Haddad: Obama's Feed the Future Can Learn From the Past

The Obama administration’s Feed the Future initiative sounds promising but can still be improved, according to Lawrence Haddad. The Obama administration can turn to recent and distant history for some lessons, the director of the U.K.-based Institute of Development Studies says on his “Development Horizons” blog.

On country-owned and country-led growth, the U.S. should note that past studies have shown that donor reporting does not always coincide with the real-time timeline needed to make country ownership work, Haddad says. It is also important for the Obama administration to recognize that strong leadership and incentives are needed to make agriculture and nutrition work well together. The two, according to Haddad, are not a natural fit.

Meanwhile, Haddad notes that it is important to give women a choice even as they are empowered. This is to avoid unintended consequences such as violence, he says.

Regarding private-sector involvement, Haddad suggests the U.S. work with citizen-engaged institutions. But it should also go beyond the stereotypical dichotomy of the public sector being bad and the private sector being good. Agricultural productivity in rich countries was driven by an imaginative combination of private- and public-sector initiatives, Haddad explains.

Other historical lessons that Haddad says the Obama administration should keep in mind:

-      Baselines are not very good incentives. They are more often than not seen as donor requirements instead of new ways to improve.

-      The history of agricultural policy in several development countries offers lessons on how to boost agriculture. An example is the state-funded agricultural research approach promoted by Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany and the U.S. from the mid- to late 1800s.

About the author

  • 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.