Statement of Beth Dunford, PhD, Assistant to the Administrator for the Bureau of Food Security, before the Senate Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Human Rights, and International Organizations

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Bass, and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for inviting me to speak with you today. As we commemorate the one-year anniversary of Congress passing the Global Food Security Act (GFSA), I’d like to express my gratitude for your leadership in the fight to end global hunger, and to the Congress for showing bipartisan, bicameral support for building a more food-secure and stable world.

I also want to thank U.S. African Development Foundation President C.D. Glin and Acting Special Representative for Global Food Security Ted Lyng for being here today, as well as our interagency partners, with whom we collaborate closely with under Feed the Future.

Mr. Chairman, today there are nearly 800 million hungry people in the world, and by 2050, there will be more than 9 billion mouths to feed. This is both a challenge and an opportunity for our country.

The Global Food Security Act sent a clear message that the United States is committed to addressing the root causes of poverty and hunger by equipping people with the tools to feed themselves. Feed the Future, guided by the Global Food Security Strategy, is leveraging investment from partner countries and the private sector to reduce reliance on humanitarian aid, promote American prosperity, deliver results, and build stability around the world. What began as the U.S. Government response to the 2008 global food crisis under President George W. Bush, led to a mobilized commitment and investment from other donors and countries in targeted, long-term food security solutions. These efforts continue today in many of the world’s most vulnerable countries, including those faced with the specter of famine and insecurity.

I know that many of you are closely watching the situations in Yemen, Somalia, South Sudan, and Nigeria as these four countries face the real and devastating possibility of famine. This puts 20 million people at risk of severe hunger or starvation in these countries. Worldwide, some 81 million people are projected to need emergency food assistance in 2017, 70 percent more than in 2015. The Emergency Food Security Program, codified in the GFSA, has proven to be a key part of USAID’s response to these crises.

While the world responds to these crises to alleviate immediate suffering, we must also take preventive action that leads to lasting food security for future generations. Building resilience addresses increasingly complex risks and their impacts on vulnerable people. It helps bridge the gap between humanitarian and development action.

Through Feed the Future, we’re combatting the root causes of hunger and strengthening the resilience of communities and countries by investing in agriculture. We have an approach that works. Today, 9 million more people are living free from poverty, 1.6 million more households are living free from hunger, and 1.8 million more children are living free from the devastating effects of stunting where the initiative works.

This is the most effective way to reduce vulnerability to food shocks and stresses, and to address chronic poverty and hunger. The old adage holds true: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. By investing in long-term solutions to food security today, we can reduce the need for costly food aid in the future, and help entire countries move from away from aid dependency to self-sufficiency. A U.K. study in Ethiopia and Kenya estimated that, over the long-run, every $1 invested in food security and resilience will result in $2.90 in reduced humanitarian spending, avoided losses, and improved poverty, hunger and malnutrition outcomes.

We have seen how this works in Ethiopia, where evidence shows that our investments in building resilience to shocks are paying off. In 2016, Feed the Future’s targeted resilience investments in Ethiopia helped the country mitigate drought, despite that drought being more severe and lasting longer than the 1985 drought that led to widespread famine.

As we move beyond the first phase of Feed the Future, I’d like to provide you with an update on our results, the challenges and opportunities food security poses today, and discuss our progress in implementing the next phase of the initiative -- as directed by the Global Food Security Act -- to respond to these challenges and capitalize on opportunities to build a more food-secure world.

Progress Through Partnerships and Effective Approach

Country ownership and partnerships are at the heart of Feed the Future’s approach and are keys to lasting success in moving countries from aid to trade.

Feed the Future draws on the agricultural, trade, investment, development, and policy resources and expertise of several U.S. Government agencies and departments. We each bring our unique perspectives and resources to the table, which is integral to the “new model of development” for which the initiative has become known.

Through Feed the Future, our government has chosen to invest in a select number of countries that were committed to improving food security and nutrition. In Africa, Feed the Future partner governments have outpaced their neighbors’ domestic investment in agriculture. Partner governments have increased their own annual investment in agriculture by an average of $718 million, or 25 percent between 2011 and 2015.

The Government of Kenya has committed $1.6 billion to resilience activities over ten years, and this is matched by $1.5 billion from donors, including USAID. The early results are promising and include positive trends in reducing poverty and hunger, and improving dietary diversity, access to water, livestock sales, and rangeland management. Further, the government scaled up a novel livestock insurance program that was piloted by USAID. That insurance is now paying out millions to over 12,000 pastoralist households, enabling them to better manage through the current drought and speeding their recovery once drought conditions subside.

Feed the Future is also supporting partner country governments to improve their enabling environments for food security and nutrition. In the last year alone, Feed the Future has supported not just the passage, but the full and effective implementation of over 100 policies that will unlock investment, enable trade, and improve access to the inputs farmers need.

We know that lasting change means creating market driven progress. As a result, we have worked closely with these governments and the private sector to jump start economies and establish functional markets. Feed the Future has partnered with hundreds of local small- and medium-sized businesses, as well as U.S. and international companies; leveraging nearly $830 million in direct private sector capital investment from 2011 through 2016. This has helped poor farmers generate nearly $2.6 billion in new agricultural sales from 2011 through 2016. With more income, farmers are able to better provide for their families, send their children to school, and save for the future, while reinvesting profits to grow their businesses.

It is important to note that research in agriculture is one of the most effective of all public investments in driving down poverty, hunger, and malnutrition. From mechanization of farms, to the development of commercial fertilizers, to new high-yield and drought resistant seeds, global agricultural research reduces poverty among 2.3 million people annually.

Feed the Future invests in research critical to the future of developing country agriculture, as well as America’s. Our support brings others to the table. We’ve leveraged $1 billion annually from our investments in partners to reduce excessive pesticide use among smallholders and improve yield stability in maize and wheat.

These partnerships, when taken together, are helping America and the world.

Food Security Still Imperative

While we have achieved impressive gains over the last six years, there is still more to be done.

The world’s poor spend as much as 60 to 80 percent of their income on food. When food prices rise, the poor suffer most.

Far too many children in vulnerable communities around the world still don’t get enough nutritious food to eat. A lack of nutrient-rich food early in life robs many of these children of their future potential; crippling their ability to fully grow, learn, and succeed later in life. Around the world, 160 million children under the age of five suffer from this stunting, which not only holds them back, but their economies too. Without proper cognitive development, these children will find it harder to find work in a more knowledge and service-based global economy in the future. This has ramifications for future poverty rates, as well as migration.

In response, over the last year alone, Feed the Future trained more than 3.7 million people in child health and nutrition, and helped thousands of health facilities address malnutrition so they can help families help themselves, now and for years to come. These are part of the Feed the Future efforts that helped reach nearly 27 million children under the age of five last year with interventions to improve their nutrition, with particular focus on the critical 1,000 day window between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday.

Food security abroad also affords opportunities for America’s own economy and prosperity. Our investments protect American interests and dollars, and ensure we can continue to influence rapidly transforming regions and emerging economies.

Feed the Future supports policies that open trade in the agriculture sector, reduce corruption, help U.S. businesses compete and expand into new markets, and may increase foreign demand for American products. In fact, while we cannot show direct links to Feed the Future, U.S. agricultural exports to Feed the Future partner countries have already increased by $1 billion in between 2009 and 2016.

USAID is helping African countries improve their trade corridors and harmonize policies so food can make it across borders before it spoils, and farmers can more easily access the inputs they need.

Our research partnerships also draw on the expertise of 24 U.S. university-led Feed the Future Innovation Labs, supported by over 70 top U.S. colleges and universities, international agricultural research centers, and top U.S. researchers supported through the Department of Agriculture, to tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges in agriculture and food security, abroad and here at home. As diseases that threaten foreign crops and livestock make their way to our shores, American farmers and ranchers benefit from the work we are already doing to combat them.

For example, through experience gained in Ethiopia, researchers at the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Sorghum and Millet at Kansas State University are combatting wheat stem rust, a disease that threatens our $10 billion a year wheat industry. We saw this in Malawi during a 2016 drought where U.S. emergency humanitarian response in one community cost an average of $390 per household over the course of nine months.

In contrast, a community in which had previously USAID invested an estimated $376 per household through resilience and food security programs across a span of five years did not require food assistance in 2016. Although our work in that community had ended in 2014, we had successfully embedded new behaviors and knowledge that the community sustained.

Delivering on the Global Food Security Act of 2016

The U.S. Government’s Global Food Security Strategy

I’d like to conclude my testimony with an update on how Feed the Future is evolving under this Act.

The GFSA called for us to develop a new whole-of-government global food security strategy, which the Feed the Future partner agencies and departments worked together to create, along with department and agency-specific implementation plans. Using past performance, consultations with the private sector, NGOs, leading experts, and other stakeholders, we produced the U.S. Government’s first whole-of-government Global Food Security Strategy last year.

While the strategy maintains key tenets of Feed the Future, including a focus on smallholder farmers, many of whom are women, and an overarching goal of sustainably reducing poverty, hunger, and malnutrition, it includes a few important distinctions.

First, we further elevated nutrition and are seeking to better integrate water, sanitation, and hygiene into our efforts to better nourish women and children, continuing our focus on the first 1,000 days. We pioneered the integration of agriculture and nutrition under the first phase of Feed the Future, and our evaluations show us we still have work to do in this area. We also increased our focus on strengthening resilience among people and systems and addressing the root causes to break the cycle of crisis that keeps people in poverty or pushes them back into it. The strategy also emphasizes a market system approach, where the U.S. Government plays a facilitating role in helping markets function well. We are using our influence and technical expertise to help partner governments update policies and allocate their national resources in ways that will create long-term, country-led change. Together, these efforts will sustain momentum and growth beyond our assistance.

Developing this strategy served to reinvigorate interagency collaboration and we have been working together on important next steps to implement it.

Target Country Selection

Our immediate next step was to identify target countries where U.S. government investments have the greatest potential to achieve sustainable improvements in food security and nutrition.

We brought the expertise, perspectives, and experience of Feed the Future agencies and departments to bear in this process. We also invited more than 150 public and private sector organizations to participate in consultations about the process and looked at several criteria to be considered within the 2017 appropriations and the 2018 request levels, including: the level of need (measured in part by historical emergency food aid levels), potential for agriculture-led growth, opportunities for partnership, opportunities for regional integration, and host government commitment to investment and policy reform.

Advancing Food Security in Target Countries

We have also begun developing a process for creating country plans that outline an evidence-based, whole-of-government approach to achieve our goals in each of the target countries.

These plans will reflect the principles and requirements of the GFSA, including aligning with country-owned policy and investment plans and helping to create the conditions where our assistance is no longer needed.

Over a six month period, we will review lessons learned, consult with key in-country stakeholders, and conduct a stock-taking exercise to review the latest evidence about the root causes of poverty, hunger, and malnutrition in each country.

Meanwhile, we are already seeing that in many countries the transition to the principles and objectives reflected in the Global Food Security Strategy is well underway, and we are already delivering results.

Indicators to Measure Progress

Accountability for results has been a hallmark of the Feed the Future development approach. We take very seriously the responsibility of effectively and efficiently using the dollars entrusted to us by the American people very seriously.

To strengthen the existing Feed the Future accountability mechanisms, we are upgrading the set of indicators that we use for performance monitoring. As always, this process has been interagency as well as consultative, and included input from over 100 public and private sector stakeholders. We will collect data on these indicators annually to support accountability, learning and assessment of progress toward the Global Food Security Strategy goals.

As research plays a prominent role in advancing global food security, we are developing a new research strategy that supports the Global Food Security Strategy. Developed in consultation with the private sector, researchers at U.S. universities, the USDA and other U.S. Government scientific agencies, multilateral institutions like the CGIAR, and our field partners, this Research Strategy will help us align efforts and pinpoint areas where U.S. Government investment is most needed and can have the most impact.

We are doing all this in a way that will build upon and leverage each target country’s own national data system. These investments build host-country capacity and accountability, enabling us and our partner countries to better measure progress while providing information and evidence for more effective policy making; resulting in more frequent, higher-quality, and cost-effective data on food security, resilience, and agriculture.

Looking Forward

Feed the Future shows that progress is possible. By bringing together the whole-of-government, host-country and private sector partners, donors, researchers and universities, and global leaders to invest in agriculture and nutrition, the U.S. Government has achieved a great deal in lifting families around the world out of poverty and hunger. This is something every American can be proud of.

When I was in Senegal last month, I saw how our partnerships with the government and private sector to develop new agricultural policies, unlock finance, expand markets, and open access to trainings are helping the country transform its agriculture sector to drive economic growth. Progress is empowering rice millers like Daba Fall.

Fall accessed training through Feed the Future that equipped her with tools, resources and confidence to become an entrepreneur and purchase her own rice mill. She now mills and sells her own brand of rice in markets all along the Northern Senegal River Valley, and is making a living that supports her family. She is helping her community break the cycle of hunger and poverty, and feed itself by creating more local jobs as she grows her business.

We have an approach that works to break the cycle of hunger and poverty, and we are refining our systems for continual improvement based on a constant flow of feedback. Looking forward, we will leverage partnership, innovations and learning to achieve even greater results for a food-secure future. A future where no child goes to bed hungry and communities are able to feed themselves and participate productively in the global economy. A future with fewer humanitarian and development aid recipients and more consumers, entrepreneurs and trade partners.

We believe this mission is a global responsibility and that others must step up and contribute. Therefore, our overall approach is rooted in drawing in other donor, domestic and private sector resources so that the United States is not the only financier or stakeholder in advancing global food security.

We can’t do our part without Congressional support, and I want to thank you again for your leadership and commitment on this issue. Feed the Future looks forward to continuing this important work through the Global Food Security Act.

Implementing the Global Food Security Act
Committee on Foreign Affairs