The Feed the Future presidential initiative focuses on advancing global agricultural development through institutions such as MSU.
July 11, 2016 - Author: Abby Rubley
Financial turmoil in 2007 and 2008 pushed millions of people worldwide to the edge of poverty. Fuel and food prices had hit all-time highs, catapulting basic staples such as rice, beans and wheat beyond the reach of many vulnerable people.
This spike in costs arrived on the heels of a 30-year decline in agricultural investment and served as a wake-up call to policymakers. Clearly, more needed to be done to address the symptoms of food insecurity and break the cycle of poverty, hunger and crisis.
Reinvesting in agriculture was key. Under the Bush administration, the United States allocated resources to boost agricultural productivity, strengthen supply chains, and promote sound market-based principles for agricultural development and regional trade. This built on efforts underway by leaders in Africa to invest in and revitalize agriculture as a means for pulling residents out of poverty.
Then in 2010, under the direction of President Obama, the U.S. State Department officially launched the Feed the Future initiative, with implementation of the program through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). The main objectives are to:
The priorities of Michigan State University (MSU) align closely with those of Feed the Future. MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon said there is a high economic payoff from agricultural research when farmers adopt technologies and other innovations. That is why MSU researchers work closely, not only with commodity organizations in Michigan, but also with farmers around the globe.
“Providing practical solutions to everyday challenges, especially those in agriculture, will reap dividends for everyone in the long run,” Simon said. “Much of what we discover in our research can be applied elsewhere, here at home and around the world.”
Under Feed the Future, 24 innovation laboratories were created. These endeavors tap into the scientific excellence of more than 65 U.S. colleges and universities, including MSU. The pioneer land-grant university is home to two Feed the Future labs: the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Grain Legumes (Legume Innovation Lab or LIL) and the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy (Food Security Policy Lab). Total funding for LIL, including associate awards, is $35 million; and for the Food Security Policy Lab, $70 million.
The labs at MSU, one of the most highly funded universities engaged in the global development of food security, work to develop climate-resilient crops and livestock that tolerate warmer climates, better withstand drought, and resist pests and diseases. In mid-2015, Feed the Future announced an investment of $140 million in a series of partnerships over the next three years. These partnerships are expected to deliver climate-resilient seeds and associated technologies to 11 million family farms across Africa.
Rob Bertram, chief scientist for the Bureau for Food Security at the USAID, said the professional skills of researchers and the effectiveness of their respective institutions are critical to the development and adaptation of innovations that drive long-term agricultural productivity and sustainability.
“Working in partnership with universities such as MSU was and continues to be a top priority of Feed the Future,” Bertram said. “MSU knows how to do this work and does it well, as evidenced by the continued success of their projects.”
Gretchen Neisler, director of the Center for Global Connections in Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources (CGC) at MSU, said MSU was successful in securing the two innovation laboratories because of its roster of world-renowned agricultural researchers with proven track records.
“MSU’s success has been apparent in our ability to both adequately use our skill base and understand the needs of the people in developing countries,” Neisler said.
The world population is expected to grow from 7 billion to 9 billion by 2050, and global hunger and chronic malnutrition/undernutrition are expected to increase even faster, especially in developing countries. According to the USAID, worldwide food demand will increase by 40 percent to 70 percent by 2050 depending on income growth and chronic health issues in developing countries. Feed the Future is a key step in addressing those needs.
Feed the Future is focusing on 19 countries, selected on the basis of:
The USAID has a six-pronged approach to making the focus countries food-secure:
In countries supported by Feed the Future and other large-scale U.S. government efforts, local capacity to support food security, agricultural productivity and good nutrition continues to grow stronger. In 2014, Feed the Future had:
During the same timeframe, Feed the Future also reached more than 12 million children with nutrition interventions and helped nearly 7 million farmers gain access to new tools or technologies such as high-yielding seeds, fertilizer application, soil conservation and water management. These increases represent the maturation and full mobilization of the initiative through its many partnerships with host-country governments, the private sector, the research community and others.
Through Feed the Future and other efforts, the U.S. government has partnered with other donors and other countries to continue to elevate food security and nutrition to the top of the global development agenda. The efforts are aimed at addressing the root causes of food insecurity, increasing economic stability and helping avoid recurrent food crises.
Feed the Future includes efforts by the USAID; the U.S. Departments of State: Agriculture, Commerce, Treasury and Geological Survey; the African Development Foundation; the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative; the Millennium Challenge Corporation; the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Peace Corps.