Agriculture / Ethiopia / Food Security / Ghana / Nutrition / Presentation / Tanzania

President Obama: Sustaining commitments, speeding things up, for African food security

#DearG8: 30 poor countries have a plan to end hunger. Where's yours?

Last week at the 2012 G8 Summit in the USA, Oxfam International asked world leaders to join smallholder farmers and developing countries to fight hunger by delivering on their previous pledges and recommitting for the future by joining its Grow Campaign (image credit: Oxfam International).

Last week, on 18 May and the eve of the 2012 G8 meeting that he led, US President Obama said and announced some stirring stuff, including a New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. The occasion was the 3rd annual Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security, organized by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and held in Washington, DC.

Perhaps decision-makers at this June’s United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio +20), which Obama along with many other heads of state is being urged to attend, could take a leaf from the US president’s focused commitment to (long-neglected) global food security and farm productivity.

The following are (long) excerpts (I didn’t find much I wanted to cut) of Obama’s speech last week.

‘. . . Now, this weekend at the G8, we’ll be represented by many of the world’s largest economies. . . . [T]omorrow at the G8, . . . 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 . . . .

‘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. . . . 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 . . . 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. . . .

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.

#DearG8, it's time to break the cycle of hunger and poverty.

‘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. . . .

‘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. . . .

‘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 . . . .

‘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. . . .

There is no reason why Africa should not be feeding itself and exporting food again. There is no reason for that.

#DearG8, the world's farmers work hard to put food on the table. Now it's your turn.

‘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. . . .

‘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. 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. . . .

‘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. 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.

#DearG8, farming will be a revolution for women.

‘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.

‘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. 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.

‘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. . . .

Read the whole speech at the White House website: Remarks by the President at Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security, 18 May 2012.

Read related article on this blog: Move our global food systems into a ‘safe space’–Memo to G8 from CGIAR’s Bruce Campbell, 20 May 2012.

3 thoughts on “President Obama: Sustaining commitments, speeding things up, for African food security

  1. Some specifics of the New Alliance.

    White House Fact Sheet:
    G-8 Action on Food Security and Nutrition
    Source: White House Office of the Press Secretary
    May 18, 2012

    At the Camp David Summit, G-8 and African leaders will commit to the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, the next phase of our shared commitment to achieving global food security. In partnership with Africa’s people and leaders, our goals are to increase responsible domestic and foreign private investments in African agriculture, take innovations that can enhance agricultural productivity to scale, and reduce the risk borne by vulnerable economies and communities. We recognize and will act upon the critical role played by smallholder farmers, especially women, in transforming agriculture and building thriving economies.

    The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition is a shared commitment to achieve sustained and inclusive agricultural growth and raise 50 million people out of poverty over the next 10 years by aligning the commitments of Africa’s leadership to drive effective country plans and policies for food security; the commitments of private sector partners to increase investments where the conditions are right; and the commitments of the G-8 to expand Africa’s potential for rapid and sustainable agricultural growth.

    We welcome the support of the World Bank and African Development Bank, and of the United Nations’ World Food Program, International Fund for Agricultural Development, and Food and Agriculture Organization for the New Alliance. We also welcome the successful conclusion of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries and Forests in the context of National Food Security and support the broad-based consultation process and pilot use of the Principles of Responsible Agricultural Investment.

    The New Alliance Will Build on and Help Realize the Promise of L’Aquila

    Since the L’Aquila Summit, where we committed to “act with the scale and urgency needed to achieve sustainable global food security,” we have increased our bilateral and multilateral investments in food security and changed the way we do business, consistent with core principles of aid effectiveness. Based on the findings of the 2012 G-8 Accountability Report and consistent with the Rome Principles on Sustainable Global Food Security, the G-8 will agree to:

    Promptly fulfill outstanding L’Aquila financial pledges and seek to maintain strong support to address current and future global food security challenges, including through bilateral and multilateral assistance; Ensure that our assistance is directly aligned behind country plans;
    Strengthen the coordination of G-8 strategies, assistance and programs in-country and with partner countries to increase efficiencies, reduce transaction burdens, and eliminate redundancies and gaps.

    The New Alliance will be rooted in partnership

    To accelerate national progress in African partner countries, the G-8 will launch New Alliance Cooperation Frameworks that align with priority activities within each partner’s Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) national investment plan and include predictable funding commitments, specific policy actions, and statements of intent from the private sector.

    The G-8 will partner with the African Union, New Partnership for Africa’s Development and CAADP to implement the New Alliance, and leverage in particular the Grow Africa Partnership, in order to ensure our efforts build on African ownership, yield significant outcomes, and can be replicated across Africa. The G-8 will work together to advance the objectives of the New Alliance and G-8 members will support its individual elements on a complementary basis.

    To mobilize private capital for food security, the New Alliance will:

    Support the preparation and financing of bankable agricultural infrastructure projects, through multilateral initiatives including the development of a new Fast Track Facility for Agriculture Infrastructure.
    Support the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP), with the goal of securing commitments of $1.2 billion over three years from existing and new donors, scaling up and strengthening the operations of its public and private sector windows and support other mechanisms that improve country ownership and align behind CAADP national investment plans.

    Report on the progress of G-8 development finance institutions in catalyzing additional private investment in African agriculture and increasing the range of financing options and innovative risk mitigation tools available to smallholder farmers and medium-sized agribusinesses.

    Call on the World Bank, in collaboration with other relevant partners, to develop options for generating a Doing Business in Agriculture Index.

    Announce the signing of Letters of Intent from over 45 local and multinational companies to invest over $3 billion across the agricultural value chain in Grow Africa countries, and the signing by over 60 companies of the Private Sector Declaration of Support for African Agricultural Development outlining their commitment to support African agriculture and public-private partnerships in a responsible manner.

    To take innovation to scale, the New Alliance will:

    Determine 10-year targets in partner countries for sustainable agricultural yield improvements, adoption of improved production technologies, including improved seed varieties, as well as post-harvest management practices as part of a value-chain approach, and measures to ensure ecological sustainability and safeguard agro-biodiversity.

    Launch a Technology Platform with the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research, the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa and other partners in consultation with the Tropical Agriculture Platform and the Coalition for African Rice Development (CARD) initiative that will assess the availability of improved technologies for food commodities critical to achieve sustainable yield, resilience, and nutrition impacts, identify current constraints to adoption, and create a roadmap to accelerate adoption of technologies.

    Launch the Scaling Seeds and Other Technologies Partnership, housed at the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa to strengthen the seed sector and promote the commercialization, distribution and adoption of key technologies improved seed varieties, and other technologies prioritized by the Technology Platform to meet established goals in partner countries.
    Share relevant agricultural data available from G-8 countries with African partners and convene an international conference on Open Data for Agriculture, to develop options for the establishment of a global platform to make reliable agricultural and related information available to African farmers, researchers and policymakers, taking into account existing agricultural data systems.

    Launch an information and communications technology innovation challenge on extension services at the African Union Summit in July 2012.

    Explore opportunities for applying the non-profit model licensing approach that could expand African access to food and nutritional technologies developed by national research institutions.

    To reduce and manage risk, the New Alliance will:

    Support the Platform for Agricultural Risk Management (PARM) to complete national agricultural risk assessment strategies, to be conducted by the World Bank and other international institutions in close partnership with New Alliance countries, with the mandate of identifying key risks to food and nutrition security and agricultural development and recommending options for managing these risks.

    Create a global action network to accelerate the availability and adoption of agricultural index insurance, in order to mitigate risks to farmers, especially smallholder and women farmers, and increase income and nutritional security. This network will pool data and findings; identify constraints; support regional training and capacity-building; and accelerate the development of instruments appropriate for smallholders and pastoralists.

    Recognize the need for Africa-based sovereign risk management instruments, recognizing the progress by the African Union and its member governments toward creating the African Risk Capacity, a regional risk-pooling facility for drought management.

    To improve nutritional outcomes and reduce child stunting, the G-8 will:

    Actively support the Scaling Up Nutrition movement and welcome the commitment of African partners to improve the nutritional well-being of their populations, especially during the critical 1,000 days window from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday. We pledge that the G-8 members will maintain robust programs to further reduce child stunting.

    Commit to improve tracking and disbursements for nutrition across sectors and ensure coordination of nutrition activities across sectors.

    Support the accelerated release, adoption and consumption of bio-fortified crop varieties, crop diversification, and related technologies to improve the nutritional quality of food in Africa.

    Develop a nutrition policy research agenda and support the efforts of African institutions, civil society and private sector partners to establish regional nutritional learning centers.

    To ensure accountability for results, the New Alliance will:

    Convene a Leadership Council to drive and track implementation, which will report to the G-8 and African Union on progress towards achieving the commitments under the New Alliance, including commitments made by the private sector.

    Report to the 2013 G-8 Summit on the implementation of the New Alliance, including the actions of the private sector, in collaboration with the African Union.

  2. And DuPont announced new investments for Ethiopia:

    FnBNewscom (India): DuPont to invest $3 million in Ethiopia; sponsor EIU’s Global Food Security Index
    21 May 2012

    Ellen Kullman, chair and chief executive officer, DuPont, announced two key efforts that would support collaborative world hunger initiatives.

    It will invest more than $3 million over the next three years to help smallholder farmers in Ethiopia to achieve food security; and is sponsoring an innovative Global Food Security Index being developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) to measure the drivers of food security across 105 countries.

    The index will be published this summer and will be a unique resource for those working to improve food security across the private and public sectors. This interactive benchmark tool will be publicly available, so governments, universities, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and others can access the relevant data to help tailor local solutions regarding food security.

    Kullman made both announcements at the Advancing Food and Nutrition Security at the 2012 G8 Summit, hosted by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs in collaboration with the World Economic Forum.

    Building on DuPont’s substantial commitment to Africa

    DuPont intends to forge a strategic alliance with the government of Ethiopia and the Agriculture Transformation Agency to directly benefit the productivity of smallholder farmers in the nation, thereby improving their ability to produce nutritious food for their families and communities.

    “Based on our work with smallholder farmers and African families, we understand that local solutions, local acceptance and community collaborations are critical to improving food security in Africa and around the world,” Kullman said. “DuPont will commit additional local resources, including recruiting local talent to run our research and operations in Sub-Saharan countries like Ethiopia, Kenya and South Africa, and ensure the solutions we develop are economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.”

    DuPont has operations in 35 countries in Sub-Saharan Africa and employs more than 500 people on the continent through its businesses. Kullman said the commitment to grow DuPont’s presence on the continent will result in investment to grow these businesses in Africa to more than $1 billion in revenue in the next decade.

    DuPont’s commitment to grow its business in Africa and explore collaborations in the region is in support of Grow Africa and the G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.

    Supporting local solutions in Ethiopia
    Kullman also highlighted a specific emphasis in Ethiopia in DuPont’s collaboration and expansion efforts:
    ” She announced a pilot project between DuPont and the Earth Institute of Columbia University to create a rapid soil information system to aid Ethiopian farmers with an effective way to diagnose soil constraints in the field and receive recommendations to improve crop yields. DuPont will invest $1 million over three years for the pilot project
    ” DuPont’s Crop Protection business will work to develop a sulfonylurea weed control offering for wheat to improve productivity, bring novel insect control solutions for cotton and vegetables, and train farmers on the responsible use of crop protection products
    ” Looking ahead, Kullman said DuPont is exploring a collaboration opportunity with USAID to upgrade agronomic practices and inputs of smallholder Ethiopian maize farmers and increase the profitability of their farms
    ” DuPont also will invest $2 million to expand seed production and storage facilities in Ethiopia

    Bringing new tools to focus global efforts
    The Global Food Security Index will be released in July 2012 and will take into account underlying factors such as the affordability, accessibility, availability, nutritional value and safety of food to measure food security and assess vulnerabilities country by country. The index is distinct because it uses 25 indicators and adjusts for food price fluctuations to actively reassess the risks countries face over time.

    “We need a clear metric that enables us to see, transparently and objectively, what we’re up against,” Kullman said. “Governments, private and public sector entities need a common language to discuss the root cause of hunger so they can make better informed decisions that drive sustainable action at a local level. We are pleased to support the Economist Intelligence Unit in developing this one-of-a-kind tool for promoting collaboration, generating insights and stimulating action to feed the world’s growing population.”

    The index supports the continued execution of the Millennium Development Goals and the L’Aquila Food Security Initiative by providing a way to gauge the success of investments in a region and to hone future projects to address exact food security drivers in a particular country.


    U.S. President Announces Multi-Billion Dollar Investments for African Agriculture As Part of an Initiative Developed in Collaboration With the World Economic Forum
    Washington, DC – May 18, 2012
    Source: World Economic Forum (

    Over forty-five companies have committed to invest over US$ 3 billion in Africa’s agricultural sector as part of the G8’s New Alliance for Food and Nutrition Security initiative, US President Barack Obama announced today.

    The commitments were developed in collaboration with Grow Africa, an innovative partnership led by the World Economic Forum, the African Union and the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).

    “Today, I can announce a new global effort, bringing together all global players for a shared effort – African governments and donor countries, which agreed to align their donations, and private sector players, international as well as non-governmental organizations,” said President Obama, speaking at the Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security in Washington DC, an event hosted by The Chicago Council on Global Affairs. “We will stay focused on clear goals, boosting farmers’ income and helping 50 million people lift themselves out of poverty. We can unleash the change that reduces hunger and malnutrition. This is the new commitment we are making today.”

    Heads of state and government from Ethiopia, Tanzania and Ghana also participated in the event.

    The investments span different stages of the agriculture value chain across three African countries, offering the prospect of economic development as well as improvements to food and nutrition security.

    Currently, the commitments comprise a total of 63 Letters of Intent, with African businesses making up 21 of the signatories. “These investments, developed through the Grow Africa Partnership, represent a big step forward for African agriculture and offer further proof that today the handshake has replaced the handout as the principal partnership model for the region,” said Josette Sheeran, Vice-Chairman of the World Economic Forum.

    “Private-sector investment can accelerate growth in a way that benefits Africa’s smallholder farmers,” said Jean Ping, Chairperson of the African Union Commission. “Through Grow Africa, we believe it is possible to build a platform that will benefit all of Africa.”

    More companies are looking to Africa for long-term investing.

    “We are making a major investment commitment to expand Africa’s agricultural productivity and food security by expanding its access to fertilizer,” said Joergen Haslestad, Chief Executive Officer of Yara International.

    “Africa has become one of our strategic growth regions and our aspiration is to contribute to the transformation of African agriculture,” added Michael Mack, Chief Executive Officer of Syngenta.

    The Grow Africa partnership, convened jointly by the African Union, NEPAD and the World Economic Forum, works to accelerate sustainable investment in African agriculture to improve food security. The Grow Africa Investment Forum, held on 9 May 2012 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, engaged over 270 leaders, including heads of state and government from Ethiopia, Rwanda and Tanzania, as well as leaders of African and global business, international organizations, donor agencies and farmer organizations. Seven countries showcased specific investment and partnership opportunities aligned to their national priorities for agricultural transformation.

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