On Day One: Ensuring Food Security

Dear Mr. President,

You have many pressing priorities on your plate as you enter into a second term, but one area where your leadership can continue to make a difference here at home and abroad is a focus on global food security. How to feed a hungry world in a sustainable manner is one of the most vexing problems we will have to face in the coming years, but not an insurmountable task.

Remarkable progress has already been made during your first term under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s watch with the Feed the Future initiative. This innovative program begins moving us away from a model of food aid, to one where we are actually providing education and assistance to farmers in the developing world to begin to provide for themselves.

This important work is not charity or good will, but rather an investment in our own future and our own national interests. The vulnerability that comes from poverty and starvation breed instability and unrest – classic symptoms that make impoverished areas of the world easy recruiting targets for Al Qaeda and others who wish to do us harm.

Take last year’s famine in the horn of Africa as an example. This strategic area of the world is ripe for instability. After the last major famine in 2002, the U.S. was part of an effort to invest in the Famine Early Warning System Network to begin addressing the root causes of famine before it has the opportunity to become a crisis. As a result, millions of people who would have been at risk of starvation were spared from unnecessary suffering in 2011.

Innovative U.S. development efforts in the food security arena are revolutionizing agriculture and working to end the cycle of famine. By sharing new methods of planting, harvesting, and selling food, farmers are working to produce enough for their families and communities. And modern storage facilities are providing a way for huge crop yields not to be left to spoil.

We may not be able to control Mother Nature, but with these simple advances, we can make sure cyclical droughts do not always lead to devastating famines. By planning ahead, and investing a small amount in prevention now, we save lives and money down the road.

America cannot afford to pull back from the world, but instead must lead. We must be actively engaged or others will take our place and take advantage of our missed opportunities. Ensuring food security is a win-win situation for America, as we save lives while advancing our interests as a nation.

Helping the developing world has always been important to the U.S., but with the fastest rates of economic growth occurring in those countries, we cannot afford to not be engaged.

Through my work as Chairman of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition, I have seen the importance of America’s active engagement in the world. And given the interconnected nature of the world today, it is critical for our national security, our economic prosperity, and our leadership.

By Dan Glickman, who served as the United States Secretary of Agriculture from 1995 to 2001, prior to which he represented the Fourth Congressional District of Kansas as a Democrat in Congress for 18 years. This article was originally published January 15 by The Diplomatic Courier and in their January/February 2013 print edition, and is also included in InterAction's series of guest opinions by NGO leaders on ways to make U.S. foreign assistance more effective.