Peace Corps Hosts Food Security Summit

October 14, 2008

Experts discuss ways to overcome challenges of the world food crisis

WASHINGTON, D.C., Oct. 14, 2008 - The Peace Corps hosted a food security summit today, bringing together food security experts from numerous internationally focused agencies and organizations.

The summit, held just prior to World Food Day on October 16, called attention to the status of todays world food crisis and addressed the challenges it poses across the globe. Guest experts discussed ways in which international organizations, including the Peace Corps, can mutually complement one another's efforts and contribute to a solution.

In April 2008, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice emphasized the importance of this issue while addressing the Peace Corps 2008 Worldwide Country Director Conference. Secretary Rice said, "We are very concerned about the status of the food situation in the world. The United States has historically been in the lead as a donor of food aid, at one point being as much as 62 percent of all food assistance. But the exchange rate, plus the inability to get food to market or food to people, has made it very difficult."

Peace Corps Director Ronald A. Tschetter said of the summit, "We are pleased to be hosting this summit since so many Peace Corps Volunteers work with people who are affected by the crisis on a daily basis. The Peace Corps has formulated a strategic plan to respond to the food crisis, and to help guide how Volunteers can best support the communities where they serve overseas. Peace Corps Volunteers involved in this effort will work across sectors, not only in the agricultural context but also in information technology, microfinance, HIV/AIDS, and small business development."

The keynote speech was delivered by Dr. Christopher Delgado. He emphasized the importance of food security, 'The price of the major food staple is the critical determinant of the welfare of the poor that comprise the bulk of the population of poor countries. As such, it is central to the compact between governments and the people in those countries. When food prices fluctuate as much as they have over the last year, fundamental social and political stability is threatened."

Dr. Delgado is the Strategy and Policy Adviser for the Agriculture and Rural Development sector of the World Bank Group. A Returned Peace Corps Volunteer, Dr. Delgado served in the African country of Chad nearly 40 years ago. Prior to joining the World Bank Group in 2006, Dr. Delgado was a member of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) for 27 years, co-founding the Institute's Global Research Program on High Value Agriculture.

Dr. Delgado task manages the World Bank Group's Global Food Crisis Response Program. Driving home the seriousness of the crisis during a briefing in New York this summer, he explained the danger of losing a decade of progress on poverty alleviation and a significant part of 30 years of confidence in building in-market oriented policy reform in agriculture.

Said Delgado, "Since 75 percent of the world's poor people live in rural areas and most of them gain their livelihoods from agriculture, you might think that high food prices are a good thing for them. I would agree if the increase occurred over ten years and was predictable, so that people could adjust accordingly. However, when both prices and production cost double in a few months, it is almost as much a disaster for small farmers and landless rural laborers as for the urban poor."

Guest experts dispersed into five breakout sessions, each session facilitated by Peace Corps staff. Each group discussed one aspect of the global food crisis, including: nutrition and community health, agricultural development and food access small business development and household finance, youth and education, and natural resources management. Upon conclusion of the sessions, the experts discussed ideas and suggestions that emerged from each group session.

Participants of each session revealed new challenges, solutions, and ideas concerning food security. Additionally, experts discussed the need for international organizations and aid groups to collaborate with Volunteers and to share successful techniques used to assist in nutritional education, develop better access to markets, and to inspire community engagement in order to achieve improved food security in the countries where Volunteers serve.

The Peace Corps is celebrating a 47-year legacy of service at home and abroad. Currently there are 8,000 Volunteers abroad, a 37-year high for Volunteers in the field. Since 1961, more than 190,000 Volunteers have helped promote a better understanding between Americans and the people of the 139 countries where Volunteers have served. Peace Corps Volunteers must be U.S. citizens and at least 18 years of age. Peace Corps service is a 27-month commitment.

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