In a political climate where consensus on US budget priorities is hard to come by, both parties came together to support solving global hunger at yesterday’s Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee hearing.
Political will is the ultimate factor in whether our U.S. global food security programs get thrown off the fiscal cliff. But despite the gloom-and-doom financial situation, there was acknowledgment across the aisle yesterday that we will actually be gloomier-and-doomier if we don’t address the challenges of global food and nutrition insecurity. Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN) summed it up: “Hungry people are desperate people and desperation can sow the seeds of radicalism.”
Deputy Coordinators for Diplomacy and Development for Feed the Future, Jonathan Shrier and Tjada McKenna, Paul O’Brien from Oxfam America, Conor Walsh, Tanzania Country Director for Catholic Relief Services, and Connie Veillette of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs all gathered at the hearing to talk about US leadership on food security initiatives that are making a real difference in the fight against hunger.
Many of the panelists testified to the growing challenges that our world faces when it comes to global food production, including changes in climate and stress on our natural resources, like land. These challenges, along with a projected population of 9 billion by 2050, may mean a stark future for food. Senator Bob Casey (D-PA) suggested that if we can agree on anything, it should be our commitment to tackling global hunger.
Speakers talked about the real results from innovative US global food security programs. USAID’s Tjada McKenna celebrated that in 2011, Feed The Future helped “more than 6.6 million households, 2.4 million hectares of land under improved technologies or management practices, and increased investment in agricultural and rural loans by $103 million.”
Representatives from Oxfam America, Catholic Relief Services and the Chicago Council applauded the progress made to date in both the Feed The Future initiative and the G8’s recently launched New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.
There was also constructive feedback on how to improve the sustainability and effectiveness of US programs, including:
- Focus on small-scale farmers. Because this is where investment can — and must — make a serious impact.
- Pay attention to climate change and elevate the integration of natural resource management into food security work.
- Strengthen partnerships with civil society and the private sector.
U.S. leaders must continue to protect these life-saving programs from disproportionate cuts to make sure children, families and small scale farmers remain on solid ground. Panelists and Congressional leaders agreed that being smarter with our resources doesn’t mean cutting our global food security programs. It is quite the opposite: our investments overseas actually make us smarter. “By investing in agriculture and nutrition, we are investing in prosperity — and not just other people’s prosperity but our own,” said Senator Ben Cardin (D-MD).