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F O R E I G N S E R V I C E J O U R N A L / M A R C H 2 0 1 2
effects of the resulting famine have been devastating, forc-
ing thousands of families to flee their homes and their
countries in search of food. Some mothers have been un-
able to carry all of their children on the long and arduous
trek, while many who do complete the difficult journey are
so weak and undernourished that they are unlikely to sur-
Such tragedies constantly remindme how difficult it can
be to explain to my own young daughter what I do as head
of USAID’s Bureau for Food Security. So I’ve started to
tell her that in development, we’re really in the business of
selling optimism. We have to believe deep down that pos-
itive change is possible, even in the face of seemingly in-
surmountable obstacles. And sometimes we have to
change the way we work across the “relief to development”
continuum to make a lasting dif-
ference in people’s lives.
With this insight in mind,
President Barack Obama an-
nounced a newmodus operandi
for combating global hunger
during the 2009 Group of Eight
summit in L’Aquila, Italy. There
he and fellow leaders of the
world’s leading economies com-
mitted to “act with the scale and
urgency needed to achieve sus-
tainable global food security.”
This new initiative, which
came to be called Feed the Fu-
ture, is a multiagency effort to
address the root causes of
poverty and hunger that limit
the potential of hundreds of
millions of people around the
world. The U.S. Agency for In-
ternational Development plays
a lead role in implementing the
program, in concert with our partners at the State Depart-
ment, Department of Agriculture, Peace Corps, Millen-
niumChallenge Corporation, Treasury Department, Office
of the U.S. Trade Representative, Overseas Private Invest-
ment Corporation and U.S. African Development Foun-
While some cases of food insecurity may be sporadic or
temporary, as many as 925 million people — nearly one-
seventh of the world’s population — experience chronic
hunger day after day, all year long. To help ease this suf-
fering, Feed the Future has set an ambitious goal. By lever-
aging more than $70 million in private investment for
agriculture and spurring $2.8 billion in increased agricul-
tural sector growth, we plan to help an estimated 18 million
vulnerable women, children and family members—mostly
smallholder farmers — escape poverty and hunger.
Why the focus on agriculture to drive economic growth?
Because an estimated three-quarters of the world’s poor
live in rural areas, where farming can be a key economic
driver. Recent studies also establish that growth in agri-
culture is, on average, at least twice as effective in reducing
poverty as growth in other sectors.
Over the coming years, we believe investments in agri-
culture will be one of the fundamental forces transforming
John Atis, regional director for a USAID-supported program, at the Wynne Farm,
a mountaintop training facility for farmers in Kenscoff, Haiti.
Paul Weisenfeld currently heads the U.S. Agency for In-
ternational Development’s Bureau for Food Security. A
minister counselor in the Senior Foreign Service, he pre-
viously served as senior deputy assistant administrator of
the Bureau for Latin America and the Caribbean, coordi-
nator of the USAID Haiti Task Team following the Janu-
ary 2010 earthquake in that country, and mission director
in Peru and Zimbabwe, among other assignments.