My experience included getting acquainted with Roger Thurow, who has authored several books on food security. His most recent release, “The First 1,000 Days,” emphasizes the impact that the time span from conception to two years of age has on the rest of a child’s life. I also served with Howard Buffett, whose father Howard G. Buffett authored the book “40 Chances: Finding Hope in a Hungry World.” He graphically showed the incredible challenges many parts of the world have in feeding their people as well as showing the challenges we face in helping them address those issues. One of the most interesting contributors was Gordon Conway from the Imperial College of London, who taught me much about the importance of resilience in feeding the world given the reality of climate change. You can read more about this in my blog post from a previous symposium.
The release of this report, our fourth product, not only pushes the importance of foreign aid but also makes the case for increasing such funding, which couldn’t be more timely. There have always been humanitarian concerns, but now, in addition, our own national security is a major issue. Such acceleration comes at a time in our country when the current administration has raised the possibility of dropping all foreign aid to fund increased military projects. It seems common sense to me that any country with a growing population and not enough food would be a target for internal instability and external exploitation. Contrast that with a country able to feed its population with help from outside while growing its internal capacity to feed themselves. I would oppose the current consideration of dropping foreign aid regardless (especially when you consider its percentage of the overall federal budget and the amount of good that is accomplished by a relatively small line item in the budget), but when you take the national security impacts into consideration, this is not just the usual partisan conversation. The differences of opinion on such an issue, if not dealt with intelligently over time, will put not just our country but all of the developed (and developing) world at serious risk.
I have been enormously grateful for these experiences, and I plan to continue following and engaging issues related to this area of both personal passion for me and growing importance for our collective future.