Aid group to see leadership changesWASHINGTON — The Obama administration’s Feed the Future program to encourage agricultural development in Third World countries will get new leadership, and the bureau that runs it will be reorganized, U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah said recently.
By: Jerry Hagstrom, Special to Agweek
Aid group to see leadership changes
Feed the Future staff to change, managing bureau to reorganize
WASHINGTON — The Obama administration’s Feed the Future program to encourage agricultural development in Third World countries will get new leadership, and the bureau that runs it will be reorganized, U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah said recently.
The changes come as Feed the Future is under intense budgetary pressure. If H.R. 1, the House-passed bill to fund the government for the remainder of fiscal year 2011, were to become law, funds for the Feed the Future would be cut dramatically.
The Obama administration created the Feed the Future initiative in reaction to the food price spikes in developing countries in 2008, although many of the ideas behind it came from the Gates Foundation, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and other groups that said the United States had devoted too many resources to food and instead should help Third World farmers grow their own crops.
Besides humanitarian groups that hope to improve living conditions in Third World countries, land grant colleges and U.S. seed companies, equipment manufacturers and other agribusinesses are intensely interested in Feed the Future because they hope the program will lead to more use of their services and products.
Some commodity group leaders and farmers have expressed concern that the program will lead to further competition in agriculture as U.S. assistance to Brazil did years ago, but Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and others have said that farmers that would benefit from the program are so far behind U.S. standards that U.S. farmers do not need to fear competition from them. Other development specialists noted that as Third World countries get richer, they import food from the United States.
Feed the Future has become one of the Obama administration’s signature foreign policy initiatives: Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her chief of staff, Cheryl Mills, have taken a personal interest in Feed the Future, and USAID has set up a Bureau of Food Security to run the program.
In an internal USAID memo obtained by The Hagstrom Report and Agweek, Shah informed his staff March 15 that Bill Garvelink, who has held the titles of deputy coordinator for development and assistant to the administrator, will be leaving.
Julie Howard, the executive director and CEO of the Partnership to Cut Hunger and Poverty, will assume Garvelink’s title of deputy coordinator, Shah said, adding that a new position, assistant to the administrator within the Bureau of Food Security also has been established. It will be filled by Paul Weisenfeld, who has been USAID deputy assistant administrator for Latin American and the Caribbean.
“The new deputy coordinator will focus on communication, donor and (nongovernmental organization) engagement, interagency coordination and initiative-wide strategy and policy development, as well as overall (U.S. government) Feed the Future budget management and monitoring and evaluation. Day-to-day operational authority and accountability will remain with the bureau,” Shah said in a public announcement released March 16.
Garvelink, a 31-year USAID veteran and former ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, is leaving to become senior development advisor to the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the Defense Department.
One USAID source described the position at the Department of Defense as “a dream job” for Garvelink, but other sources said it had become clear that running both the external and internal operations of Feed the Future was too much responsibility for one person, and that Shah decided to split the job in two.
Feed the Future’s leadership is supposed to have an overall coordinator and two deputies coordinators — one for development at USAID and one for diplomacy at the State Department. The Obama administration has interviewed several prominent persons for the coordinator position, but no one ever has been named to it.
In addition, Patricia Haslach, who held the State Department deputy coordinator position, has left to work on Iraq reconstruction and the State Department now is looking for a long-term replacement, a USAID source said.
Though no overall coordinator is in place, Shah told his staff that the office of the coordinator would be strengthened with “a small team focused on communication and external reputation building, donor and NGO engagement, interagency coordination, initiative-wide strategy and policy development.”
This team will also lead overall the U.S. Feed the Future budget management and monitoring and evaluation, he said.
Shah also announced two other key personnel changes and structural changes within the Bureau for Food Security.
Greg Gottlieb, who has been serving as deputy assistant to the administrator, will be promoted to senior deputy assistant to the administrator. Gottlieb spoke on a panel on biotechnology at the National Farmers Union convention in San Antonio recently.
Tjada McKenna, who has been a special adviser on Feed the Future, has been promoted to deputy assistant to the administrator. Before coming to USAID as a political appointee, McKenna worked for the Seattle-based Gates Foundation.
Shah said the Bureau of Food Security will be organized into four teams:
n A country strategy implementation team that will “serve as the hub for (Bureau of Food Security)- country-led transformations” and will be structured around the three key regions — western and eastern Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean — on which Feed the Future is focused.
n A market access partnership team that will leverage and integrate key private sector actors and nongovernmental organization partners.
n A research, development and thought leadership team that will “harness USAID food security and nutrition intellectual leadership,” and serve as a “global convener” of food security scholars and practitioners worldwide and “fund innovative research activities,” Shah said.
n A resource management, planning and evaluation team “that will support a high performance, modern enterprise” by providing budget, procurement, human resources, monitoring and evaluation and other critical administrative functions to drive strong performance management, Shah said.