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Jac Smit - March 2009

The world has changed dramatically since the Foreign Assistance Act's inception in 1961, particularly with regard to rapid urbanization in the poorest countries.  It is a widely accepted fact that the current state of U.S. foreign assistance is in need of restructuring.  The U.S. Government's system for allocating, managing, delivering and monitoring foreign assistance is fragmented and lacks strategic direction.  There is no centralized management or oversight of U.S. government programs.  The proliferation of Presidential Directives, Congressional earmarks, new assistance structures and funding streams, stymies the achievements of America's foreign assistance goals of peace and stability.  An important first step to fixing foreign assistance is the development of a national development strategy that sets forth the framework for foreign assistance, defining goals and harmonizing agencies.

Call for a Comprehensive Approach to Food Security

Effective food security requires improved production and transport capacity in developing countries and effective and efficient foreign assistance.  Long term food security depends on: increasing sustainable agricultural productivity; raising the earning potential of poor people; preparing for future hunger-related emergencies by developing disaster risk reduction capabilities and early warning systems; and boosting resiliency by investing in social protection, safety nets, and nutrition and health delivery systems.  Nonetheless, the existing framework stovepipes food security into separate issues, isolating each from beneficial partnerships and sometimes forcing programs to have conflicting goals.

The time has come to create a comprehensive approach to food security within the Foreign Assistance Act. 

The Consequences of Inaction

More than 960 million people around the globe suffer from hunger and another 2 billion are malnourished.  Between 2005 and 2008 food prices rose dramatically, at an increasing rate - nine percent in 2006 and 23 percent in 2007.  These rising food prices erode the purchasing power of poor people, especially women living in urban places who already spend most of their income on food.  Poor people have been forced to cut or alter food consumption, with a consequent rise in malnutrition.  Today, hunger and malnutrition are the underlying cause of one-third of all deaths of children under the age of five and account for roughly 3.5 million preventable deaths each year.  In addition, there has been a sharp decrease in U.S. support for agricultural development. it is well documented that GDP growth in America and elsewhere originating in agriculture is at least twice as effective in reducing poverty as GDP growth originating outside agriculture. 

Core Principles that Should Guide Foreign Assistance Act Reform as it Relates to Food Security

    Comprehensive: The U.S. should develop a comprehensive strategy that integrates policies and programs.  Because U.S. programs to address hunger are currently spread over many agencies, a strong mandate to integrate these efforts requires White House leadership. 

    Results-Based Approach:  The Foreign Assistance Act must adopt a results-based approach that includes appropriate levels of flexibility for country specific action.

    Gender Integration: Women are the principal food producers and marketers in poor countries.  Data show that 60 to 80 percent of agricultural workers are women, country to country, in both rural and urban settings.  Several studies show that supporting women in agriculture is a better investment than in agriculture as a whole, particularly in the area of health.

    Climate Change: Agriculture is the largest land use causing negative climate change in poor countries (IPCC & UNEP). Dealing effectively with climate change requires different programs in different climate zones; wet and dry, hot and warm.


Archived Articles:

Eat Half Your Lawn

Principles for Agriculture/Food Security

Cantaloupe Capital of the World and Urban Agriculture in 2009

Multi-Cropping: Producing two or more crops/products in the same space as one

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