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Remarks at World Food Prize Announcement Ceremony

Henrietta H. Fore, Acting U.S. Director of Foreign Assistance and Acting Administrator of USAID
Loy Henderson Auditorium
Washington, DC
June 18, 2007

Thank you, Ambassador Quinn, for that kind introduction. It is a real pleasure to join such a distinguished group in announcing the 2007 World Food Prize recipient. I am especially honored to be sharing this podium with Dr. Norman Borlaug. Dr. Borlaug, in addition to being the founder and visionary behind the World Food Prize, is widely considered to be the “Father of the Green Revolution.”

When I came to USAID 17 years ago, Dr. Borlaug was already a legend. These past few weeks, as I have returned to USAID, I can tell you he is held in great respect and awe – with many new development specialists who look to follow in his footsteps. His contributions to improving the quality, quantity and availability of food have earned him innumerable accolades throughout the world, including the Nobel Peace Prize in 1970, the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1977, and next month, the Congressional Gold Medal.

As the former Director of the United States Mint, I can speak with authority when I say the Congressional Gold Medal is the highest honor bestowed by Congress on civilians. I am told the medal itself has on its obverse a younger Dr. Borlaug standing in a wheat field making notes on a notepad. The reverse has an image of the globe with hands holding stalks of wheat with the quote,  “The first essential component for social justice is adequate food for mankind.”

I understand all three of these high honors have been bestowed on only two other individuals: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Mother Teresa. This honor rightfully places him among the great humanitarians of our time and reminds us all that an individual armed with a powerful idea and the determination to turn that idea into a reality can indeed change the world.

Today, we gather to recognize one such individual, Dr. Philip Nelson. Dr. Nelson is an extraordinary leader in modern food science and technology. He has devoted his life to making sure the poor and undernourished of the world get the nutritious food they need, safely and affordably.

His innovative breakthroughs in agricultural and food processing technologies have revolutionized the food industry, as has his work in aseptic processing and packaging systems. His leadership and vision in this area have enhanced the accessibility of adequately nutritious food through a greater variety of products, the improved shelf-life of these products and better reliability and quality within the food supply.

Dr. Nelson has not only been instrumental in expanding the availability and quality of food, but he has also worked to identify ways to improve worldwide transport and distribution of important food products from the developing world to markets in wealthier countries.

In addition to this groundbreaking work, Dr. Nelson has answered the important call made of all great educators, to broadly share what they have learned with others. He has spent his career educating food scientists worldwide, and was instrumental in building one of the largest and most recognized food science departments anywhere at Purdue University. Over the past 23 years, thousands of professionals have participated in workshops in “aseptic processing” that were developed and led by Dr. Nelson at Purdue.

The work of Dr. Nelson and his Purdue University colleagues is just one example of the immense capacities of the Unites States’ land grant university system.

And USAID is proud to be a partner with Purdue University and over 60 other land grant universities. Among them, Iowa State University—located in the great state where Dr. Borlaug was born and where the World Food Prize will be awarded in October.

The ultimate goal of all foreign assistance is to help recipient countries build their own institutions, to lift and keep themselves out of poverty. Our land grant university system is a shining example of how this is done, as partner universities throughout the developing world not only disseminate improved technologies to their farmers, but also build the research capacity within their own centers of higher education to sustain past gains and ensure onward progress long after assistance has ended.

Over 5,000 students around the world have been trained to the Masters and PhD levels since the program began 30 years ago, while tens of thousands more have received short-term training.

Dr. Nelson’s achievements are a tribute to the ability of our nation’s land grant system to help solve the world’s food problems, and we thank him for his tremendous contributions and hope that the high honor being bestowed on him in October through this World Food Prize will be a prelude to his many more discoveries that will help pull ever greater numbers of people out of poverty and hunger.

And as we pause today to recognize Dr. Nelson’s remarkable accomplishments, we must also recommit ourselves to the important work that lies ahead. As the world’s population continues to grow, so too must our resolve to develop ever more efficient, responsive and ultimately sustainable ways to feed this population.

Today, chronically malnourished people in the world number over 850 million.

While the prevalence of undernourishment has fallen in some developing countries since the early 1990s, poverty and conflict have offset these gains elsewhere.

Hunger-related deaths currently average more than 25,000 people each day, over nine million people a year. Nearly one in seven people do not have enough food to lead healthy, productive lives, making hunger and malnutrition one of the leading global health risks.

Reversing the trend of malnutrition remains a formidable challenge for all of us in both the public, non-profit and private sectors. While we recognize that broad-based economic growth is the longer-term solution to eliminating poverty and malnutrition, the immediacy of hunger today necessitates a coordinated and decisive response.

Let me take a moment to simply highlight how the U.S. Government, through foreign assistance, is addressing some of these challenges.

At USAID, we have developed a new Food Security Strategy to enable partner communities to effectively and successfully address their own food insecurity problems.

USAID P.L. 480 Title II food aid programs play a critical role in this strategy.

In 2006, through 1.8 billion dollars of annual food aid funding, we supported programs that protect lives and maintain food consumption levels, as well as contribute to longer-term initiatives that help people find lasting employment opportunities and improve the health, nutrition and education to those in need.

In the process, USAID partnered with 23 cooperating sponsors, field missions and other donors to implement activities in 55 countries worldwide, benefiting over 48 million people.

One such program, the Ethiopia Productive Safety Net Program, is designed to simultaneously stabilize incomes to prevent the sale of household assets during hunger periods and to increase agricultural and economic productivity through public works, such as soil and water conservation programs.

In 2006, working closely with the European Union and other donors, the Ethiopia Productive Safety Net Program reached more than seven million beneficiaries in chronically food insecure households.

These beneficiaries received food or cash in return for participating in public works in their communities during the six months of the year between harvest and planting season.

Results to date have been promising.

Three independent studies in 2006 found strong evidence of progress in the Ethiopia safety net implementation.

There are clear indications that we are achieving the intended results of stabilizing household assets, and in many cases increasing them.

In addition to programs through which the United States coordinates with other bi- and multi-lateral donors, such as the World Food Program, we are increasingly reaching out to private and non-profit partners.

Given the enormous monetary and technical resources these parties bring to bear, forming public-private partnerships is critical to both expanding and deepening our collective global impact.
 
Let me give you an example. Senator Lugar, being a loyal Hoosier, will appreciate this, I'm sure. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation recently awarded an $11.4 million grant to Purdue University to disseminate technologies developed by a USAID-funded Bean/Cowpea Collaborative Research Support Program.

Cowpeas are a drought tolerant warm weather crop, and are one of the few grain crops that can be profitably exported by farmers in the dry, resource-poor regions of sub-Saharan Africa—making them one of the region’s most important staple crops.

The technology that is utilized by this program involves a simple, low-cost, chemical free method that will improve cowpea storage for an estimated three million households in 10 African countries, improve their access to agricultural markets, and increase household incomes on average about $150 per year.

Purdue will work with partners in Africa to recruit and train technicians who will travel from village to village to educate people on the proper method for cowpea storage, and work with local enterprises to assure appropriate storage supplies.

This is an excellent example of how U.S. universities—with USAID resources—are leveraging additional private sector resource flows.

Before I close, allow me to highlight one more program that is realizing great success, the President’s Initiative to End Hunger in Africa.

Begun in 2003, this initiative was designed to rapidly increase agricultural growth and rural incomes in sub-Saharan Africa by harnessing the power of new agricultural technologies; improving the efficiency of agricultural market systems; building the capacity of community-based organizations; and integrating vulnerable groups and countries into sustainable development processes.

In 2006, the President’s Initiative to End Hunger in Africa helped spur some $800 million of international trade in agricultural products, while transferring new technologies to over 500,000 farmers.

In Uganda alone, 17,000 female farmers and 14,000 male farmers benefited from the initiative and were introduced to new techniques in rice production allowing them to increase their yield at lower production costs.

In addition to increasing the productivity of sub-Saharan farmers, this initiative also coordinates the United States’ support for the African led Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Program that seeks to improve the effectiveness of foreign and domestic development assistance by aligning national and regional investments.

Through such coordination, the program’s goal is to achieve a 6% annual growth rate in agriculture, which is necessary to meet the Millennium Development Goals for poverty and hunger by 2015.

Through numerous initiatives, such as those highlighted above, the United States, through its foreign assistance programs, continues to seek out “force multipliers” in our quest to improve the world's food supply and end hunger in our time.

I will end here, by thanking Dr. Nelson once more for his inspiration and tireless efforts that have been a guiding light for all of us in this quest.

We all look forward to his many contributions to come.

Thank you.



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