By Tara Basu
On Tuesday, January 28, 2014, Jonathan Shrier, a Dartmouth ’85, Acting Special Representative for Global Food Security at the U.S. Department of State, and Deputy Coordinator for Diplomacy for Feed the Future, spoke to the Dartmouth College community about U.S. and global initiatives in addressing food security. He passionately and lucidly outlined the problem of food security, the forces that threaten it, and the cooperative efforts that are being undertaken to remediate food security issues.
Mr. Shrier began his lecture by informing his audience of statistics regarding poverty, hunger, and malnutrition. According to Mr. Shrier, 842 million people, one out of every eight people, suffer from chronic hunger. 75% of the world’s poor live in developing countries that depend on agriculture for food and economic security. One in four children under the age of five is stunted. Yet 1.3 billion tons of food is lost or wasted. By the year 2050, the world’s population will be greater than nine billion people, which will require an increase of 60% in food production.
However, simply producing more food is not enough, said Mr. Shrier. We face the double burden of malnutrition and a rise in obesity. Nutritious food must be made available to the world population even as global climate change is threatening our food sources. Tropical and sub-tropical regions, such as the Mekong River delta, our primary sources of food, are the most threatened, with sea level increases 20-50% higher than in other regions. As a result, these regions experience acidity and drought.
Mr. Shrier asserted there is a need for cooperation between multilateral organizations, partner countries, civil society, and the private sector. Science and innovation can help address food security issues by transforming production systems and making inputs more effective. The U.S. is a leader in food security issues, playing a primary role in the UN Committee on World Food Security, and it has the research and technology to tackle global hunger. President Obama is a strong advocate for an increase in investments in food and nutrition. At the 2009 G-8 summit in Italy, President Obama announced that the U.S. would increase investments in food. Countries partnered up to invest $22 billion over a three-year period in nineteen focus countries.
Feed the Future has been helping communities become more resilient by equipping them with the technological, research, and scientific tools to approach agriculture more effectively. In the fiscal year 2012, more than 9 million households benefited directly from Feed the Future, and more than 7 million farmers applied new technology through Feed the Future. Focus has been placed on increasing the production of cereals and nutritious legumes. Feed the Future is developing new animal vaccines and pest-resistant crops. One of Feed the Future’s overarching goals is to address nutrition. The World Health Assembly’s goal is to reduce child stunting by 20% by the year 2025. In the 2012 fiscal year, Feed the Future reached more than 12 million children. One Feed the Future project in Zambia focuses on producing orange maize, a source of Vitamin A. Other Vitamin A food products are often too expensive in Zambia, and the orange maize can provide half of the average daily requirement of Vitamin A.
The private sector is helping address food security issues through an increase in resources, innovation, markets, and sustainability. Loan programs in Kenya have been very effective. A loan that costs $125/acre yields $120/acre in profits per year.
In 2012, President Obama revealed the New Alliance, a partnership between African government donors and public and private organizations. Through the New Alliance, more than seventy global organizations have agreed to invest more than $3.7 billion in food security.
U.S. diplomacy is a critical part of the effort to improve food security, said Mr. Shrier. The U.S. is working with countries like Brazil, India, and South Africa. Together with Brazil, the U.S. is addressing food security in Haiti and the Honduras. Promoting open markets is one of the key components of addressing food security.
Mr. Shrier outlined a comprehensive view of the efforts being taken worldwide to address global hunger and malnutrition. He declared food security to be a multidimensional issue requiring a coordinated approach. Currently, the U.S. Government is leading a thorough effort to address global food security. Tackling world hunger and malnutrition generates economic growth and promotes global stability, which is beneficial to all the world’s citizens. The urgent nature of the issue demands a swift response, and Mr. Shrier affirmed that because we can solve the issues of world hunger and malnutrition, we must.