Friday, 27 May 2011

2011 Progress Report on U.S. Leadership in Global Agricultural Development

Tuesday, May 24th. The Chicago Council on Global Affairs held its annual Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security in Washington, D.C. , featuring keynote presentations from Bill Gates, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAIDRajiv Shah, and the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDATom Vilsack. The event coincided with the release of the 2011 Progress Report on U.S. Leadership in Global Agricultural Development by the Chicago Council’s Global Agricultural Development Initiative.

USAID Administer Rajiv Shah was a keynote speaker at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs’ Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security on May 24th. (Photo credit: Modernizing Foreign Assistance Network)
The initiative is funded by the Bill &Melinda Gates foundation, and the report gives the U.S. government a grade of B minus for its overall leadership role in global agricultural development.

Action 2a. Provide greater support for agricultural scientists in national agricultural research systems. Score: 6 out of 10
Examples of recent partnerships with NARS include USAID/Senegal’s Education and Research in Agriculture initiative, which will establish a broad research exchange program between a consortium of five U.S. universities and institutes of agricultural research in Senegal, and the USAID-funded Africa-U.S. Higher Education Initiative, which is working in partnership with the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa.

While these partnerships are important, direct financial support of NARS is needed in order for them to reach their full potential and achieve the greatest impacts of agricultural research and development. Regular tracking of U.S. government support to NARS would be useful to assessing funds’ use and ultimate impact.(see page 12 of the report).
For the U.S. government’s efforts to improve national and international institutions that deliver agricultural development assistance, the report gave its highest mark of B plus, citing improvements in USAID’s structure, effectiveness, and coordination with other agencies. A grade of D was given to the effort to improve U.S. policies currently seen as harmful to agricultural development abroad, noting that although lively discussions continue in this area, little action has been delivered.
Bill Gates, Co-chair and Trustee at the annual Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security

Ahead of the conference, Gates launched a challenge inviting people from around the world to submit compelling stories, videos or photos, among others, that show the role of small farmers in poverty and hunger reduction.

Extract of the speech: (...) How is the world helping the poorest farmers grow and sell more? The strategy is in innovation – combining the best of what’s worked in the past with new breakthroughs, customized to the needs of small farmers.
  • Innovation in seeds brings small farmers new high-yield crops that can grow in a drought, survive in a flood, and resist pests and disease.
  • Innovation in markets offers small farmers access to reliable customers.
  • Innovation in agricultural techniques helps farmers increase productivity while preserving the environment – with approaches like no-till farming, rainwater harvesting, and drip irrigation.
  • Innovation in foreign assistance assistance means that donors now support national plans that provide farming families with new seeds, tools, techniques and markets. This approach reduces overlap and keeps developing countries squarely in the lead.

Some of the most exciting innovations are coming in agricultural research. (...)