Yesterday, I had the opportunity to meet with 70 private sector representatives at the first Feed the Future Public-Private Partnership Technical Forum, hosted jointly by USDA, the U.S. Agency for International Development, and the Department of State at the White House Conference Center. We discussed potential partnerships to increase agricultural growth in developing countries. Then we rolled up our sleeves got to work aligning investments and connecting individuals and activities.
Our aim—and the focus of Feed the Future—is to raise incomes and produce sustained economic development that reduces poverty, fights hunger, and improves nutrition.
We are at a critical moment of opportunity.
Growing population and incomes in emerging and developing economies will add significantly to the demand for food over the next 40 years. According to the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), an estimated 925 million people around the world currently suffer from hunger. Each year, more than 3.5 million children die from under-nutrition. The U.N. estimates that the world’s population will reach 9.3 billion by 2050. Much of this increase is projected to come from regions currently facing the greatest level of food insecurity. At the same time, per capita incomes in 2050 are projected to be higher, creating middle classes that demand more and higher quality food as well as higher input products, such as meat. With these two pressures of population growth and rising incomes, it is estimated that the demand for food will rise by 70 to 100 percent by 2050.
Agricultural research and development (R&D) are necessary to raise productivity to meet this expected demand. Bridging the productivity gap will require robust investment from the public and private sectors. The Global Harvest Initiative’s policy report points to an $89 billion gap in annual agricultural investment in developing countries. In recent decades, the private sector has become a major investor in agricultural research and development, and a significant source of innovations. According to a USDA Economic Research Service report, annual private-sector food and agricultural R&D grew 4.3 percent per year during 1994-2007.
Still, more can be done, and now is the time to establish lasting partnerships between public and private sector investors.
Last May, the U.S. Government released the Feed the Future Research Strategy in coordination with the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities. With an overall goal of “sustainable intensification,” the strategy prioritizes 1) developing high-yielding, climate resilient cereals; 2) addressing animal and plant diseases; and 3) improving legume productivity. This applied research for productivity, profitability, and resilience is designed to help improve policy environments, address nutrition, and increase availability and access to nutritious foods. It aims to do so through geographically-focused, problem-driven research in four agro-ecological zones: the Indo-gangetic plains with a focus on Bangladesh; Eastern Africa maize-mixed cropping zone including parts of Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya; the Sudano-Sahelian region with focus on Ghana; and the Ethiopian Highlands.
At the Forum on Wednesday, public and private sector food and agricultural leaders discussed areas where our investments and activities can complement one another. Together we can leverage our diverse resources and the latest scientific advances and innovations to meet the coming challenges. I look forward to watching the partnerships that we planted this week flourish and deliver real results.