USAID Chief Outlines 5 US Food Aid Priorities at WFP Meet

Cans of vegetable oil that are part of food aid provided by the U.S. and distributed at an IDP camp in Sudan. Photo by: Pablo Recalde / WFP

Business as usual will not work anymore for the U.S. food aid operations. The U.S. will do things “very differently,” Rajiv Shah told the World Food Program executive board June 7, mapping out five strategic priorities.

The U.S. government recently unveiled plans to spend USD3.5 billion to foster sustainable food and agriculture networks, partly through its new Feed the Future initiative, the U.S. Agency for International Development said. USAID is focusing on school feeding programs, expanded cash voucher programs and grant assistance particularly for local and regional procurement under the Emergency Food Security Program, which is seen to secure USD300 million in financing in 2011.

Shah mapped out five priority actions that the U.S. will adhere to improve the delivery of its food aid.

First, the U.S. will focus its food initiative on country-owned plans, country leadership and country accountability.

“In the past, USAID and many other development agencies have been appropriately criticized for doing too much planning and implementing from donor capitals and from doing its work in a way that does not effectively integrate with country efforts,” Shah said.

Second, the U.S. government is “really trying to work shoulder-to-shoulder” with multilateral organizations and United Nations agencies, Shah said, to help achieve a coordinated food response among donors. The USAID chief said he would personally request the use of geographic information system mapping to chart U.S. food security efforts.

The U.S. is also redoubling its efforts to scale up private sector investments in promoting food security by coinvesting with philanthropic organizations like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and tapping corporate partners including Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and other large-scale buyers of food, Shah explained.

In promoting women’s welfare, the American government aims to “better employ” the operational guidelines and templates of the WFP to ensure the stability and security of women. The U.S. will use such operational rules in implementing its agricultural initiatives.

“This would include focusing on crops such as sweet potatoes and legumes with more intensity and more resources and would include collecting gender disaggregated data, in many cases requesting the disproportionate hiring of female extension workers,” Shah explained.

Finally, just like WFP, the U.S. is beefing up its monitoring and evaluation work, with a special focus on food security. To do this, Shah said that the U.S. will invest in national-level indicators and collect national-level data on food production, hunger and vulnerability. The U.S. strongly supports the implementation of WFP’s financial framework review, he said.

About the author

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    Ma. Rizza Leonzon

    As a staff writer, Rizza focuses mainly on business coverage, including key donors such as the Asian Development Bank and AusAID. She covers breaking business news particularly at the ADB and has conducted interviews with specialists from the Inter-American Development Bank, World Bank and other top players in international development. Rizza also contributes to the daily Development Newswire and other Devex publications.