Fighting Global Hunger Helps Us Here at Home
Originally posted here on The Hill by Chris Policinski, President & CEO of Land O’Lakes Inc. and General Charles Wald (Ret.). Land O’Lakes International Development is a VEGA member.
In Tanzania, leafy green sprouts once crowded together – the sign of a good season of sweet potato crops. Today, a dry, barren dirt field remains. This could be any farm in Zambia, Ethiopia, Rwanda or elsewhere in the developing world. And this vacant landscape means one thing: there is no food. Without the basic staple of nutritious and healthy food, progress stops, people die, and whole communities are held hostage to hunger.
Nearly 800 million people across the globe go to bed hungry every night, but America has the tools and the know-how to change this. Our nation’s global food security programs – in partnership with American businesses and NGOs – empower small farmers by giving them access to seeds, agricultural training, and supplies to maintain their land. Many of these families have less than five acres and are simply looking to feed their families and sell at the local market. Food is not only a necessity of life, it’s a ticket to a strong community tied together by sharing the bounty of their harvest.
The Global Food Security Act — a bipartisan bill, years in the making — will help lift millions in the developing world out of poverty and reduce malnutrition by promoting market-based agricultural reforms. As the old adage says, “Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day; Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.” This bill brings together the best of America — our farmers, NGOs, businesses, and US government development professionals at USAID– to do just that. And the House could pass this legislation as early as next week – not only advancing America’s humanitarian values abroad, but also fueling our economic and security interests.
Today, 95 percent of consumers live outside of the United States, with roughly half residing in developing countries. When we work to engage in the developing world, we build access to new markets, increase political stability, and spur economic growth. Plain and simple, foreign aid works: Eleven of our top fifteen trading partners were once recipients of U.S. assistance. This is not about giving a hand out, but a hand up.
One particularly effective investment: teaching women and girls how to keep their own dairy and livestock farms. In partnership with USAID, Land O’Lakes’ extensive and growing support of the dairy sector in Africa has proven to be a powerful means to decrease poverty and increase the food security of the region, while simultaneously encouraging economic stability and private-sector development. Women in particular are empowered through the training to earn more income and help lift their families out of poverty.
Food security abroad also advances our national security here at home. High food prices were a catalyst for riots that toppled the government in Madagascar, and food policy was one of the major grievances behind the Arab Spring. Access to food, and the tools to grow it, creates the stability necessary for countries to thrive, and means a costly U.S. intervention is less likely. When communities cannot meet basic needs, we know that unrest and instability often follow.
While the economic cost of food insecurity is great, the greatest tragedy is when children’s growth is stunted and they are unable to reach their potential because of malnourishment.
As a CEO and retired general, we know that when a community is able to feed all its children, they are able to grow — they can go to school, and eventually contribute to society. Today, there are millions who lack of access to food, and the Global Food Security Act can help change that. We can help ensure that children and communities never wonder where their next meal comes from.
When the Global Food Security Act comes to the House floor, members on both sides of the aisle have ample reason to lend their full support. Not only will this bolster the American economy and developing countries, but it will also strengthen our national security and promote our nation’s humanitarian values. This bill is a unique and important opportunity for Congress to strengthen American global leadership and make a world of difference around the globe.
Chris Policinski is the President and CEO of Land O’Lakes Inc. and a member of the board of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition. General Charles Wald (Ret.) oversaw Africa operations as Deputy Commander for U.S. European Command (2002-2006) and is a member of the National Security Advisory Council of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.