Assessing the US Feed the Future Initiative: A New Approach to Food Security?

In the wake of the 2007-2008 commodity price spikes, G8 leaders at the 2009 L’Aquila Summit in Italy made fighting food insecurity a priority and promised to bring new resources to bear on the problem. The following year, the Obama administration launched the Feed the Future initiative and committed $3.5 billion over three years to implement it. Feed the Future aims to “sustainably reduce global poverty and hunger” by promoting “inclusive agriculture sector growth” and improved nutrition, particularly among women and children. In its first five years, Feed the Future has clearly succeeded in giving food security and agriculture a more prominent place in US development policy. Data on results are just becoming available, however, and there is strikingly little independent analysis of the program.
While we cannot yet assess the impact on poverty alleviation or improved nutrition, we can assess how Feed the Future performs against its stated objective of offering a new, more effective approach to food security. The integrated agriculture and nutrition approach emphasizes increased selectivity in aid allocations along with country ownership and capacity building to increase the effectiveness and sustainability of the initiative’s impacts. We find the initiative has led to an increase in the share of overall US assistance for agriculture and nutrition, and that the Obama administration has increasingly concentrated this aid in selected focus countries. We also find that the initiative is doing a good job of selecting focus countries, based on its stated criteria of having need and the potential for effective partnership. Feed the Future looks weaker, however, on other key elements of aid effectiveness including transparency and country ownership. Finally, we are concerned that pressure to demonstrate results in the short term may undermine efforts to ensure they are sustainable.

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