Remarks by Ambassador William A. Heidt at the Event Marking Five Years of “Feed the Future” Program in Cambodia

(As Prepared for Delivery)
InterContinental Hotel, Phnom Penh
June 2, 2016

Deputy Prime Minister, His Excellency Yim Chhay Ly, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much for joining me today to celebrate the first five years of “Feed the Future” in Cambodia. Feed the Future is the U.S. government’s signature initiative to address global hunger and food security around the world. It was born with the firm belief that global hunger is a challenge that we can and must face together. To that end, Feed the Future is not simply an assistance program – it is a partnership between nations and between people. I’m proud to say that our partnership with the Cambodian government and the Cambodian people is very strong, and that through our collective efforts we are making real progress towards ending hunger in Cambodia.

Eliminating hunger and malnutrition around the world is one of our most urgent humanitarian priorities, and something that the United States has been focused on for decades. Feed the Future is the latest in a series of successful U.S. initiatives to combat hunger and malnutrition, dating back at least to the “Green Revolution” launched by American Nobel Prize winner Norman Borlaug in the mid-20th century. Borlaug and his contemporaries are credited with saving millions of lives through research to improve seeds. In a time of desperate hunger and famine, the U.S. government spread the Green Revolution around the world – including here in Southeast Asia – by increasing access to seeds and other technologies that helped countries produce food to feed their people.

The United States is not immune from hunger and famine. We have experienced it ourselves, most famously in the Dust Bowl years of the 1930s, in the midst of the Great Depression. Much like Cambodia we are, at heart, an agricultural nation, and we know from our own experience and from helping other countries that investing in agriculture translates into economic and social development. It turns out that food isn’t just nourishment for the body – it is essential for the development of healthy communities.

What makes Feed the Future such a revolutionary program is that it goes beyond simply feeding people and tackles the problem at its source. In Cambodia, that means addressing the challenges faced by rural farmers and families, who form the backbone of Cambodia’s agricultural sector. It means educating farmers about agricultural techniques and management practices. It means teaching them better business strategies. It means connecting them with markets both here and abroad. It also means working hand-in-hand with our national and provincial partners and with the private sector, who will carry this work forward over the long term.

The first five years of Feed the Future have shown that this comprehensive and collaborative approach to addressing hunger and malnutrition really does work. The project has helped more than 100,000 farmers to improve their yields. It has helped more than 13,000 children to improve their nutrition. It has increased agricultural sales by millions of dollars.

But to see the true effect of Feed the Future in Cambodia you really need to go to the provinces where it is being implemented. I recently had the opportunity visit a commercial horticulture farmer in Pursat with an impressive plot of beans and cucumbers. With simple and low cost technologies like plastic mulch and trellising he was able to bring his production to a new level, and the extra income that he is making ensures that his children can stay in school longer, giving them a better shot at finishing their education and being successful in the economy. This is a small but excellent example of the value of the Feed the Future initiative: it is making a series of small differences that, collectively, have the power to change all of Cambodia.

In a similar way, each of us here today is making our small contribution to the larger effort of ending hunger and malnutrition in Cambodia. This week’s conference will look back at the first five years of Feed the Future, to see what we can learn from the past and how we can apply those lessons to the future. This is important work, and essential to the program’s continued success.

I want to thank you all for being here and for your commitment to Feed the Future. I’m very proud of what we have accomplished so far, and I look forward to accomplishing much more, together, over the next five years.