Testimony of Tjada McKenna, Feed the Future Deputy Coordinator for Development, before the Senate Foreign Relations International Development Subcommittee

November 28, 2012

The following is an excerpt from testimony by Feed the Future Deputy Coordinator for Development Tjada McKenna before the Senate Foreign Relationship International Development Subcommittee. Read her full remarks on the USAID website. 

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recently released a report estimating that there are now approximately 870 million hungry people in the world, 98 percent of them living in developing countries. While these numbers have adjusted down from recent estimates, it is still 870 million too many.

Compounding this problem, research indicates that by the year 2050, the world's population is projected to increase by 38 percent to more than 9 billion, which, combined with changing diets, will require up to a 60 percent increase in food production to feed us all. We confront these challenges in a world that has less land and fewer resources available for production.

Against this backdrop, at the 2009 G-8 Summit, President Obama pledged to provide at least $3.5 billion over three years—between Fiscal Year 2010 and Fiscal Year 2012—to attack the root causes of global hunger and poverty through accelerated agricultural development and improved nutrition. The U.S. Government’s commitment leveraged more than $18 billion in additional support from other donors, creating the financial capacity to significantly reduce the number of people living in extreme poverty and suffering from hunger and undernutrition.

This commitment to the importance of agriculture in sustainably reducing hunger and poverty could not have come at a more important time. For more than two decades, funding for agriculture had been on the decline, leaving the world ill-prepared to cope with the growing challenge of food insecurity. In 2007 and 2008, soaring prices for basic staples coupled with shortsighted policy responses, like export bans and panic buying, had set the world on edge. But it also convinced global leaders that it was finally time to do things differently.

In September 2012, the U.S. Government met President Obama’s $3.5 billion pledge. In fact, we have now obligated $3.786 billion and disbursed $1.134 billion against the President’s pledge. And while we are proud of the United States’ leadership and commitment in this effort, there is still so much more to be done.

Feed the Future expands the United States’ impact as a political and moral force in the fight against global hunger and poverty. With a focus on smallholder farmers, particularly women, this initiative supports countries in developing their agriculture sectors as a catalyst to generate opportunities for broad-based economic growth and trade, which can support increased incomes and help reduce hunger.

While we recognize the importance of providing food aid and other humanitarian assistance during crises to save lives and protect livelihoods, Feed the Future helps promote a lasting solution to hunger through a commitment to agricultural growth and other actions to prevent recurrent food crises. Feed the Future also integrates nutrition interventions to ensure that our investments lead to both improved agriculture and better health, and supports conflict mitigation and good governance efforts that are required to achieve the goals of reducing poverty and undernutrition.

When Feed the Future was launched, the President asked that we do things differently to get better results for every taxpayer dollar invested in this effort. We have taken that directive to heart, and are proud of the many ways we are working toward that goal.