Special Envoy for Global Food Security Dr. Cary Fowler launched VACS in February 2023 in partnership with the African Union (AU) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO). VACS supports the African Union Common Position on Food Systems including focus on indigenous agriculture, the AU Green Recovery Action Plan, and the Soil Initiative for Africa.
The Vision for Adapted Crops and Soils (VACS) aims to foster more resilient food systems, with an initial focus on the African continent. VACS seeks to boost agricultural productivity and nutrition by developing diverse, climate-resilient crop varieties and building healthy soils.
VACS addresses the core challenge facing the global food system: we must reverse our current trajectory.
- Currently, more than 700 million people are undernourished and child stunting and nutrient deficiencies is widespread in developing countries.
- Global food demand will increase by more than 50 percent by 2050, while climate change and other stressors are driving crop yields down.
VACS seeks to create a solid foundation for crop productivity by mobilizing investment in the fundamentals above and below ground: above ground by developing stronger crop varieties and below ground by building healthier soils for those crops to grow in.
- Crops: Overreliance on a few staple crops leads to systemic vulnerability, especially as extreme weather increasingly causes crop failures and reduced yields. Traditional food crops in the developing world suffer from insufficient investment in research required to produce them in a competitive commercial market. Many of these crops are highly nutritious and adaptable to local conditions and erratic weather. Under VACS, we will accelerate plant breeding efforts for a targeted set of nutritious, traditional food crops and build resilience by delivering improved crops. The production of traditional crops can lead to diversified diets, helping reduce micronutrient deficiencies, child stunting, and wasting.
- Soils: Soils in the developing world are often degraded and continue to deteriorate. In parts of the developing world, including Africa, soils are depleted of nutrients 10 to 100 times faster than they are replenished, which leads to low crop productivity. Under VACS, we will work to reverse this trend by increasing access to knowledge and information at the farm and field level, enabling informed decisions about what to grow, where to grow it, and which soil management practices to apply.
Together, these efforts will create more productive crops, improved nutrition, reduced land degradation, greater resistance to extreme weather, less need for costly and scarce inputs like fertilizer, and lower greenhouse gas emissions.
The VACS Integrated Approach
VACS is part of Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative, and supports the implementation of the U.S. Global Food Security Strategy (2022-2026). It contributes to the President’s Emergency Plan for Adaptation and Resilience (PREPARE) and advances the commitments made in the U.S.-AU Joint Statement on Food Security at the 2023 U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit.
VACS promotes an integrated approach, with self-sustaining investments that have increasing returns year after year. Interventions will be organized around a cohesive, interdependent framework that recognizes the complexity of land use—with a particular focus on what farmers should plant and where. Interventions will empower farmers, policymakers, extension workers, and suppliers with options and information tailored for their own local conditions and preferences. They will also prioritize nutrition as the endpoint for resilient food systems.
Progress To Date
In February 2023, State launched VACS in partnership with the AU and FAO to focus the international community on the importance of crops and soils to the global food supply. To advance VACS objectives, we have since directed $100M towards USAID crop and soil activities and undertaken a public-private partnership to develop an initial research agenda focused on African food crops. State is pursuing the establishment of a new trust fund dedicated to this initiative, with donors from the public and private sectors.