Food Security Contributes to National Security

Posted by Jonathan Shrier
October 28, 2011
Man Harvests Corn in New York

Earlier this week in the Benjamin Franklin Room of the State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vice President Joe Biden delivered remarks, honoring critical partners in and highlighting critical issues of national security: Bill Gates and Howard G. Buffett of the Gates and Buffett Foundations, and their foundation's work to improve global food security. Gates and Buffett share the 2011 George McGovern Award for Leadership in Food Security.

Although "national security" often conjures up images of missiles and militaries, it should also prompt images of maize and millet. The availability of and access to food is inextricably linked to prosperity and stability. As Vice President Biden explained on Monday, "Investments made to ward off food insecurity and prevent its recurrence can prevent the vicious cycles of rising extremism, armed conflict, and state failure that can require far larger commitments of resources down the road."

Secretary Clinton followed, noting that "ending hunger is not only possible, but it is both a moral and strategic imperative." Renewed investment in food security is a centerpiece of the Obama Administration's foreign policy. Secretary Clinton's leadership in Feed the Future (FTF), the U.S. global hunger and food security initiative, earned her the George McGovern Award last year. FTF invests along the entire agricultural chain -- focusing on smallholder farmers, to improve their access to credit, technology, and markets so that agricultural productivity increases. As Secretary Clinton said on Monday, "this is the central pillar of our commitment to finding sustainable, long-term solutions to the hunger crisis."

We can see the challenge starkly in the Horn of Africa. During his keynote remarks, Vice President Biden spoke passionately about the humanitarian crisis in the Horn of Africa and the over 13 million people who are at risk of starvation and malnutrition there. He noted U.S. efforts to promote recovery, economic growth and stability in the region, “despite the risks posed by al-Shabaab, a terrorist group that has brutalized the Somali population and placed deadly restrictions on humanitarian access to southern Somalia…Al Shabaab has disrupted agricultural practices and the free flow of goods, and willfully denied the hundreds of thousands of starving people access to food, water and medicine.”

Later, Secretary Clinton announced that the United States will provide an “additional $100 million, primarily in food assistance, for drought-affected areas in Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia.” This is in addition to the almost $650 million in food and humanitarian assistance already committed by the United States.

Even as we are working hard to feed the hungry in the present, we also have to redouble our commitment to Feed the Future, so that we can ultimately make famine a thing of the past.



Massachusetts, USA
October 31, 2011

Maureen in Massachusetts writes:

Food Security Contributes to National Security:

Thank you Representative Shrier for elaborating on this engaging topic.

Vice President Biden and Secretary Clinton's remarks quoted in your post embody the forward thinking policy needed in today's world of interdependence yet maintain all the values upheld heretofore- food assistance programs reflect that dignity and compassion already woven into the nation.

Crisis in The Horn of Africa is the immediate example of how access of food aid assistance becomes mired in conflict. How terror groups prey and use famine to destabilize an already desperate situation augmenting the loss of life. The link between food insecurity and national security encompasses a broader concept in that successful agricultural initiatives lead to nation stabilization therefore limiting or preventing dire intervention at a later date.

Being defenders of food security now will prevent future conflicts and with the need for food production to be increased dramatically at the global scale, investment in agriculture technology could be considered as a real security initiative.
This linking of food security and security intervention as a more singular mission at the budget level could perhaps help us succeed faster in breaking the cycle of famine?

Investment to prevent crisis as opposed to reaction to crisis - how investments in the less fortunate will contribute to a more secure homeland. Preventative action at policy level by engagement and confrontation of drought and famine head on is not futuristic but emerging as the newer face of national security.

Alice M.
Oklahoma, USA
November 2, 2011

Alice M. in Oklahoma writes:

I have often thought that we should send goats to all the main herdsmen in Afganistan. That would give us more credibility than guns, but I'm from Oklahoma and beef equals wealth here along with oil! Just a simple idea.


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