Bill Gates, Rajiv Shah Call for More Investments in Agricultural Development

Children at a cornfield of a USAID Food Peace beneficiary. Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates and USAID administrator Rajiv Shah stressed the importance of continued support for agricultural development in poor countries at an international forum by Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Photo by: USAID

Billionaire philanthropist Bill Gates and the top U.S. aid official, Rajiv Shah, stressed on Tuesday (May 24) the importance of continued support for agricultural development in poor countries and of global efforts to address food security issues.

Gates and Shah, along with U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack, were the keynote speakers of an international forum on agricultural development hosted by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.

“I came here today to join those calling on the U.S. and other countries to fund agricultural development for poor farming families,” Gates said at the conference, explaining that helping these farmers become self-sufficient is one of the most effective ways to reduce poverty and hunger.

Ahead of the conference, Gates launched a challenge inviting people from around the world to submit compelling stories, videos or photos, among others, that show the role of small farmers in poverty and hunger reduction.

>> In New Challenge, Bill Gates to Show Small Farmers’ Role in Poverty, Hunger Reduction

U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Shah, meantime, confirmed the U.S. government’s commitment to addressing food security issues and developing the agricultural sectors of poor countries in a sustainable manner. He said the Obama administration intends to spend more than $1.15 billion for food security initiatives under its Feed the Future Initiative in 2011.

“The majority of that money, $950 [million], will be spent across all Feed the Future countries. An additional $90 [million] will be spent on strengthening our nutrition programming,” Shah said. “And $100 [million] has been allocated to Treasury to commit to the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program, a multilateral trust fund we established in partnership with the World Bank.”

These commitments, Shah said, are subject to consultation with the U.S. Congress.

In addition to bilateral and multilateral financial assistance, the United States is also engaged in partnerships with private corporations, academic institutions and other groups in the U.S. and in developing countries as part of its efforts to address food security issues, Shah said.

The USAID administrator added that the Obama administrator is investing $15 million to enhance the evaluation and monitoring of its food security activities.

At the conference, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs released its latest progress report on U.S. leadership in international agricultural development efforts, giving the country an overall grade of B minus for its efforts to reassert its leadership in the field.

Read more about U.S. development aid.

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    Ivy Mungcal

    As former senior staff writer, Ivy Mungcal contributed to several Devex publications. Her focus is on breaking news, and in particular on global aid reform and trends in the United States, Europe, the Caribbean, and the Americas. Before joining Devex in 2009, Ivy produced specialized content for U.S. and U.K.-based business websites.