By Marshall L. Matz and Eden Shiferaw
“…agriculture development is critical, because it’s the best way to boost incomes for the majority of the Africans who are farmers, especially as they deal with the impacts of climate change…” President Obama, August 5, 2014
What is the White House U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit?
The first ever U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit took place on Monday, August 4th through Wednesday, August 6th. The Summit involved the United States, over 50 African heads of state, and the African Union. The Summit was organized around the theme “Investing in the Next Generation.” Summit participants discussed investment issues, peace and security, governance, and other topics. The Summit and associated events highlighted key goals in the White House Administration’s 2012 Africa Strategy, which focuses on U.S. efforts to help African countries to foster:
- good governance;
- food security;
- increased economic growth, trade, and investment, in partnership with U.S. firms;
- durable peace and security; and
- greater socio-economic opportunity and development.
Initiatives and Partnerships Related to Agriculture
- Global Resilience Partnership, a $100 million partnership launched by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and The Rockefeller Foundation was announced at the Summit. The Global Resilience Partnership will institute a new model for solving the complex and interrelated challenges of the 21st century such as persistent and often extreme poverty, food insecurity, and climate shocks through public-private partnerships.
- Through the Feed the Future initiative, the U.S. Government stands alongside its partners in Africa to promote agricultural development as a means to catalyze broad-based economic growth that can make a significant impact against hunger, poverty and undernutrition. The U.S. reiterated its commitment to enable smallholder farmers and producers with access to agricultural insurance so that they can feel comfortable adopting and using new tools, technologies and practices that can help increase yields and, ultimately, economic outcomes.
- The New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition report was released at the Summit, announcing that, under the effort, private sector companies have collectively committed more than $8 billion in responsible agriculture investments in Africa, African governments have made progress or completed 95 percent of their policy-related commitments, and 3 million smallholder farmers have been reached.
- The Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) initiative will now have four new partners and up to $1 billion in export credit guarantees that will enhance trade between the U.S. and Africa.
- The United States intends to join the global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture (ACSA) slated for launch at the United Nations Secretary General’s Climate Summit in New York in September 2014. At the Summit, the African Union Commission shared its plans for a roadmap to implement the Malabo Declaration’s commitments, including actions to build resilience to climate and weather-related risks through Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA).
Administration’s Comments on Agriculture
- Secretary of State John Kerry: “When you talk about food security, it doesn’t take very long to have the name, Norman Borlaug, come up. Norman would have been 100 years old this year, and he dedicated his entire life and career to feeding the world’s hungry. He won a Nobel Prize for his work. And he pursued that path for one reason. As he put it, ‘You can’t build a peaceful world on empty stomachs and human misery,’ pretty simple.
But on top of that, the growing impacts of climate change are going to put extraordinary stress on our ability to be able to produce the amount of food that we need to be able to feed those increasing numbers, and, I might add, to feed from increasing numbers from increasingly – from agricultural locations that are increasingly under greater stress and duress…
We need more governments, more businesses, more research institutions, more civil society, more people all over the world focused on improving agricultural productivity, on investing in innovation and technology like seeds that withstand drought and floods, and on ensuring the world’s agricultural sector is operating as sustainably as possible…”
- Secretary of Agriculture (USDA), Tom Vilsack: As a panelist during the “Resilience and Food Security in a Changing Climate” event, Secretary Tom Vilsack discussed the three goals USDA is focused on, including advancing sustainable agricultural practices, building greater resiliency in agriculture, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions related to agriculture. Secretary Vilsack said USDA can share research data on crop genomes, pest and disease control, as well as monitoring and addressing drought conditions.
The Administration considers global food security a top foreign policy priority. It is not just Africans and African leaders recognizing the importance of agriculture, the Summit demonstrated the Administration’s understanding that agriculture is the key to Africa’s economic prosperity. Furthermore, the Administration accepts that a “green revolution” in Africa cannot take place without Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) technology. The Administration repeatedly alluded to biotechnology by advocating for smart, sound science in order to combat the effects of climate change.
The Administration purposely refrained from offering a set of deliverables from the Summit, however, it should be noted that the Administration is enthusiastic about Africa Growth Opportunity Act (AGOA) and Feed the Future. Throughout the Summit, the Administration reiterated that AGOA and Feed the Future are top legislative priorities.
Despite the Administration refraining from deliverables, the Summit was a successful bipartisan effort. “Congress has played an enormous role on a bipartisan basis in supporting Africa policy,” said Ben Rhodes, the deputy national security adviser for strategic communications. “It is important to note that in an environment in Washington where there’s not a lot of bipartisan agreement, Africa has been the true exception.”