(Vatican Radio) In a world where conflict affects so many communities, it is important to recognize the connection between food insecurity and social unrest. Kimberly Flowers, Director of the Global Food Security Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), was brought to Rome by U.S. Mission to the United Nations as the keynote speaker at the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) 13th Annual George McGovern Lecture. She highlighted the connection between conflict areas and food insecurity in her speech entitled, “Examining Linkages: The Nexus between Food Insecurity and Political Instability.”
CSIS is a Washington D.C. based, bipartisan foreign affairs think tank. Leading the field in defense and intelligence thinking, they also provide recommendations to policy makers on how to develop foreign assistance programs that are focused on ending hunger and poverty.
Kimberly Flowers spoke with Vatican Radio’s Linda Bordoni about food insecurity and how it is both a cause and consequence of conflict, often sparking violence and civil unrest.
Kimberly Flowers explains that under the Obama administration, the U.S. Government focused on long term agricultural development and nutrition programs. In response to the food price crisis of 2007-2008, President Obama launched ‘Feed the Future,’ which is a global hunger and food security initiative. This allowed the U.S. Government to invest $6.6 billion across 19 focus countries for long term agricultural development and programs that reduce poverty and stunting.
“Congress views food insecurity as a bipartisan issue and as a result, passed the Global Food Security Act of 2016 last summer, codifying ‘Feed the Future’ for the next two years,” said Flowers.
Looking ahead to the Trump administration Flowers acknowledges, “That is really a critical and profound statement, not only of how the U.S. government sees global food security as an important foreign assistance tool, but it bridges one administration to the next.” The policy is guaranteed for the first two years of the new administration.
In regards to President-elect Trump, Flowers thinks, “It is too soon to say what his administration’s stance will be in terms of foreign assistance and global food security,” but is hopeful that his administration can be informed of why it is important.
Flowers admits that she has fears about the funding of food security programs in the future: “I have fears that [President Trump] may place people in positions who may or may not understand climate change as well.”
She hopes that the U.S. will continue to be a world leader in the efforts for food security and the rights of people around the world.
Flowers agrees that climate change is a defining issue in the world of food security, effecting developing nations and smallholder farmers. There are a lot of climate-smart agricultural techniques being implemented globally in order to mitigate the effects of global warming. Various elements including education, engagement, and technology are considered when combating climate change.
She says it is crucial that world leaders understand the implications of climate change and how it is being felt around the world. Although farmers in the U.S. may not feel the effects of climate change in such an extreme way due to advanced technology, smallholder farmers around the world may, which changes the amount of food produced and the level of global food security.
Many of the hungriest people in the world are smallholder farmers. They are extremely dependent on weather cycles and unfortunately there are lean seasons and hidden hunger. Many small holder farmers do not have the literacy or education level to understand better agricultural practices, which would increase both their income and production levels.
Flowers points out, “it is important to connect agriculture as a business so smallholder farmers…can be trained on business practices so they can better understand how they need linkages to markets and to engage with the private sector.”
Reflecting on her work with food security Flowers says, “Not only is there a humanitarian plight and pull and meaning of trying to end hunger, but there’s the economic side, the political will side. There are so many things that are sort of intertwined that once they start to layer upon layer, I feel really grateful that I get to work on something that is meaningful in terms of bettering lives around the world and is also complicated and complex in terms of policy around the world.”
Since the beginning of his Pontificate, Pope Francis has been very vocal, speaking out against the globalization of indifference. He calls for people to empathize with the poorer and often speaks of those who are affected by climate change and lack of food security.
Speaking of Pope Francis, Flowers says, “There is something about him; he resonates with so many more people and that means his message is so much more important because he is able to reach people.”
Flowers is grateful for the work Pope Francis has done and the attention it has brought to the topic of food security:
“For me, Pope Francis adds another great voice to the work that I do and that others do because he is going to reach people that I am not going to reach.”
Because of his broad reach, Pope Francis is able to reach the disconnected populations, such as young people. Flowers hopes that through education and travel, youth can expand their world view.