Food Security Advocates Make Case for US Aid Reform

Anti-hunger advocates called for renewed leadership by the U.S. on helping Africa improve its food security at a March 24 hearing of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Among the suggestions for improving food and agricultural aid is the possible appointment of a food security czar or coordinator within the National Security Council to harmonize fragmented agricultural programs.In his official testimony, Bread for the World President David Beckmann said the U.S., based on its programs in Malawi and Mozambique, has not been "very responsive to local needs and priorities, because our aid programs are heavily earmarked here in Washington."He added: "In Mozambique USAID, PEPFAR, and the MCA is each doing its own thing."The panelists also affirmed the need to help African nations increase investment in agricultural development and not just provide more emergency food aid.According to the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, Africa is the only continent where agricultural productivity has steadily declined this decade."The U.S. is now spending 20 times as much on food aid to Africa, as it is on helping Africans feed themselves. Although this food aid is critical, a better balance between aid and agricultural development assistance is needed," said Catherine Bertini, former executive director of the World Food Program and co-chairwoman of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs-Agricultural Development Program.Sens. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., and Robert Casey Jr., D-Pa., have co-sponsored the Global Food Security Act, which aims to address issues on agricultural aid and hunger and calls on the U.S. to have a global food security strategy.The bill is scheduled to go before the committee for markup within the next few weeks and a vote in the Senate thereafter. If passed, the legislation would allocate $2.5 billion over five years to agricultural development programs, establish a "flexible" emergency food fund, build the capacity of academic and research institutions in the developing world and create a global food security coordinator to oversee all U.S. food aid.Many of the issues addressed in the bill represent a microcosm of the current debate over how to refocus U.S. foreign assistance under the Obama administration and might serve as a road map for reform efforts.

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    Oliver Subasinghe

    Oliver joined Devex in late 2008 as an international development correspondent and researcher. He previously served as a microfinance fellow for Kiva in Kenya and Uganda. During his tenure, he worked with Kiva’s field partners to improve their operations and governance. Oliver holds a master's in business from the College of William & Mary.