As we celebrated World Food Day on October 16, it’s important to remember that globally, nearly 800 million people are still hungry. Yet here in the United States, there is an opportunity for Congress to act in the fight against global hunger, malnutrition, and extreme poverty. Passing the Global Food Security Act (H.R. 1567, S. 1252) is our chance. Here are five things you need to know about this important piece of legislation:
1. The GFSA codifies a whole-of-government strategy for U.S. global food and nutrition security.
After decades of declining support for farmers in developing countries, renewed U.S. leadership from President Bush and now President Obama has sparked a global commitment to help people feed themselves. Governments, nongovernmental and civil society organizations, academic and research institutions, businesses, multilateral institutions, and farmers themselves have all recommitted to fighting extreme hunger and malnutrition through new agriculture-focused investments.
The Global Food Security Act (GFSA) seeks to capture and sustain the current successes of the U.S. government through its Feed the Future Initiative. Drawing on resources and expertise from 11 federal agencies, Feed the Future is engaging in national agriculture investment strategies and is helping countries, including 19 focus countries in Africa, Latin America, and Asia, transform their agricultural sectors and sustainably produce enough nutritious food to feed their people. The GFSA calls on each relevant Federal department or agency, coordinated at the highest level by the President, to deliver specific implementation plans, including what they will accomplish and the technical and financial resources each will commit. Codifying this whole-of-government approach will ensure that existing coordination between key agencies involved in Feed the Future – including USAID, USDA and the State Department – continues and is improved.
2. The GFSA codifies a comprehensive U.S. global food and nutrition security strategy.
Successfully fighting hunger, malnutrition, and poverty demands a holistic and comprehensive approach. The strategy codified by the bill focuses on increasing sustainable and equitable agricultural development, reducing global hunger, improving nutrition – especially in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life – and ultimately achieving food and nutrition security. The GFSA recognizes the important role of small-scale producers, women, and local food economies, and promotes country ownership and civil society engagement. It also builds the resilience of communities, provides safety nets for the most vulnerable food insecure populations, and fosters improved nutrition, research, environmental protection, capacity building, land rights, and gender equality and female empowerment. Establishing a comprehensive strategy in law will enable us to direct existing and future U.S. investments to programs that truly make a difference in improving food and nutrition security and livelihoods.
3.The GFSA establishes Congressional oversight and reporting requirements.
Current U.S. global food security strategy is established by the Executive Branch with limited Congressional oversight. The GFSA would provide a clear legislative basis for active Congressional oversight, including reporting that is transparent, more complete, and delivered on an annual basis. It also improves upon existing monitoring and evaluation practices to ensure U.S. taxpayer investments are implemented efficiently and effectively. Furthermore, the data will be appropriately disaggregated, like in the case of gender data, to ensure that programs are reaching women. Finally, identification of lessons learned and more consistent benchmarks for success will greatly help in gauging progress toward sustainability.
4.The GFSA promotes country ownership and sustainability.
The GFSA states that it is in the national security interest of the U.S. to promote global food security, resilience, and nutrition, “consistent with national food security investment plans.” Feed the Future has operated in close coordination with USAID’s Local Solutions Initiative, which aims at assisting countries to become more effective providers of development services for their own populations. Yet more can be done. Language in the GFSA encourages outside service providers to focus more on local capacity strengthening and less on providing those services themselves. This will not only accelerate the creation of capable local organizations, but will ensure that development is locally supported, long-lasting, and not creating duplicative systems. In addition, the bill calls for consultations with local stakeholders at the national and regional level, as well as thoughtful alignment with the country’s own plans for agricultural development. Stakeholder consultation – including at a local level and with a diverse group of stakeholders – would become a requirement, and collaboration would become an important mode for mobilizing development actors. Consultation would shape not only the development of plans, but would help to identify roles for non-state actors in lasting development collaborations.
5.The GFSA does not include food aid reform.
While food aid reform is a very important issue, it is separate from the GFSA. The GFSA does not make any changes to the Food for Peace or Food for Progress programs. The bill does require long-term food security programs to coordinate transparently with emergency programs, as countries that are vulnerable to food insecurity often require both emergency food assistance and longer-term agricultural development. Effective coordination between these activities and appropriate planning for the relief-to-development transition are essential ingredients of successful and sustainable programs. But again, the bill does not change any existing authorizing law for emergency food and non-food assistance programs. The GFSA is not food aid reform.