The Chicago Council on Global Affairs is pleased to announce that Alesha Black will be the director of its global food and agriculture portfolio. Black comes to the Council from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where she spent eight years focused on the foundation’s strategic partnerships for agricultural development. As director, Black will head all the Council’s programming and independent research on global food and agriculture.
“As the world continues to grapple with feeding millions of people nutritiously and safely, Alesha is the perfect person to support rigorous analysis of and recommendations for how we can create an inclusive and sustainable global food system,” said Ambassador Ivo H. Daalder, president of the Council on Global Affairs.
Black will spearhead the Council’s influential Global Food and Agriculture Program, previously called the Global Agricultural Development Initiative. Black will work with co-chairs Dan Glickman, former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture, and Doug Bereuter, former member of the U.S. House of Representatives, to continue the Council’s legacy of leadership.
“I’m excited to see the new heights the Council will reach under Alesha’s leadership,” said Catherine Bertini, distinguished fellow for agriculture and food at the Council and former executive director of the U.N. World Food Program. “Her accomplishments at the Gates Foundation – advancing partnerships between China, Brazil, and the United States and U.N. agencies, improving market access in sub-Saharan Africa, creating new links between nutrition and agriculture programs – portend a great future for the Council’s important work.”
As part of her role, Black will oversee the Council’s annual Global Food Security Symposium, which will be held April 26 in Washington, D.C. and focus on the challenge of feeding cities as the world’s population becomes increasingly urban. This year’s symposium builds on previous years’ discussions, including the Council’s symposium on the eve of the 2012 G-8 Summit featuring President Barack Obama, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, presidents and prime ministers from Ghana, Tanzania, Ethiopia and other international dignitaries.
In addition to convening the world’s thought leaders during the 2016 Symposium, Black will head the Council’s independent research into food and agriculture – which has been extremely effective in spurring policy action in Washington, D.C. The Council’s 2009 report, “Renewing American Leadership in the Fight Against Global Hunger and Poverty,” served in large part as the basis of the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative Feed the Future. Research on Black’s horizon includes a broad review of American policy responses to global food security challenges over the past seven years and policy proposals for the next administration to maximize U.S. leadership in agricultural development efforts abroad. In addition, “The First 1,000 Days: a Crucial Time for Mothers and Children – And the World,” a book by senior Council fellow Roger Thurow about the critical first 1,000 days of childhood nutrition, will be released in conjunction with the Council’s Global Food Security Symposium this year.
Black will lead a team of experts that recently added several new non-resident fellows to expand its thought leadership in agriculture policy, food and resource economics, agrifood systems and international development.
Black joins the Council from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, where she focused on the foundation’s strategic partnerships for agricultural development. Black worked at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation from 2007 to 2015, where she coordinated foundation partnerships with China, Brazil and the United States, as well as U.N. agencies working to support smallholder farmers. Before that, she managed a portfolio of investments working to connect smallholder farmers to better market access opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa. Black also co-led important activities to link nutrition and agriculture programs at the foundation and contributed to numerous strategic projects at the beginning of the Agricultural Development program, including the first Gender Impact Strategy, initial impact measurement framework, and early foundation advocacy activities to raise the profile of smallholder agriculture.
Black received her bachelor’s in journalism and psychology from the University of Arizona and her master’s in international relations from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University.