data for Agriculture in Washington, DC, to promote policies and invest in projects that open access to relevant publicly funded data on global agriculture, thus making this data readily accessible to users around the world. This week the United States will launch the Scaling Seeds & Other Technologies Partnership, led by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) in collaboration with African governments, multilateral organizations, private sector, and civil society partners. Its mission is to promote technology-driven agricultural productivity growth -- starting in Ethiopia, Ghana, Mozambique, and Tanzania.
All of the above are welcome steps. But we cannot sustain them unless we confront the growing threat of climate change, which is already eroding some of the gains we have made. The president proposed a climate change action plan last week.
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