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Breakout Session: Global Food Security: Call to Action

By Emily Riemer

As the hunger crisis persists in the Horn of Africa and elsewhere, the urgent need continues for agricultural development, nutrition assistance and humanitarian response–both short- and long-term. Join this discussion that explores the ethical, economic and global security justifications for a comprehensive and coordinated strategy to address worldwide hunger.

Facilitator: Dennis Ripley, senior VP, international business development


Ambassador Tony Hall, Director, Alliance to End Hunger

Dr. Julie Howard, U.S. Government Deputy Coordinator for Development, Feed the Future

John Magnay, Senior agricultural advisor, Opportunity International

Q & A with the Panelists

Ripley: My opening question is for John. What are you doing to help global food security?

Panel (from left): Dennis Ripley, Dr. Julie Howard, John Magnay and Ambassador Tony Hall.Magnay: We are offering not only financial services but market inputs and agricultural services. To give you an idea, I believe that smallholder farmers in Africa are producing about 40% of their potential, in part because harvests sit in-store and either get damaged by insects or spoil. Part of the solution is also that we lend in Trust Groups, the traditional microfinance model, which does not require collateral, to better access more impoverished farmers with these services.

Hall: The Alliance to End Hunger was founded on the understanding that everyone needs to be in the room, not just NGOs or faith-based groups or government entities or corporations. We’ve got to come together to solve the problem, and build political will. Secondly, we’ve been asked to build national alliances in-country. One of the problems we see in developing nations is that so many of the people need to rely on their governments. And we also want to build domestic solutions to hunger. Today, almost 50 million people in the U.S. are going to bed hungry. We believe no one in the U.S. should go to bed hungry either. We’re working with members of Congress and other leaders to find solutions to domestic hunger.

Howard: I work on USAID’s Feed the Future initiative with administrator Rajiv Shah. With this initiative, we’re trying to model a different kind of solution to hunger and food security issues. We had gotten into a pattern of putting band-aids on this problem. We work in 19 countries, and USAID takes ownership of this but works with local and federal government and we create a platform for all donors in private sector to come together to solve these problems.

Ripley: John, if you could be czar of food security, what would you do?

Magnay: Well, in Africa, you have to do it on a regional basis, not a country-to-country basis. But, for instance, though the Horn of Africa is experiencing a drought right now, a few years ago they experienced great rainfalls and great harvests but had no markets in which to sell their products. So we need to create conditions that can handle both the times of feast and the times of famine. Regions of Africa need to sit down and work out what their regional food security needs are, and then account for that with varieties of seed, fertilizer and irrigation. It’s a complex question but we have to do something.

Ripley: Does what John said overlap with what USAID is trying to do in Africa?

Howard: The difficulty is when regions don’t work together, and small economies strive to be self-sufficient. That’s our problem. But again it isn’t our problem, we can and should facilitate it, but it needs to be something that governments and entities do for themselves to accommodate the feast and the famine months. Also, it’s important that we engage women and youth in this work. Women play a very important role in agricultural, and in ensuring that children and families are fed. So they need to be an integral part of that process.

Hall: Women are key to this process. If we access the women, the children will get fed. Also, I think that Feed the Future is one of the best government programs we’ve had for food security because it focuses on agriculture. It has the potential to turn everything around. Whatever we do, we’ve got to do it together–to bring in NGOs and faith-based groups and governments and more.

Audience question: How does climate change affect global food security?

Magnay: Today in Uganda, for instance, I see the pressure of urbanization, the impact of deforestation, the melting of East African ice caps, and the drying up of the Mara River in Kenya. I had not seen these issues 30 years ago, and they create complexity and new issues. We need to gather more data about it and monitor the situation, but we can adapt to these new changes and will find solutions to ensure food security.

Howard: We have been working to develop varieties of rice, for instance, that can help withstand flooding. It’s a complex issue but in Ethiopia and Kenya, with social programs in place, you’re seeing governments who are better able to cope with drought. It is frightening but we have a lot we can do.

This session was streamed live at opportunity.org/live. Visit opportunity.org/live throughout the conference to watch the sessions live.

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