Why did U.S. Africa Command chief General Carter F. Ham speak at a recent National Defense University program about food security in the Horn of Africa?
“Some of you might be wondering: What in the world is a military commander, the commander of U.S. Africa Command, doing talking in the morning in Washington D.C. in a food security conference?” Ham asked the audience of government representatives, academics and others with an interest in the issue.
“We can all agree that the specific issue of food security and overall stability are inextricably linked.”
Ham pointed out that food shortages can quickly lead to population displacement, limitations on future development and even conflict over scarce resources. Those things, in turn, can cause regional instability and even transnational threats, Ham said.
And that’s where AFRICOM comes in.
“The United States, and thusly the United States military, has a significant interest in supporting stability and security efforts across the continent of Africa,” Ham said.
Ham pointed out that AFRICOM plays a limited direct role in promoting food security initiatives. But the command does support the work of many aid agencies who work to eliminate food crises, such as USAID and the World Health Organization.
In addition, AFRICOM works with partner nations on the continent to improve food security and better prepare them to respond to food crises or other disasters. For example, Ham said, a training exercise last year between AFRICOM veterinarians and Ugandan veterinarians treated 30,000 head of livestock in six days, and trained local herdsman on how to better care for their animals.
Another initiative involved teaching soldiers in the Democratic Republic of Congo – who often turn to pillaging local farms for sustenance – how to grow their own food. These “soldier-farmers” feed their comrades while on duty.
“It really does take a whole of government approach and a regional approach to achieve the desired outcome, which is ultimately saving lives and the establishment of stability and security in the region,” Ham said.
Share your thoughts – what do you think is the biggest food crisis facing Africa right now and what are some possible solutions?