Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger

2011 Hunger Report: Agricultural Development Key - by Roger Thurow

2011 Bread for the World’s new Hunger Report raises the stakes right from its very first sentence:

“2011 is a time of opportunity to achieve lasting progress against global hunger and malnutrition.”

Then it raises them further:

“Feed the Future, a bold new U.S. initiative, may be the best opportunity to come along in decades for the United States to contribute to lasting progress against hunger and malnutrition.”

The message implied in these two sentences: We’ve arrived at an historic moment. Let’s not squander it.

The Bread report seeks to raise the clamor among a vast audience and motivate a wide and deep constituency that can hammer home this message to one particular group of Americans: all members of the incoming Congress, both old and new. They have the opportunity to join with the administration and all the other gathering forces—foundations, humanitarian organizations, private sector companies, universities, international institutions, foreign governments—working to end global hunger and malnutrition through agriculture development in the poorest countries. Congress can do its part by fully approving the president’s funding request for Feed the Future— $3.5 billion over three years—and declaring this work to be a vital and permanent pillar of American foreign policy.

Leading the international assault on hunger has been a prized role for the United States in the past. It did so in the immediate post-World War II years with the Marshall Plan, and then again in the 1960s and ’70s by spearheading the Green Revolution in Asia and South America. Combating hunger worldwide was a vital part of this country’s values, and it yearns to be once again.

“Today the United States government is more focused on global food security than at any other time since the earliest days of the Green Revolution,” USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said at the launch of the Hunger Report last week. “And USAID is leading that renewed focus, recapturing our agency’s historical legacy of curbing hunger in the developing world.”

He then unveiled the new Bureau of Food Security, which will lead a government-wide effort to implement the president’s Feed the Future initiative and drive “the collective action necessary to end world hunger.” Feed the Future, Shah said, will be a cornerstone of USAID.

“To be the world’s best development agency,” he said, “we’ll do it by focusing on ending hunger and malnutrition.”

Linking hunger and malnutrition is one of the primary missions of the Bread report. It has become a mantra of Bread’s president David Beckmann, who introduced the report by hailing burgeoning efforts to improve nutrition for women and children while also improving agriculture production.

Looming over all the talk of history in the making—POTENTIAL history in the making—are some troubling trends of the present. Particularly the recent increases in food prices, which hark back to the food crisis of 2007-2008 when soaring prices and resulting shortages triggered rioting in dozens of countries and a huge increase in the number of chronically hungry people.

That’s why the most important words of Bread’s Hunger Report may be the three on the cover: “Our Common Interest.”

It is in our common interest—far above the divisions of politics and the tensions of budget cuts—to reverse the neglect of agriculture development, to push for progress against hunger and malnutrition and to avoid a repeat of the food crisis. To squander this historic moment would be our common tragedy.

Roger Thurow’s blog post appears courtesy of the Global Food for Thought blog. Thurow, a former Wall Street Journal correspondent, is a senior fellow for Global Agriculture and Food Policy at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs.


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