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Remarks Following a Tour of the Food Security Expo in Dakar, Senegal

June 28, 2013

Well, as all of you saw, I just had a wonderful opportunity to visit this expo and meet some remarkable men and women who are helping us to meet an urgent challenge that affects nearly 900 million people around the world: chronic hunger and the need for long-term food security.

Here in Africa, thanks to the economic progress across the continent, incomes are rising, poverty rates are declining, there's a growing middle class. At the same time, far too many Africans still endure the daily injustice of extreme poverty and hunger. And we're here today because improvements in agriculture can make an enormous difference. Here in Senegal and across Africa, most people are employed in agriculture. And we know that, compared to other sectors, growth in agriculture is far more effective in reducing poverty, including among women.

Part of why this work is so important is because, if you want broad-based economic growth in a country like Senegal, starting with these small-scale farmers, putting more income into their pockets ensures that it's not just a few who are benefiting from development, but everybody is benefiting, and it makes an enormous difference.

So that's why when I took office, we took—at new ways that we could provide assistance and partner with countries, and we decided to make food security a priority. We helped mobilize the leading economies around the world on this mission. So this was one of our top priorities at the G-8 meetings that I attended very early on in my Presidency. In the United States, we launched our new initiative called Feed the Future, which works in partnership with 12 African countries. At the G-8 last year, we launched the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. We kicked it off with Ghana, Ethiopia, and Tanzania. It's already grown by six more countries: Cote d'Ivoire, Nigeria, Benin, Malawi, Mozambique, and Burkina Faso. And I'm very pleased about the next step: Senegal will be joining next year.

And rather than the old models of simply delivering food aid, the New Alliance takes an innovative approach. African countries are in the lead—identifying their priorities, devising their own plans—because they know their countries best. It also means that these programs are far more likely to be sustainable. Companies large and small—from Africa, but also from around the world—have pledged to invest in these plans. And there are companies here today making new commitments, bringing total investments in these efforts to $3.7 billion. So what we're doing is we're taking the private funds that are being leveraged and combining those with the aid funds that are being provided not just by the United States, but some of our other partner countries, and as a consequence, we're getting a much bigger bang for the buck.

We know this works. Today we're going to be releasing a report that shows progress so far under Feed the Future. We've already helped 7 million small farmers harness new techniques. We've boosted the value of their goods that they sell by more than $100 million, and that means higher incomes for farmers and more opportunities for farmers. And you met some of the farmers here today who are directly benefiting from this program. Not only are they able to improve their own situation, but now they're starting to hire people, and you're suddenly starting to see growth in these rural communities that makes all the difference for a country like Senegal.

In a place like Ethiopia, we've been hearing about farmers who are getting new loans, sometimes for small, mechanized products like this that can make all the difference. One farmer said this salary changed his life because he was able now to send his child to school. So this is making a profound difference in the lives of farmers; it's making a profound difference in communities all across the continent.

And here at this expo, we're seeing some of these new technologies that will unleash even more progress. That includes how farmers here in Senegal are using their cell phones to share data so they get the best price when they bring their products to market.

We've set a goal of lifting 50 million people from poverty within a decade, which is ambitious, but achievable. And given the millions of people that we're already reaching and the enthusiasm that we've seen today, I'm confident we're on our way. So as I said before, I think this is a moral imperative. I believe that Africa is rising and it wants to partner with us, not to be dependent, but to be self-sufficient. And what we're seeing here today are businesspeople, farmers, academics, researchers, scientists, all combining some of the best practices that have been developed over the course now of decades and leveraging it into concrete improvements in people's lives.

And I want to just say thank you to Raj Shah, the head of USAID, because Raj is an example of the kind of incredible work that's being done by our Government, helping to coordinate and facilitate this tremendous progress. And I want to thank all the farmers and researchers and workers who have been helping to make this possible here in Senegal and throughout this region.

So when people ask what's happening to their taxpayer dollars and foreign aid, I want people to know this money is not being wasted. It's helping feed families. It's helping people to become more self-sufficient. And it's creating new markets for U.S. companies and U.S. goods. It's a win-win situation. And I know that millet and maize and fertilizer doesn't always make for sexy copy, but I very much hope that all the press who were in attendance today generate a story about this, because I think if the American people knew the kind of work that was being done as a consequence of their generosity and their efforts, I think they'd be really proud.

So thank you very much, Raj, for the great work.

United States Agency for International Development Administrator Rajij J. Shah. Thank you, Mr. President.

NOTE: The President spoke at 9:52 a.m. at the Radisson Blu Hotel, Dakar.

Barack Obama, Remarks Following a Tour of the Food Security Expo in Dakar, Senegal Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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