Also in this room are representatives of the G-8 nations. This G-8 effort began in Italy, and I see friends of mine from the Government of Italy who began this process in L’Aquila. And at Camp David this weekend, in partnership with our African partners, we take it to the next level.
We are also pleased that so many of you who understand the importance of public-private partnerships representing the private sector are here as well. Because very honestly, we cannot reach the ambitious goals we have set without involving the private sector. And you’ll hear tomorrow about the exciting investments and pledges that the private sector is making. We need your investment, your expertise, your global reach, your commitment to results.
So we are teed up and ready to go. We are so pleased that we have this opportunity to present all the work that has gone into the presentation. We’ll dive into the details tomorrow when USAID hosts the symposium, but I want, in addition to thanking all of you who have contributed, to thank my colleagues, the two former speakers. Dr. Raj Shah was working at the Gates Foundation when first he left to come to work in the Obama Administration at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He began working on this effort which we know as Feed the Future, and he became such a valuable partner. And we were so pleased to see him become the director of USAID. He lives and breathes food security, and we are happy to be on the same trajectory with him to fulfill the goals we have set.
And I also wish to thank my chief of staff and counselor, Cheryl Mills, for the extraordinary work that she has done over the last three and a half years, basically just pushing, pulling, dragging us all across the finish line. Because if there were ever a cause worthy of our best efforts and our enduring cooperation, it is this one. We know the statistics: nearly a billion people worldwide suffer from chronic hunger; 75 percent of poor people live in rural settings and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. So by improving agriculture, we can together strike a powerful blow against both hunger and poverty.
And that’s why food security is a priority of the Obama Administration. It is both the smart thing to do and the right thing to do. It is a moral imperative to help people escape hunger and poverty. It is an economic imperative to spread prosperity, create rising incomes, give people the chance to give their own children a better future. It is indeed a strategic imperative. We want to support and build up countries who have leaders like those here before you to take their rightful place of leadership regionally and globally.
In the last three and a half years, I’ve had the privilege of visiting farmers, agricultural scientists, health and nutrition experts in a number of countries. And there truly is a palpable sense of excitement that we are on our way; we are poised for the kind of breakthroughs that we haven’t seen since the Green Revolution. In fact, in several countries, we are already seeing meaningful progress. Feed the Future is working with 19 target countries, and during the past three years, those countries have increased their total food production by about 6 percent, which is 70 percent higher than the increase in food production among least developed countries. More food is available to more people, more farmers are earning higher incomes, and the ripple effects of health and prosperity are spreading despite the global economic slowdown.
And we know that this is a very long dream for our country. As Cheryl said, Ben Franklin, who’s up there watching over us, knew a lot about farming. And he was someone who understood the connection between providing for people and having stable political systems. And of course, Thomas Jefferson was an actual farmer, and in the next room you can see the desk at which Thomas Jefferson wrote portions of our Declaration of Independence. He always believed that one of America’s great strengths were our farmers and, in fact, in 1785 wrote in a letter to James Madison, “The small landholders are the most precious part of a state.” Well, we know from our own history smallholder farmers helped to build America, and now we’re seeing it across the world.
So we welcome all of you here as we begin this exciting two days in Washington. We’ve provided you with a lot of food, so please don’t be shy about enjoying it. But we do so out of that sense of gratitude that you are on this journey with us. Our G-8 partners and friends, our African partners and friends, our private sector, our health experts, our academics, our agricultural experts, everyone – we are on a journey together. We’re proud of what the United States did during the Green Revolution, but we can’t keep looking toward the past and say that was great, look at what we did 30, 40 years ago. We now have to take what we know and apply it in the 21st century. We have to learn the lessons that we have learned, sometimes hard lessons over the last years, and we have to focus on the people, the people who will benefit, the people who will have their lives changed, the people of nations that will change because of this work.
So thank you all for your commitment to improving food and nutrition security for women and men who will never know about this, who will never know our names, but because of our work they will have their own lives changed and their futures uplifted. And that is the greatest reward of all. Thank you very, very much. (Applause.)