ROME – WFP’s “operational prowess” and weighty “procurement footprint” – almost a billion dollars spent buying food last year – position it to lead the way in creating food systems that over time will eliminate the need for humanitarian food aid, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah said on Monday.
“The global battle against hunger is winnable,” said the head of the US government’s foreign aid during a speech to a WFP Executive Board meeting in Rome.
“But only if WFP applies its infrastructure, knowledge and capabilities to breaking the cycle of hunger, by promoting effective food systems, agriculture and nutrition in the places where we all spend resources,” Shah added.
Promoting food systems
The USAID chief said he had seen this start to happen in post-quake Haiti, where alongside efforts to ensure children get good nutrition, WFP has also started programmes to relaunch agriculture and rebuild infrastructure.
Shah also highlighted strong US support for WFP’s Purchase for Progress programme, which sets out with partners to help poor farmers increase their yields and to become active players on food markets. The pilot programme, launched in 2008, is active in 19 countries across the world.
Citing a comment made by US President Barrack Obama soon after last year’s G8 commitment to make food security a priority, the USAID chief said: “We invest in this area with the mindset of hopeful exit many decades from now.”
Engaging the private sector
Shah noted the important role that the private sector could play in developing sustainable food systems. He said USAID was encouraging large scale buyers of food to particpate in this effort.
"They have the power to create supply chains that can reach hundreds of thousand of farmers and create real markets and improve incomes in a successful and stable mannner," he said.
In the meantime, as “the world’s most operationally capable hunger-fighting organization,” WFP remained a key part of the international response to emergencies such as Haiti and Niger, he continued.