Today, Congress took an historic step by passing the Global Food Security Act, an important piece of bipartisan legislation that reaffirms the United States’ commitment to ending global hunger, poverty and child malnutrition.
As National Security Advisor, I’ve always considered food security to be not only a security imperative but also a moral imperative. And as the wealthiest nation on Earth, I believe the United States also has a moral obligation to lead the fight against global hunger and malnutrition and to partner with others to do so.
We’ve seen how spikes in food prices can plunge millions into poverty and hunger, as well as spark riots that cost lives and lead to instability. This danger only grows as a surging global population isn’t matched by surging food production. Reducing malnutrition and hunger around the world advances international peace and security – including our own security here at home.
The President wasn’t alone in thinking that tackling global hunger and extreme poverty should be a top priority for global development. At the 2009 G-8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy, global leaders convened to discuss the need to reduce poverty, hunger and malnutrition worldwide by boosting agricultural productivity, strengthening supply chains, and promoting sound market-based principles for agriculture sector development and trade. It was there that the President recommitted the United States to investing in agriculture as a key lever for global economic growth. Our investment of an initial $3.5 billion over three years helped spur an additional $18.5 billion from other donors, propelling the momentum required to meet this grand challenge.
Governments, like those in Africa, Asia, and Latin American and the Caribbean, were making better food security and nutrition a key part of their own development plans and took the lead. Donors aligned behind these plans and we called on all sectors and a multitude of partners to join us in the ambitious work of fighting hunger and poverty.
The President’s global hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future, was born out of this renewed focus on boosting economic growth that benefits everyone through improvements in agriculture. We know that in the developing world, a majority of families rely on agriculture for their livelihoods, and that investments in agriculture have been proven to boost economic growth for the poor more than any other sector. Solving the global hunger challenge is also essential to meeting the entire range of Sustainable Development Goals that guide international development work.
So, to spur this global change, the United States partnered with countries, donor communities, civil society, universities and researchers to help poor families in rural communities abroad where poverty was concentrated to raise their incomes, improve their nutrition, and build a better life for themselves and future generations. We even brought in the business community to support our work where it provides mutual benefit and ensure progress lasts through partnerships like the African-led New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.
Our work is paying off. Poverty and childhood stunting are on the decline in communities where we’ve empowered farming families through Feed the Future. Last year, the initiative helped more than 9 million farmers and other agricultural producers adopt innovations and best practices to build their businesses even as climate change threatened progress. With more choices on how and what to farm as well as access to more markets and business opportunities, these farmers boosted their incomes by more than $800 million. We reached nearly 18 million children with nutrition help to set them on a course for a lifetime of achievement and well-being. We also leveraged nearly $160 million in private sector resources to maximize our results and transform agricultural systems to provide benefits for years to come.
The passage of the Global Food Security Act today is something every American can be proud of. Universities, businesses, Peace Corps Volunteers, researchers, farmers and ranchers, and nonprofits from across our country have played an integral role in developing and sharing solutions and know-how with our developing country counterparts. What I’m especially proud of is how our own government has pulled together to make this a priority and work together to achieve something great. To begin delivering on agriculture’s promise to provide a path from poverty to prosperity, hunger to hope, and despair to opportunity.
As we take a moment to recognize how far we’ve come, we also look forward to the work still ahead to finish what we started. Together, we are building a future where hunger and poverty don’t stand in the way of entrepreneurs and burgeoning economies, and where children and families anywhere can reach their full potential.