Number 8, November 2009 briefing paper U.S. Foreign Assistance Reform: Food Security and Poverty Reduction by John W. Mellor1 www.bread.org USAID Agriculture Funding Trends, Fiscal Years 1982-2009 $1,400 Current Thousand Dollars $1,200 $1,000 $800 $600 $400 $200 $0 | | | Bread for the World Institute provides policy analysis on hunger and strategies to end it. The Institute educates its advocacy network, opinion leaders, policy makers and the public about hunger in the United States and abroad. | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | | * * 82 83 84 85 86 87 88 89 90 91 92 93 94 95 96 97 98 99 00 01 02 03 03 05 06 07 08 09 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 19 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 20 Fiscal Year * 2008 and 2009 provisional data Source: USAID Key Points • U.S. aid programs should re-focus on catalyzing sustained, broad-based economic growth and poverty reduction instead of just supporting relatively small, selfcontained projects. • Along with this must be a renewed emphasis on developing the educational, research and policy institutions on which sustained development depends. • Agricultural development is fundamental to poverty reduction, and is heavily dependent on public goods and public institutions. • U.S. aid should invest in agriculture and related interventions to improve aggregate growth and poverty reduction over the long term. • Long-term training of developing country nationals is essential for building capacity of key institutions. • Rebuilding of USAID’s technical competence, especially in agriculture, must be a high priority. Abstract In the last few decades, U.S. foreign assistance has largely supported a collection of disparate projects and interventions rather than a coherent, consistent program that is flexible and responsive to conditions in developing countries. As a result, it has not had a transformative impact at the country level. USAID should once again focus attention on broad-based measures and approaches that will improve agricultural and economic growth rates, and reduce poverty at the national level. This will involve renewed emphasis on agriculture and rural development, women’s participation in the economy, education, infrastructure and capable national institutions and will require a much more deliberate development strategy carried out over a longer time horizon. To plan and implement such a strategy, USAID urgently needs to rebuild its technical capacity, especially in agriculture, rural development and economics that has been allowed to diminish over the past decades.