Thursday, September 23, 2010

Obama Presents his new Approch to Development

Yesterday at the U.N. Millennium Development Goals Summit,  President Obama gave a speech describing the fundamental changes to the way US delivers aid: the new US Global Development Policy. The "big-hearted and hard-headed" approach, seeks "creating the conditions where assistance is no longer needed." In his speech, the president outline the three pillars that will sustain this approach: 
  • A policy focused on sustainable development outcomes that places a premium on broad-based economic growth, democratic governance, game-changing innovations, and sustainable systems for meeting basic human needs;
  • A new operational model that positions the United States to be a more effective partner and to leverage our leadership; and 
  • A modern architecture that elevates development and harnesses development capabilities spread across government in support of common objectives

Referring to the millions of people receiving food assistance from the WFP and others, President Obama said: "That's not development, that's dependence ... And it's a cycle we need to break. Instead of just managing poverty, we have to offer nations and people a path out of poverty." Then came a needed caveat: "the US has been and will remain the global leader in proving assistance. We will not abandon those that depend on us for life-saving aid."

Anticipating criticizing from foes about the US foreign aid agenda in times of economic pain and budget cuts, President Obama said "Let's put to rest the old myth that development is mere charity that does not serve our interests", and "reject the cynicism that certain countries are condemn to perpetual poverty." He went on to list examples of unprecedented development progress in the past 50 years and linked the development goals to domestic interest:  "In our global economy, progress in even the poorest countries can advance the prosperity and security of people far beyond their borders, including my fellow Americans."

This focus on long-term development is already evident on initiatives such as Feed the Future and Global Health. See the full speech on the video below:

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Wknd Reading Sept 19: Sunday Edititon

A short list for this wknd reading:

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Oxfam International: Halving Hunger, Still Possible?

In their latest Briefing Paper, Oxfam argues that reducing hunger by 2015 is still possible:

"While time is running out, the global crises push the MDGs desperately off course. The only chance of avoiding failure is a rescue plan for all MDGs that includes the necessary measures, both political and financial. Halving hunger is still  possible if developing countries take the lead with the right policies and investments, donor countries increase dramatically their aid to agriculture, food security and social protection under nationally and regionally-driven plans, and the global issues affecting food security are collectively addressed".

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Funding Feed the Future Initiative:
Funding for the Feed the Future Initiative has been cut by the folks in the hill.  The following excerpt comes from an excellent summary put together by U.S Global Leadership Coalition:
"Both House and Senate bills cut the $1.65 billion request for Feed the Future, but in different ways and in different amounts.  The Senate provides $1.3 billion, with $250 million channeled through a World Bank managed multi-country fund for which the Administration had proposed $408 million.  The House measure reduces this further to $1.15 billion, providing a direct appropriation to the multilateral fund of $150 million, with authority to transfer another $100 million from bilateral resources, at the President’s discretion".
After its formal announcement at the G-20 summit in which the Obama administration proposed 1.4 billion for Agricultural Development, funding for the initiative had been uncertain, specially under the current political climate.  Although FTF counted with bipartisan support, it seems that the program couldn't be isolated from other major cuts taking place across the federal board.

However, the important message continues laud and clear: this administration remains committed to international agriculture and food security programs. It's really up to other G-8 countries to fulfill their promises to provide $20 billion over the next three years towards agricultural development in impoverished countries. Most of that money is nowhere to be seen.

FAO: 925 Million in Chronic Hunger Worldwide

Today, the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organization announced that there are 925 million individuals enduring chronic hunger worldwide, a significant reduction from the 1 billion, 23 million hungry estimated at the peak of the food crisis of 2007 and 2009. Many news wires broadcast the press released as an important milestone: "World Hunger to Fall for First Time in 15 Years on Growth" says Bloomberg.

According to FAO, the reasons behind this reduction are twofold: 1) the reduction of food prices in developing countries from their peak levels in 2008 and 2) the projected economic growth in the developing countries for 2010. These have allowed poor people to buy more food. Although the developing world is faring this economic down-turn much better that developed countries, is hard to predict if lower prices and growth in the developing world will continue robustly. Instead, the trend has been quite the opposite, i.e since the mid- 1990s hunger has been increasing. Today, 16% of the world population remains hungry, six points away from the Millennium Development Goal of halving hunger by 2015.

This welcomed news must not hid the fact that nations need to address the underlying problems of hunger in other to empower people to either buy or produce enough food to meet their diet requirements. Essentially, African and South-Asian governments need to commit to a set of policies focusing on small farmers, helping them produce and market their products better. The Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) and the government's Feed the Future Initiative are two steps in the right direction. However, in the former, few countries have reached the goal of spending 10% of their government expending on Agriculture, and in the later, the actual program implementation hasn't reach the field yet. Let's hope that African countries will strengthen their commitment to food security and agriculture, and that bi-lateral and multilateral support continue increasing agricultural spending. As U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said "We have the resources to give every person in the world the tools they need to feed themselves and their children. So the question is not whether we can end hunger. It's whether we will."

Monday, September 13, 2010

Wknd Reading Sept 13th: Monday Edition

Agdes starts this week of with a fresher look. I also fixed some broken links and got rid of some outdated content (Thanks Joe). As always, email me if you have relevant material to share.
Here is your reading list for the week(end):

Hidden Hunger: the Impact of Chronic Malnutrition and Tools to Tackle it

Hidden Hunger from Bob Caputo on Vimeo.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Rockefeller Foundation Continued Support for Agricultural Development

Throughout the years, philanthropy has played a vital role in agricultural development. Many individuals and families were instrumental in providing the resources needed for important agricultural innovations that brought prosperity to poor areas of the world. Chief among the examples of foundations supporting Ag development was the Rockefeller Foundation's commitment to the work of Dr. Norman Borlaug and what later became the Green Revolution. With the foundation's funding, the Mexican Agricultural Program was established in 1943. This institution later became CIMMYT, where most of the high-yileld wheat varieties were developed.

As agriculture makes its come back to the development agenda, foundations continue to play a very important role, especially in cash strapped countries where these type of investments are critical to many subsistence farmers.  Although the commendable work of the Gates and Melinda Foundation on agricultural development in Africa is more visible  and gets more newswires, the Rockefeller Foundation deserves a lot of credit for their recent work in the continent. Between September 2-4 of this year, the foundation was one of the supporter of the Africa Green Revolution Forum. This needed platform gave voice to many experts from different African countries and elsewhere in the world to drive "agricultural productivity and income growth for African farmers in an environmentally sustainable way". During the conference, innovative ideas on food security and ag  development were showcase and debated.

I'm glad that the foundation continues to follow its historical legacy and commitment to agricultural development. Maybe one of these experts will become the the next Dr. Norman Borlaug, only this time the grain and the continent will be different.

Enjoy this informative video the Rockefeller Foundation put together about the forum and their work in Africa.