Today, Secretary Clinton spoke about the Obama Administration's commitment to providing leadership in developing a new global approach to ending hunger. The issue of chronic hunger and food security is at the top of the agenda at the State Department. Secretary Clinton said, "For too long, our primary response has been to send emergency aid when the crisis is at its worst. This saves lives, but it doesn't address hunger’s root causes. It is, at best, a short-term fix."
Secretary Clinton reminded us, "This morning, one billion people around the world woke up hungry. Tonight, they will go to sleep hungry. Today, in a village in Niger, a woman will walk for miles in search of water to irrigate crops that are parched by drought. Today, in Haiti, a farmer’s surplus fruit will go to waste because he has no way to store it or to bring it to market. Today, in Congo, a family will flee a conflict that has left their farms and fields fallow. And today, in a schoolhouse in Bangladesh, children will struggle to learn because their bodies are struggling to survive on insufficient nutrition. The effects of chronic hunger cannot be overstated. Hunger is not only a physical condition, it is a drain on economic development, a threat to global security, a barrier to health and education, and a trap for the millions of people worldwide who work from sunup to sundown every single day but can barely produce enough food to sustain their lives and the lives of their families.
Most of all, hunger belies our planet’s bounty. It challenges our common humanity and resolve. We do have the resources to give every person in the world the tools they need to feed themselves and their children. So the question is not whether we can end hunger, it’s whether we will."
In her remarks, Secretary Clinton highlighted the efforts of 2009 World Food Prize Laureate Gebisa Ejeta to advance food security.
"Dr. Ejeta began his journey in a hut in Ethiopia, where he was born to a mother who was passionately committed to his education. He walked 20 kilometers every Sunday to attend school. He boarded in town for the week, and then he walked home to his family every Friday. Eventually, he made it to college, where he planned to study engineering, but his mother convinced him he’d do more good for the world if he studied agriculture.
After completing his Ph.D. at Purdue...he has gone to work focusing on sorghum, a staple crop in parts of Africa, Central America, and South Asia. He helped develop Africa’s first commercial hybrid strain, which needed less water and actually yielded more grain. Then he developed another variety, resistant to Striga weed, which had regularly wiped out a significant portion of Africa’s cereal crops.
Even while he was making breakthroughs in the lab, he took his work to the field. He knew that for improved seeds to make a difference in people’s lives, farmers would have to know how to use them, which meant they would need access to a seed market and the credit to buy supplies. ...Now, he reminds us that a system of agriculture that nourishes all humankind requires more than a single breakthrough or advances in a single field. It requires a sustained and comprehensive approach. We need to create a global supply chain for food. Today, that chain is broken, and we need to repair it and make it stronger."
Secretary Clinton identified seven principles that support sustainable systems of agriculture in rural areas worldwide.
"First, we will seek to increase agricultural productivity by expanding access to quality seeds, fertilizers, irrigation tools, and the credit to purchase them and the training to use them.
Second, we will work to stimulate the private sector by improving the storage and processing of foods and improving rural roads and transportation so small farmers can sell their fruit, the fruits of their labor, at local markets.
Third, we are committed to maintaining natural resources so that land can be farmed by future generations and that it help – that includes helping countries adapt to climate change.
Fourth, we will expand knowledge and training by supporting R&D and cultivating the next generation of plant scientists.
Fifth, we will seek to increase trade so small-scale farmers can sell their crops far and wide.
Sixth, we will support policy reform and good governance. We need clear and predictable policy and regulatory environments for agriculture to flourish.
And seventh, we will support women and families. Seventy percent of the world’s farmers are women, but most programs that offer farmers credit and training target men. This is both unfair and impractical. An effective agricultural system – (applause) – an effective agricultural system must have incentives for those who do the work, and it must take into account the particular needs of children.
So these are the seven principles that will guide us in the coming weeks, as we scale up our work and help us set benchmarks to measure our efforts. We are committed to collecting data and assessing our progress, and when necessary, correcting our course. Now for us, sustainable agriculture won’t be a side project. It is a central element of our foreign policy."