DAKAR, Senegal – On his current trip to Africa President Obama has made food security a bigger priority. Following a food security expo in Dakar, Senegal on June 28, Obama said the United States’ support of agriculture and nutrition programs is playing an important role in helping African countries feed more of their neediest citizens and address the urgent challenge of chronic hunger. Nearly 900 million people around the world are chronically hungry, Obama said, and there is a great need for long-term food security.
“When people ask what’s happening to their taxpayer dollars in foreign aid, I want people to know this money is not being wasted – it’s helping feed families. It’s helping people to become more self-sufficient. And it’s creating new markets for U.S. companies and U.S. goods,” Obama said.
The money the U.S. puts into agricultural and economic development in Africa creates a “win-win situation,” Obama added, noting that while fertilizer, maize and millet aren’t the sexiest of stories for the press to cover they are an important piece of the story of Africa’s fight against food insecurity.
Throughout his trip Obama highlighted his administration’s commitment to fighting chronic hunger. Including two ongoing initiatives that are doing work in the countries he visited. The Obama administration launched Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative, in 2010. Feed the Future focuses specifically on smallholder farmers, especially women. The initiative uses partnerships with governments, the private sector, donor organizations and civil society groups to work towards long-term success fighting food insecurity and hunger in 19 focus countries.
Obama noted that Feed the Future has helped 7 million small farmers learn to use new agriculture practices and technologies, which has boosted the value of the goods they sell by more than $100 million. The increase creates higher incomes for farmers and additional opportunities, Obama said. According to estimates from the administration it has helped increase the value of exports of targeted commodities by $84 million and established more than 660 public-private partnerships focused on improving food security locally and globally. The value of agricultural and rural loans have been increased $150 million by the initiative, and nearly 5 million hectares of land have been brought under improved management and cultivation practices.
Additionally, at last year’s G8 Summit, the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition was launched in partnership with Ethiopia, Ghana, and Tanzania. Since then Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Malawi, Mozambique, and Nigeria have joined the initiative, and Senegal is set to join this year. The New Alliance takes a modern approach to how food aid is delivered by allowing the partner countries to identify their own priorities and plans.
The New Alliance combines targeted assistance and private sector investment with policy reforms to help boost the growth of Africa’s agriculture economies. It connects smallholder farmers with markets for their products, which allows for increasing incomes and improving nutrition. Since the initiative launched there have been commitments of $3.7 billion made to the program’s efforts by more than 70 private sector companies from Africa and around the world. The Obama administration is poised to expand the model to a new initiative called Power Africa.
“Our foreign aid budget is around 1 percent of our total federal budget. It’s chronically the least popular part of our federal budget. But if you look at the bang for the buck that we’re getting when it’s done right, when it’s well designed, and when it’s scaled at the local level from local folks, it can really make a huge difference,” Obama said.
The changed model will involve not just delivering help as though Africa was a dependent charity case, he said, but will focus instead on helping the continent get involved in trade, production and agriculture so that it can eventually feed and house itself and manufacture its own goods.
– Liza Casabona