With Thanksgiving just around the corner, the Bread for the World Institute released its timely 2011 Hunger Report, with an event Monday at the National Press Club, featuring USAID administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah and recent World Food Prize winner and Bread for the World President David Beckman.
As American families prepare to gather with friends and loved ones to share a large meal this week, the panelists helped to highlight the growing global food crisis, estimating that 925 million people worldwide will go hungry in 2010 due in large part to soaring global food prices.
Fortunately, the US government has recently stepped up its response to hunger and malnutrition, thanks primarily to the new Feed the Future initiative that focuses on “improving the productivity and livelihoods of smallholder farmers.” This initiative isn’t about handing out emergency food aid, but empowering farmers to get the support they need to respond to high food prices. Now, this is a cause that we at ONE can get behind!
The program, which is working in 20 countries including Rwanda, Ghana and Tanzania, works with national governments for in-country leadership and ownership, all of which involves sustainable agriculture-led development. As Dr. Shah says, this is the way “to help the most people help themselves out of poverty.”
The new USAID approach means focusing on women farmers, as women produce between 60 to 80 percent of food in developing countries. It also means putting to use new technology to help smallholder farmers “deliver results on a large scale,” whether this means using YouTube to help farmers in India communicate with each other, or creating a new variety of maize to resist drought in East Africa.
Programs like Feed the Future are more important than ever. Global food prices are thankfully lower than their peak in 2008, but they are still higher than pre-crisis levels. As a result, poor families are spending 60 to 80 percent of their income on food.
The US has committed $3.5 billion to the global hunger and food security initiative, but policymakers must make sure this promise is carried out over the next three years. Check out Bread’s new report as you head home for Thanksgiving and make sure you tell your representatives to support Feed the Future to ensure nobody has to go hungry this holiday season!