FP: Some of the $4 to $6 billion is also going toward "partnerships" with big U.S. corporations like Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, Chevron, and Monsanto. Why does subsidizing U.S. companies help people who are poor?
RS: One of the big failings in food security in particular has been a lack of working with the private sector effectively. For instance, in Honduras and Guatemala our work with Wal-Mart is reaching more than 15,000 farming families. In that case, the farmers are producing potatoes and onions, and Wal-Mart works with farmers on training and preparation. They also provide guidelines that help farmers determine what to grow and when in order to sell to Wal-Mart. This type of engagement has led to a doubling and tripling of farmers' household incomes. Yet over the last several decades, it's been controversial to have companies like Wal-Mart in the development solution. I think it is the kind of long-term development program that is needed to succeed at scale over time. (Note: Regarding the recent allegations of Wal-Mart's widespread bribery in Mexico in a recent New York Times article, USAID press spokesperson Ann Doyle said, "We will not comment on the ongoing Wal-Mart investigation or how it might affect our partnership.")
FP: So you are saying that the United States can do well by doing good?
RS: In the coming years, Africa is going to be a 900 million-plus person common market that is growing three times faster than the global economy. China has been making a big investment in Africa, and we're going to want to make sure that American enterprises are part of the picture as well. Ten of the largest 15 trading partners we have were foreign aid recipients. South Korea was a major recipient of U.S. aid for decades, and today we have more jobs created in the U.S. because of our trade relationship with South Korea than we do with France.
FP: From what I've seen in my reporting, what poor people in places like Kenya, Ethiopia, and Guatemala really need are water and roads to keep them from these recurrent hunger crises. Yet for the last 30 years USAID has largely ignored those issues.
RS: We are now rebalancing and getting back into that, but in a way that's leveraged. We need to partner with the private sector. In our partnership with Pepsi in Ethiopia to reach chickpea farmers, we'll do things like invest in feeder roads, and Pepsi and the Ethiopian government will make parallel investments in things like better technologies and guaranteeing purchase [of chickpeas from Ethiopian farmers]. That helps move 30,000 women-headed households out of poverty. It's those kinds of leveraged partnerships that actually allow us to transform infrastructure. Those aren't things we have the capacity or resourcing to do alone.
FP: In the Horn of Africa last year, you had 13 million people going hungry -- 4 million in Somalia and about 9 million in Kenya and Ethiopia combined. In Somalia, your options to intervene were limited because of the [internal] conflict, but not in Kenya and Ethiopia or in the refugee camps for Somalis in those two countries, which were in woeful shape. You had nearly a year of advance warning about the drought. There were a lot of interventions that could have been done to mitigate the crisis in areas such as water, sanitation, and livelihoods. What happened?
RS: I would argue that a lot of our resources went into these types of activities last year, perhaps not as early as they could have, but they ultimately did, and that's what allowed people to get through the period of hunger. But I agree with you that we can always -- and we should always -- be pushing ourselves to do much better. Part of the challenge is that we are able to use humanitarian resources quickly and aggressively in times of crises, but the core development programs in many of these countries -- and I'm not just speaking about USAID but rather the entire development community -- move on a much different time horizon. To help correct for that, we are making sure that what we call "resilience programs" are being built into core development budgets and are prioritized by both local governments and development partners.
For example, resilience programs are part of national policy in both Kenya and Ethiopia, and without them, last year's crisis would have been far worse. Ethiopia has a program called the Productive Safety Net Program, which USAID has supported since 2005, and that program has effectively kept 7.6 million more people from requiring emergency assistance. Kenya established a Drought Management Authority in 2011, which has helped coordinate efforts to build resilience and has increased funding in its national budget for livestock development and infrastructure in the drylands, which are just the kinds of things that can help protect Kenyans against the next drought. The challenges remain fierce, but we are excited about the momentum we are achieving through our resilience work around the world and with specific countries.