From Pledges to Progress: G8 Leaders Must Take Action Now

On the eve of the G8 summit, G8 and African leaders met to discuss new commitments on food security and the opportunity and benefits of private sector investment in African agriculture and food sectors. With the likes of President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Presidents of Tanzania and Ghana, Prime Minister of Ethiopia, corporate leaders and agricultural organizations all in attendance, the message is abundantly clear. Groups from farmers to development agencies have made it clear: If we don't act soon, the situation will worsen and not only from climate change and political instability, but from economic factors such as rising food prices and unemployment.

Read the full story on the Huffington Post:

Feeding Leadership

Tanzania, Ghana and Ethiopia have been leaders on food security and their leadership is paying off with more support. It is great to see a focus on countries that are committed to investing in their agricultural sectors and that agriculture remains at the top of the G8 political agenda.

Please see President Obama’s remarks today:


Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release, May 18, 2012



Ronald Reagan Building, Washington, D.C., 10:08 A.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Thank you so much. (Applause.) Thank you, everybody. Please have a seat. Thank you. Well, good morning, everybody. Thank you, Catherine Bertini, and Dan Glickman and everyone at the Chicago Council. We were originally going to convene, along with the G8, in Chicago. But since we’re not doing this in my hometown, I wanted to bring a little bit of Chicago to Washington. (Laughter.) It is wonderful to see all of you. It is great to see quite a few young people here as well. And I want to acknowledge a good friend. We were just talking backstage -- he was my inspiration for singing at the Apollo -- (laughter) -- Bono is here, and it is good to see him. (Applause.)

Now, this weekend at the G8, we’ll be represented by many of the world's largest economies. We face urgent challenges -- creating jobs, addressing the situation in the eurozone, sustaining the global economic recovery. But even as we deal with these issues, I felt it was also important, also critical to focus on the urgent challenge that confronts some 1 billion men, women and children around the world -- the injustice of chronic hunger; the need for long-term food security.

So tomorrow at the G8, we’re going to devote a special session to this challenge. We’re launching a major new partnership to reduce hunger and lift tens of millions of people from poverty. And we’ll be joined by leaders from across Africa, including the first three nations to undertake this effort and who join us here today -- I want to acknowledge them: Prime Minister Meles of Ethiopia -- (applause) -- President Mills of Ghana -- (applause) -- and President Kikwete of Tanzania. (Applause.) Welcome.

I also want to acknowledge President Yayi of Benin, chair of the African Union -- (applause) -- which has shown great leadership in this cause. And two of our leaders in this effort -- USAID Administrator -- every time I meet him, I realize that I was an underachiever in my 30s -- (laughter) -- Dr. Raj Shah is here. (Applause.) And the CEO of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, Daniel Yohannes. (Applause.)

Now, this partnership is possible because so many leaders in Africa and around the world have made food security a priority. And that’s why, shortly after I took office, I called for the international community to do its part. And at the G8 meeting three years ago in L’Aquila, in Italy, that's exactly what we did -- mobilizing more than $22 billion for a global food security initiative.

After decades in which agriculture and nutrition didn’t always get the attention they deserved, we put the fight against global hunger where it should be, which is at the forefront of global development. And this reflected the new approach to development that I called for when I visited Ghana, hosted by President Mills, and that I unveiled at the last summit on the Millennium Development goals.

It’s rooted in our conviction that true development involves not only delivering aid, but also promoting economic growth -- broad-based, inclusive growth that actually helps nations develop and lifts people out of poverty. The whole purpose of development is to create the conditions where assistance is no longer needed, where people have the dignity and the pride of being self-sufficient.

You see our new approach in our promotion of trade and investment, of building on the outstanding work of the African Growth and Opportunity Act. You see it in the global partnership to promote open government, which empowers citizens and helps to fuel development, creates the framework, the foundation for economic growth.

You see it in the international effort we’re leading against corruption, including greater transparency so taxpayers receive every dollar they’re due from the extraction of natural resources. You see it in our Global Health Initiative, which instead of just delivering medicine is also helping to build a stronger health system, delivering better care and saving lives.

And you see our new approach in our food security initiative, Feed the Future. Instead of simply handing out food, we’ve partnered with countries in pursuit of ambitious goals: better nutrition to prevent the stunting and the death of millions of children, and raising the incomes of millions of people, most of them farmers. The good news is we’re on track to meet our goals.

As President, I consider this a moral imperative. As the wealthiest nation on Earth, I believe the United States has a moral obligation to lead the fight against hunger and malnutrition, and to partner with others.

So we take pride in the fact that, because of smart investments in nutrition and agriculture and safety nets, millions of people in Kenya and Ethiopia did not need emergency aid in the recent drought.

But when tens of thousands of children die from the agony of starvation, as in Somalia, that sends us a message we’ve still got a lot of work to do. It’s unacceptable. It’s an outrage. It’s an affront to who we are.

So food security is a moral imperative, but it’s also an economic imperative. History teaches us that one of the most effective ways to pull people and entire nations out of poverty is to invest in their agriculture. And as we’ve seen from Latin America to Africa to Asia, a growing middle class also means growing markets, including more customers for American exports that support American jobs. So we have a self interest in this.

It's a moral imperative, it's an economic imperative, and it is a security imperative. For we’ve seen how spikes in food prices can plunge millions into poverty, which, in turn, can spark riots that cost lives, and can lead to instability. And this danger will only grow if a surging global population isn’t matched by surging food production. So reducing malnutrition and hunger around the world advances international peace and security -- and that includes the national security of the United States.

And perhaps nowhere do we see this link more vividly than in Africa. On the one hand, we see Africa as an emerging market. African economies are some of the fastest growing in the world. We see a surge in foreign investment. We see a growing middle class; hundreds of millions of people connected by mobile phones; more young Africans online than ever before. There's hope and some optimism. And all of this has yielded impressive progress -- for the first time ever, a decline in extreme poverty in Africa; an increase in crop yields; a dramatic drop in child deaths. That's the good news, and in part it's due to some of the work of the people in this room.

On the other hand, we see an Africa that still faces huge hurdles: stark inequalities; most Africans still living on less than $2 a day; climate change that increases the risk of drought and famine. All of which perpetuates stubborn barriers in agriculture, in the agricultural sector -- from bottlenecks in infrastructure that prevent food from getting to market, to the lack of credit, especially for small farmers, most of whom are women.

I’ve spoken before about relatives I have in Kenya, who live in villages where hunger is sometimes a reality -- despite the fact that African farmers can be some of the hardest-working people on Earth. Most of the world’s unused arable land is in Africa. Fifty years ago, Africa was an exporter of food. There is no reason why Africa should not be feeding itself and exporting food again. There is no reason for that. (Applause.)

So that’s why we’re here. In Africa and around the world, progress isn’t coming fast enough. And economic growth can’t just be for the lucky few at the top, it's got to be broad-based, for everybody, and a good place to start is in the agricultural sector. So even as the world responds with food aid in a crisis -- as we’ve done in the Horn of Africa -- communities can’t go back just to the way things were, vulnerable as before, waiting for the next crisis to happen. Development has to be sustainable, and as an international community, we have to do better.

So here at the G8, we’re going to build on the progress we've made so far. Today, I can announce a new global effort we're calling a New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. And to get the job done we’re bringing together all the key players around a shared commitment. Let me describe it.

Governments, like those in Africa, that are committed to agricultural development and food security, they agree to take the lead -- building on their own plans by making tough reforms and attracting investment. Donor countries -- including G8 members and international organizations -- agree to more closely align our assistance with these country plans. And the private sector -- from large multinationals to small African cooperatives, your NGOs and civil society groups -- agree to make concrete and continuing commitments as well, so that there is an alignment between all these sectors.

Now, I know some have asked, in a time of austerity, whether this New Alliance is just a way for governments to shift the burden onto somebody else. I want to be clear: The answer is no. As President, I can assure you that the United States will continue to meet our responsibilities, so that even in these tough fiscal times, we will continue to make historic investments in development. And, by the way, we're going to be working to end hunger right here in the United States as well. (Applause.) That will continue to be a priority.

We’ll continue to be the leader in times of crisis, as we’ve done as the single largest donor of aid in the Horn of Africa, and as we focus on the drought in the Sahel. That's why I’ve proposed to continue increasing funds for food security. (Applause.) So I want to be clear: The United States will remain a global leader in development in partnership with you. And we will continue to make available food -- or emergency aid. That will not change. But what we do want to partner with you on is a strategy so that emergency aid becomes less and less relevant as a consequence of greater and greater sustainability within these own countries.

That's how development is supposed to work. That's what I mean by a new approach that challenges more nations, more organizations, more companies, more NGOs, challenges individuals -- some of the young people who are here -- to step up and play a role -- because government cannot and should not do this alone. This has to be all hands on deck.

And that’s the essence of this New Alliance. So G8 nations will pledge to honor the commitments we made in L’Aquila. We must do what we say; no empty promises. And at the same time, we’ll deliver the assistance to launch this new effort. Moreover, we’re committing to replenish the very successful Global Agricultural and Food Security Program. (Applause.) That's an important part of this overall effort.

Next, we’re going to mobilize more private capital. Today, I can announce that 45 companies -- from major international corporations to African companies and cooperatives -- have pledged to invest more than $3 billion to kick off this effort. (Applause.) And we’re also going to fast-track new agricultural projects so they reach those in need even quicker.

Third, we’re going to speed up the development and delivery of innovation -- better seeds, better storage -- that unleash huge leaps in food production. And we’re going to tap that mobile phone revolution in Africa so that more data on agriculture -- whether it’s satellite imagery or weather forecasts or market prices -- are put in the hands of farmers so they know where to plant and when to plant and when to sell.

Fourth, we’re joining with the World Bank and other partners to better understand and manage the risks that come with changing food prices and a changing climate -- because a change in prices or a single bad season should not plunge a family, a community or a region into crisis.

And finally, we’re going to keep focusing on nutrition, especially for young children, because we know the effects of poor nutrition can last a lifetime -- it’s harder to learn, it’s harder to earn a living. When there is good nutrition, especially in those thousand days during pregnancy up to the child’s second birthday, it means healthier lives for that child and that mother. And it’s the smart thing to do because better nutrition means lower health care costs and it means less need for assistance later on.

That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to sustain the commitments we made three years ago, and we’re going to speed things up. And we’re starting with these three countries -- Tanzania, Ghana and Ethiopia -- precisely because of their record in improving agriculture and food security.

But this is just the beginning. In the coming months, we’ll expand to six countries. We’ll welcome other countries that are committed to making tough reforms. We’ll welcome more companies that are willing to invest. We’re going to hold ourselves accountable; we’ll measure results. And we’ll stay focused on clear goals: boosting farmers’ incomes, and over the next decade, helping 50 million men, women and children lift themselves out of poverty. (Applause.)

And I know there are going to be skeptics -- there always are. We see heartbreaking images -- fields turned to dust, babies with distended bellies -- and we say it’s hopeless, and some places are condemned to perpetual poverty and hunger. But the people in this room disagree. I think most of the American people disagree. Anyone who claims great change is impossible, I say look at the extraordinary successes in development.

Look at the Green Revolution, which pulled hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. (Applause.) Look at microfinance, which has empowered so many rural poor -- something my mother was involved with. Look at the huge expansion of education, especially for girls. Look at the progress we’ve made with vaccines -- from smallpox to measles to pneumonia to diarrhea -- which have saved the lives of hundreds of millions. And of course, look at the global fight against HIV/AIDS, which has brought us to the point where we can imagine what was once unthinkable -- and that is the real possibility of an AIDS-free generation. (Applause.)

Moreover, we are already making progress in this area right now. In Rwanda, farmers are selling more coffee and lifting their families out of poverty. In Haiti, some farmers have more than doubled their yields. In Bangladesh, in the poorest region, they’ve had their first-ever surplus of rice. There are millions of farmers and families whose lives are being transformed right now because of some of the strategies that we’re talking about. And that includes a farmer in Ethiopia who got a new loan, increased production, hired more workers. And he said, “This salary changed my life. My kids can now go to school.”

And we start getting the wheel turning in the direction of progress. We can do this. We’re already doing it. We just need to bring it all together. We can unleash the change that reduces hunger and malnutrition. We can spark the kind of economic growth that lifts people and nations out of poverty. This is the new commitment that we’re making. And I pledge to you today that this will remain a priority as long as I am United States President. Thank very much. (Applause.) God bless you. Thank you. God bless America.

Will Agriculture Make it in Rio+20?

UN negotiations are always complex, but Rio+20 has an unusually complicated agenda. Sustainable development by its nature is broad, combining social, economic, and environmental dimensions.

The negotiating text covers the concept of the Green Economy, which is by no means an accepted term, and has met with strong G77 criticism for its lack of focus on poverty eradication and related social issues. Attempts to agree on the "institutional framework" for sustainable development at the UN, including the upgrading of the United Nations Environment Program to a UN agency, are not only divisive between Europe and North America but have also forced a split within the G77.

The last negotiating round of this two-year process began with a text of 278 pages covering many thematic areas including: oceans, land degradation, energy, sustainable cities and food security. By April 27th negotiations dropped the text to 157 pages but it is now over 171. Of 401 clauses, only 21 are agreed and most of those are titles.

The food security section has grown to include agriculture (thankfully) but has no agreed paragraphs - not even the title. Key clauses recognising the particular needs of rural communities, specifically: women; the importance of agricultural research and extension; livestock and fisheries are likely to survive. Unfortunately a key paragraph on the needs of smallholders (NCST 64 quat) such as credit, grain storage, and water harvesting is now loaded with trade and other contentious issues that were added during a complex evening of negotiations. Only the revised chairman's text, expected before the May 29 negotiations, can hope to save it.

Added to that are a variety of difficult issues, from the amount of overseas development assistance to technology transfer, from reproductive rights to "occupied territories" (which in UN-speak is one way of raising the Palestine question). There are a lot of trip wires in the current text.

So can an agriculture section survive? If the thorny issues of trade and price volatility are managed or dropped, there are likely some areas where agreement can be reached on agriculture text. The question then becomes: do those items in specific areas like agriculture, transportation, and land degradation form the basis of a practical, though not particularly ambitious outcome? Or do all of the areas of implementation get dropped in favour of a political declaration focused on sustainable development goals? Let's hope those are the options and failure is not.

Closing the Gap

It was very disappointing that the Commission on Status of Women failed to deliver an outcomes document on rural women. Female farmers could feed another 150 million people if the gap was closed in access to productive resources. It is put simply by FAO in this video:

Next Committee on Food Security Meeting

October 15-20, 2012 | Rome, Italy


Call for Private Sector Delegates

The International Agri-Food Network is looking for high level representatives of the private sector (including farmers) who can participate in the Committee on World Food Security meeting. In particular, nominations are needed for private sector experts in the areas of:

    • Responsible agricultural investment
    • Global Strategic Framework
    • Land tenure

Submit nominations to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by September 1, 2012.

International Year of Family Farming

Get ready to celebrate the family farm! 2014 will be the International Year of Family Farming. It is a great chance to leverage national, international, farmer, and corporate events to mark the importance of the family farm to global food security. Start thinking about your plans and I welcome any contacts with ideas about planned events that can become part of the global campaign.

The Manyinga Project

The Manyinga Community Resource Centre Orphan and Vulnerable Schools Project has kicked off its fundraising efforts for 2012, and we hope you will consider making a donation to this very worthwhile project. We saw some great successes with the project in 2011, thanks to the generosity of our donors, and we hope to keep the momentum of progress with our project going in 2012.

The highlights of our successes in 2011 include:

  • 32 Lima (about 32 acres) of land was planted, with yields increasing by 200-300% over last year.

  • A portion of the harvest has been marketed and the monies have been put in an account for reinvestment in the schools.

  • The remaining portion of the harvest has been stored for use in a nutritional program. After harvest the kids were served a lunch (at left) as the first fruits of their harvest. A goat will also be used at each school at Christmas this year to provide extra protein.

  • Enrollment at Chinema school is currently 317 children.

  • Enrollment at Samafunda school is currently 96 children.

Our primary fundraising efforts for 2012 include:

  • $30 pays for a year’s garden seed.

  • $50 gets 3 months worth of extra school supplies for each school.

  • $50 adds papaya and banana trees to the orchards, supplementing the student's nutritional needs.

  • $150 puts a first aid kit in a school.

  • $200 buys the tools needed for the agriculture programs at each school.

  • $250 provides for the annual veterinary care of the animals the schools own.

  • $500 pays for the hired help and oxen to prepare the fields for planting at each school.

  • $1,100 pays for a teacher for the year.

  • $5,000 supports our capital improvement project. Grain storage will be our major building project over the next 12-14 months.

It seems amazing, but for under $30,000 the Manyinga project is able to fund two schools, provide essential training in agriculture, address basic health and nutritional concerns for the students and work toward program self-sufficiency. The cost is very little, but the need is very great.

The Green Economy

The Farming First coalition has produced an excellent video and infographic on the Green Economy. Focused on what is needed to make farming work from an economic, social, and environmental perspective, walk through the issues escorted by a woman in the video. All these issues are central to a constructive international agreement at the Rio+20 UN Conference in June 2012.

Food Price Volatility

It may seem that commodity prices are down, but countries remain nervous about food price volatility. At the United Nations, they passed a resolution (A/RES/66/188) that will keep food pricing at the top of the agenda. In a process led by the Dominican Republic, there has been good G77 support for a variety of measures including:

  • Establishment of a special open-ended working group to present recommendations towards "reducing excessive price volatility and speculation in food commodity markets, including derivatives such as futures and over-the-counter transactions, taking into account relevant work done at national, regional and international levels"

  • Asking the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), FAO, and the United Nations Development Programme and others "to continue their research and collaboration with relevant international organisations, to continue their research and analysis on this matter" and submit a joint report by March, 2012.

The resolution includes agreement to have food price volatility as an agenda item for the next General Assembly of the United Nations.

The Female Face of Farming

To celebrate International Women’s Day, I am happy to share with the CFS the infographic “The Female Face of Farming” developed by the FAO and the Farming First coalition. We hope this will be a useful tool to further the cause of women farmers.