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Investing In Agriculture To Reduce Hunger

A child awaits for the distribution of meals by WFP in Haiti.

Strengthening food security has been a top priority for the Administration of President Barack Obama.

Strengthening food security has been a top priority for the Administration of President Barack Obama. Since 75 percent of the developing world’s poor live in rural areas and depend on agriculture to make a living, investing in agriculture can increase agricultural productivity and access to nutritious food while improving livelihoods. In fact, the World Bank estimates that investment in agriculture is two times more effective than investments in any other sector in reducing poverty.

The Global Agriculture and Food Security Program, or GAFSP, is a multi-donor trust fund that works to improve food security through private-public investment in agriculture. Established in 2010 in response to a call by G-20 leaders, GAFSP has already committed nearly $700 million to support the national agricultural development strategies of 18 developing countries.

These programs aim to increase the food security and incomes of some 8.2 million smallholder farmers over five years. The United States, along with partners countries and the Gates Foundation, has been a strong financial supporter of GAFSP from its start and considers it a key component of the Obama Administration’s Feed the Future initiative.

But to continue to be effective, GAFSP needs new financial contributions. On the margins of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund meetings this October, U.S. Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner challenged the international development community to pledge more money to agricultural development in the world’s poorest countries: for every two dollars committed to GAFSP, the United States will donate one dollar, up to a maximum of $475 million.

Secretary Geithner’s challenge is working: already Japan and the Republic of Korea have pledged 30 million each, and the Gates Foundation will double its commitment. In 2012, Canada, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom have also pledged $285 million to GAFSP. If other donors, both public and private, take up the challenge in full, the total commitment to GAFSP will total over $1.4 billion.

“Today the United States is demonstrating once again its commitment to lead the global fight against hunger and malnutrition,” said Secretary Geithner. “By investing in GAFSP, we will mobilize funding from a diverse range of sources and set into motion innovative programs that will help communities become more self-sufficient, farmers increase their productivity, and families climb out of poverty.”