It’s a pleasure to join you this afternoon. The companies and organizations you represent—from Syngenta to Land O'Lakes—are increasingly playing a vital and vibrant role in global development.
Just yesterday, in fact, I was at a meeting at the White House with some of the world’s leading CEOs, including Mike Duke from Walmart and Paul Polman from Unilever.
Together with more than 400 companies in the Consumer Goods Forum, we've created the Tropical Forest Alliance to green their supply chains and end tropical deforestation by 2020.
It many ways, global public-private partnerships like TFA 2020 reflect a transformational shift that has occurred in development over the last few decades.
Thirty years ago, the official development community was almost exclusively composed of international organizations like the World Bank and government agencies like USAID.
But today, we live in a very different world.
Private investment in emerging economies has grown to dwarf official development assistance. And new technologies—perhaps most notably the mobile phone—have transformed the lives of billions of people in the farthest corners of the globe.
In the last 15 years, the development community has dramatically expanded. It now includes innovators at universities—who have designed microscopes that attach to iPhones to diagnose malaria and solar-powered micro-grids to give children a light to read by at night.
It includes philanthropists like Bill Gates and Mo Ibrahim, who have studied these issues deeply and can bring their private sector expertise to bear on solving challenges.
And it includes banks and companies like Citi, Dupont, and Cargill who are increasingly seeking high risk, high return investments in some of the toughest parts of our world.
Taken together, these extraordinary new trends—the emergence of new technologies and the growth of our community—have transformed what’s possible to achieve in development.
For the first time in history, we can envision the end of extreme poverty—a goal so big and important I know that it is easy to be skeptical.
But the truth is that it is within our reach even as we speak.
In the last twenty years, child mortality rates have fallen by 42 percent and poverty rates by 52 percent. Since 1999, in fact, the total number of extreme poor has declined by nearly 50 million people every year on average.
And lest you think this is a phenomenon largely confined to China, consider what happened in 2005, when—for the first time on record—poverty rates began falling in every region of the world, including Africa.
In recognition of this moment, President Obama called on the nation in his State of the Union to help end extreme poverty and its most devastating consequences: child hunger and child death. And to do it in two decades.
Extreme poverty is not a precise measure of income or calories per day, but the denial of basic freedoms and dignity.
Dignity comes from providing a meal for your child or the freedom from believing your children is likely to die before their 5th birthday.
Now despite this unprecedented opportunity, development agencies have not always been nimble or focused enough to capture their full potential.
That’s because, in part, we are used to thinking about development simply as paying for services and infrastructure in developing countries, whether it’s building roads or delivering vaccines.
And America has a proud history of development assistance—serving as the largest bilateral donor in the world in everything from global health to education.
But we cannot pay our way out of extreme poverty.
We need a new model that harnesses the ingenuity of a growing community of innovators and entrepreneurs with new partnerships and a greater emphasis on results.
At USAID, we are taking this approach to scale across our work—from child survival to access to power—but I wanted to take the opportunity today to highlight what this means for our core work to end hunger and malnutrition around the world.
When President Obama took office, the world was mired in the midst of a food, fuel, and financial crisis that brought millions of people back to the brink of poverty.
As one of his first foreign policy acts of his presidency, President Obama launched a major global effort called Feed the Future to end hunger through business, science, and partnership.
In June, on his visit to Senegal, the President met a woman named Nimna, who helped bring 3,000 small-scale producers together through Feed the Future.
As one cooperative, they can obtain better access to credit and modern farm equipment, including tractors.
While the President was there, in fact, Senegal became the 10th country to join the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition—a groundbreaking model of partnership that matches commitments from African governments to reform with commitments from companies to invest.
In one year, the New Alliance has grown into a $3.75 billion public-private partnership that has encouraged reforms from ten African governments and commitments from more than 70 companies, including some represented today.
In Ethiopia, DuPont recently opened a state-of-the-art seed processing plant and warehouse to support 35,000 smallholder maize farmers—a step they took after the country reformed its seed market and land titling policies.
In Tanzania, Yara International has started construction on a fertilizer terminal at the nation’s largest port—again a step they took after the country lifted their food export ban.
Ultimately, we want to see these kinds of investments take root across the continent, underpinning a thriving agriculture sector that connects farmers everywhere to markets.
In the last year alone, Feed the Future helped 7 million farmers transform their farms and reached 12 million children the nutritional support they need to grow and thrive.
But we know that there is much more we need to do.
Game-changing investments and technologies only actually change the game when they reach farmers and are adopted into everyday use.
But despite having many of the technologies today that can help farmers adapt to a changing climate, we continue to see that they are not getting to farmers.
The main hybrid maize in use today in Kenya dates from 1986. In Ghana, the main open-pollinated maize variety dates from the 1980s. And fertilizer use in Africa remains the lowest in the world.
To change this reality and ensure that farmers can take advantage of the very cutting-edge in agriculture, we are developing country-specific plans to scale up transformational technologies, including climate-resilient rice, deep placement fertilizer, and orange-fleshed sweet potato.
The orange-fleshed sweet potato, for example, has 50 percent of the total Vitamin A requirement for young children.
That’s a critical tool in the fight against undernutrition, which leads to more child deaths every year than any other disease.
We’re also not just talking about scaling up seeds.
Groundbreaking weather-based index insurance can protect pastoralists against the loss of their herds and help keep families in their communities instead of in refugee camps during a drought.
And new mobile phone apps for farmers can provide access to real-time market prices and extension support from thousands of miles away.
In Mozambique, for example, we’re offering farmers the opportunity to pre-pay for fertilizer using mobile money right after harvest season, when farmers have money on hand.
At the end of the day, we know that the challenges we face from a changing climate will only get worse—and our solutions will have to be more nimble, flexible, and efficient than ever before.
It was only a few weeks ago that Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines with the strength of one of the most powerful storms ever to hit land.
We swung into action—airlifting 55 tons of high-energy biscuits from Miami and buying enough rice locally in the Philippines to help feed those in need immediately.
But the bulk of our food aid—which will absolutely be needed in the months ahead—is still on a ship headed to the Philippines.
Meanwhile, halfway around the world, we see the need for life-saving aid grow more pressing by the day in Syria—where the severity of the conflict makes importing large quantities of food aid dangerous and impossible.
The truth is that the world has changed since President Eisenhower was in the White House, when American farmers first began shipping their surpluses abroad to feed hungry families recovering from war in Europe.
Since then, we’ve developed new tools—like local procurement and electronic payments—that we can use in tandem with American food to meet the needs of a much more complex world.
But despite having the tools, we remain limited in our ability to use them. This past year, we sought to modernize our food aid program to pair the continued purchase of American food aid with the flexibility to use new cutting-edge tools.
This more agile approach will feed an additional 4 million children a year, while creating new and enduring partnerships with American agribusinesses and manufactures.
Far from ending a partnership with our world-class food system, we are recommitting to the role that American agriculture has always played in advancing our nation’s proud history as the world’s humanitarian leader.
I wanted to conclude with a story from my visit to a factory in Providence, Rhode Island called Edesia, where 50 employees were making a high-energy peanut paste to feed starving children from Somalia to Syria.
What’s remarkable is that this factory and its jobs didn’t exist 10 years ago.
They are the result of a decade of research that USAID helped support to dramatically improve the science of saving lives.
The Mayor of Providence and the entire Rhode Island delegation joined me on the visit to the factory—which sources most of its ingredients from the United States and plans to double their operations.
I leave you with this story because Edesia is not an outlier.
All of you represent companies and organizations that our part of our nation’s rich tradition of innovation and partnership in agriculture…
…from President Lincoln’s momentous Land Grant Act that established the foundation for the most productive agricultural economy the world had ever seen….
… to President Kennedy’s efforts to reshape Food for Peace into a program that would feed a billion people around the world…
…to President Obama’s announcement of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition at the G8 Summit at Camp David.
As heirs of this proud history, we look to you today to serve champions for a new approach that brings business, science, and partnership to bear against the greatest challenges of our time.
The transcript of these remarks orginally appeared on the USAID website.
Washington, D.C.—Today, the Governments of Ethiopia, the United States of America, the United Kingdom, and the Federal Republic of Germany, announced a partnership to improve rural land governance for economic growth and to protect the land rights of local citizens in Ethiopia.
This partnership builds on existing programs and represents an important vehicle for increased coordination and collaboration among the Government of Ethiopia and its development partners. The announcement came after representatives of the heads of state from G8 member states gathered in London to mark the handing over of the G8 Presidency from the United Kingdom to Russia.
The partnership with Ethiopia will support improved rural land tenure security for all, including through appropriate land use management in communal and pastoral areas. It will strengthen transparency in land governance, including by promoting responsible agricultural investment through an improved legal framework and practices.
Ethiopia’s Minister of Agriculture Tefera Derbew said, “The Ministry of Agriculture of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia welcomes this joint partnership in the context of supporting the implementation of Ethiopia’s Rural Land Administration and Use plan under its policy and strategic frameworks. It will help the country to ensure and sustain its economic development by strengthening rural land governance in view of fostering food security and realising constitutionally recognised rural land related rights of Nations, Nationalities and People of Ethiopia. I hope the current harmonization, coordination and alignment mechanisms of Rural Economic Development and Food Security Working group (RED-FS SWG) and Sustainable Land Management Platforms will serve as an engine to further deepen our joint partnership on rural land.’’
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah said in Washington, “We welcome this joint partnership in the context of the G8 and congratulate the Government of Ethiopia on redoubling its dedication to achieving improved land governance and land tenure security for all. The Government of Ethiopia has made great progress in recognizing the rights of smallholder farmers with support from USAID, and we look forward to broadening and deepening this collaboration in the country’s pastoral areas.”
Speaking for the UK, International Development Minister Lynne Featherstone said,
“I welcome this announcement that the Governments of Ethiopia, the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom are entering a land country partnership. Having secure rights to land will help people across Ethiopia to grow the food they need, boost incomes, defuse conflicts and deal with the impact of climate change. This joint partnership will make sure Ethiopia can make the most of its valuable resources and attract the investment and income needed to boost growth and fight poverty.”
German Federal Minister for Economic Cooperation and Development Dirk Niebel said,
"Germany highly welcomes this partnership between our four Governments that will contribute to better land management in Ethiopia, thus promoting transparent, fair and sustainable investments in land. Access to land and land tenure security are crucial for food and income security for the rural population in Ethiopia. This partnership will complement and strengthen the Government of Ethiopia's efforts in the sustainable land management program to which Germany has been committed for years. This partnership also shows that the G8 is delivering upon its commitments promptly and with a view to the needs and priorities of our partners."
This follows the announcement of seven partnerships made last June at the G8 Open for Growth Summit. These partnerships between G8 member states and developing countries are designed to support governments in aligning their country frameworks with the globally agreed-upon Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure of Land, Fisheries, and Forests in the Context of National Food Security and to improve rural land governance and the security of land tenure for individuals, communities, and investors.
The partnership represents the continuation of the commitments made under the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, an effort by African heads of state, corporate leaders and G8 members to increase food security and nutrition in sub-Saharan Africa, and takes note of the African Union Declaration on Land Issues and Challenges. It will also coordinate and harmonize support from existing and potential new development partners in the land sector. These objectives will be achieved through ongoing and potential additional future programs in support of improved rural land governance.
The partnership will enable better collaboration, coordination, and sustainable impact. This will be achieved under the ongoing RED-FS Working group and Sustainable Land Management Platforms. Further details on the partnership will also be communicated over the course of the next year through the G8 and the Global Donor Working Group on Land, which was recently established by bilateral and multilateral donors to improve coordination of their respective efforts in the rural land sector.
This Thursday, many of us will gather around tables piled high with turkey, sweet potatoes and pumpkin pie.
More importantly, we will pause to reflect on what we are thankful for and what we can do to help those who are less fortunate. From stocking the shelves of food pantries to wrapping gifts for children in need, the holiday season is a time of year when the spirit of compassion and generosity of American families is particularly apparent.
This has been especially true in the last few weeks, as the United States has rallied a swift and life-saving response in the Philippines, where Typhoon Haiyan killed more than 4,000 people. Our disaster response teams—civilian and military—have already reached tens of thousands of survivors. Less than ten days after the storm made landfall, we had the water system up and running in hardest-hit Tacloban, supplying 200,000 people with clean water.
“Our military personnel and USAID team do this better than anybody in the world,” President Obama shared in a video message. I couldn’t agree more. In these moments of crisis, we’re proud to represent our nation’s tradition of generosity, especially as we celebrate a holiday with its roots in the spirit of gratitude.
At the end of the day, we remain committed to ensuring our assistance not only saves lives today, but reduces the risk of disaster tomorrow. From Syria (pdf) to Somalia, we’re working to bring long-term food security to the 840 million people around the world who go to bed hungry every night. We’re also working to reduce the high rates of poor nutrition that contribute to nearly half of all deaths in children under the age of five each year.
In the last year, we have directly helped more than 9 million households transform their farms and fields with our investments in agriculture and food security through Feed the Future. We’ve also reached 12 million children with nutrition programs that can prevent and treat undernutrition and improve child survival.
While there is still a lot of work to be done, we’re helping transform the face of poverty and hunger around the world—advancing progress toward the Millennium Development Goal to halve the prevalence of hunger by 2015, a target that’s within reach if the global community continues to strengthen our focus and energy.
We know that hunger is not hopeless. It is solvable.
If we continue to invest in smallholder farmers—especially women—and support good nutrition during the critical 1,000-day window from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday, we can meet the global challenge of sustainably increasing agricultural production for a growing population. By scaling up promising innovations from farm to market to table, we can tackle extreme poverty by the roots and shape a future of prosperity and progress.
This week, we’re thankful for the opportunity to be a part of this collective global effort and wish you and your families a happy Thanksgiving.
Led by USAID, Feed the Future draws on the agricultural, trade, investment, development and policy resources and expertise of 10 federal agencies. Learn more about USAID’s long history of leadership in agricultural development.
This post originally appeared on the USAID blog.
Addis Ababa, Ethiopia—The U.S. Government joined with the Ethiopian Pulses, Oilseeds and Spices Processors and Exporters Association (EPOSPEA) and other industry leaders and stakeholders as a major sponsor for the third international conference on pulses, oilseeds and spices, one of the largest segments of the agricultural sector. More than 250 Ethiopian and international importers, exporters, invited guests and government officials from around the world attended yesterday’s opening of the conference.
“EPOSPEA is collaborating with USAID to market Ethiopia to international buyers and secure global opportunities to benefit the economy as well as exporters,” said EPOSPEA President Haile Berhe. “Further, USAID is helping the association implement an oilseed strategy for Ethiopia and Africa—bringing the vision of an African Oilseeds Federation to reality.”
“We have confidence that the Ethiopian Pulses, Oilseeds and Spices Processors and Exporters Association will continue to grow and thrive—culminating in higher quality, improved yields, more export volume and foreign exchange earnings, contributing more to the livelihoods of smallholder farmers,” said USAID Ethiopia Mission Director Dennis Weller.
Developing the sesame and chickpea value chains are an important part of USAID’s Agricultural Growth Program-Agribusiness Market Development, the flagship project under the U.S. President’s Feed the Future initiative in Ethiopia.
This press release originally appeared on the USAID website.
In rural Liberia, information typically moves through verbal communication. People living in rural areas do not usually write letters, read the newspaper, or watch television due to high illiteracy and lack of infrastructure. As a result, community radio stations are quickly becoming the simplest way to relay information to isolated communities.
There are over 40 community radio stations throughout the country, some of which broadcast to as many as 200,000 people. Since the Liberian conflict ended in 2003, donor support has increased the capacity and financial sustainability of the major rural community radio stations and created an opportunity to deliver important messages via the airwaves.
In today’s Liberia, the agriculture sector represents over 60 percent of the nation’s GDP, however there are only 130 registered agribusinesses, a mere two percent of all registered businesses.
Improved radio stations have created the perfect medium to reach rural listeners with agriculture and community development messages. In 2013, the USAID Food and Enterprise Development Program began harnessing both the medium and the message to help smallholder farmers. The program is part of Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative.
As part of its mandate to strengthen the agriculture extension delivery system, USAID has worked with 27 community radio journalists from 14 radio stations to promote the farming sector, agribusiness, and increase communication among radio listeners. The USAID program provided journalists with training to reach a larger audience involved with agriculture through community radio platforms.
“We can’t rely on these radio stations to replace agriculture extension delivery, but they play a major role in notifying farmers about program information as well as best practices,” explains Doe Adovor, USAID Food and Enterprise Development Extension Specialist.
‘Soil, the Bank’ Debuts on KR 94.5
Chester Dolo, 26, never set out to become a journalist. In fact, he is studying business management at the Liberian International Business College in Ganta, Northern Liberia. But he has kept his day job at the Kergheamahan Radio station because jobs aren’t easy to come by in his hometown.
After graduating from high school in 2007, Chester quickly rose through the ranks of the community radio station. He started as a broadcaster, moved to senior reporter, then to program manager, and finally to station manager. Chester has made a name for himself on the Ganta radio station and it has much to do with his reading and speaking skills.
“My father’s a reverend and he made me read scriptures at church every Sunday because I could read out loud,” he explains.
KR 94.5—as it is known—gives the people of Ganta and the surrounding areas plenty of talk radio, especially politics, culture, and the weekend’s football results. The community station was born in 2004 after the Liberian conflict but never broadcasted news and information about agriculture, the main livelihood of the majority of the listeners. Now, Chester is changing the radio’s programming.
A USAID training event emphasized agriculture issues and allowed journalists to work in groups and demonstrate their skills and creativity to create their first agriculture-based program. When the 10-day training ended, journalists returned to their radio stations armed with a new outlook on the role of agriculture and agribusiness in community radio.
“Prior to that [training], we didn’t think much about farmers as listeners. The radio is one way to make them see farming as a business and not just survival. We can share a lot of useful information,” Chester explains. “Liberians spend $200 million every year on importing rice. We journalists can create awareness towards growing our own rice for consumption.”
Every Wednesday night at 7 p.m. and Friday morning at 9 a.m. the people in and around Ganta tune in to “Soil, the Bank”. The 30 minute program takes listeners to the farms in Nimba County to learn about the challenges and problems of farming in Liberia. Listeners hear interviews with farmers as well as USAID experts on rice, cassava, vegetable farming and animal husbandry. The program also involves agribusiness owners like fertilizer and pesticide suppliers to provide listeners a chance to ask questions. Experts also share ideas on finding markets for the region’s produce.
“A lot of farmers talk about being cheated by wholesalers. Now new buyers who want to find farmers and good produce can use the community radio to transmit their messages,” Chester explains.
After its first month on the air, “Soil, the Bank” is slowly gaining recognition. And as farmers and farm suppliers become more aware of the program, the radio station expects to sell more advertisements. Chester doesn’t plan to run the radio station his entire life, but if agriculture-focused radio can become successful, journalism might one day become a well-paid job.
Washington, DC—Today, during a speech at The George Washington University’s Feeding the Planet Summit, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah announced 10 new Feed the Future Innovation Labs to increase global food security and help smallholder farmers boost incomes and improve nutrition.
These Innovation Labs draw on the expertise of top U.S. universities and developing country research institutions, and will tackle some of the world’s most challenging agricultural research problems. The U.S. university-led Innovation Labs are central to advancing novel solutions in support of Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative.
“Throughout history, our greatest development advances have come from introducing safe, proven and appropriate technologies to the world's most vulnerable people,” said Dr. Shah. “Building upon a strong history of research collaboration, these new Feed the Future Innovation Labs will draw on the very best research, extension and education strengths of the U.S. and global university community to improve nutrition, end hunger, and help eradicate extreme poverty around the world.”
The new labs are part of the Feed the Future Food Security Innovation Center, launched in 2012 to support innovative research aimed at transforming agricultural production systems through “sustainable intensification”—or producing more food in an environmentally sensitive manner—ensuring access to nutritious and safe foods, creating enabling and supportive policies, and addressing the emerging challenges of climate change and natural resource scarcity. The newest additions include:
These new research labs join the recently announced Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sorghum & Millet led by Kansas State University and the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Food Security Policy led by Michigan State University, as well as a number of other Innovation Labs representing the breadth and diversity of U.S. university agricultural research programs. A full list of the Feed the Future Innovation Labs can be found here.
About Feed the Future: Feed the Future is the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative. With a focus on smallholder farmers, particularly women, Feed the Future supports partner countries in developing their agriculture sectors to spur economic growth and trade that increase incomes and reduce hunger, poverty and undernutrition. More information: www.feedthefuture.gov
This press release originally appeared on the USAID website.
As part of USAID’s 52nd birthday celebration, we highlight a Feed the Future partnership that is helping to improve nutrition in Ethiopia.
Ethiopia has the highest cattle population in Africa, at 52 million, including 10.5 million dairy cattle.
In 2011-2012, Ethiopia produced 3.3 billion liters of milk but only about five percent of it was sold in commercial markets. Despite an active dairy sector, individual consumption of milk in Ethiopia is only 19 liters per year and child undernutrition rates are among the highest in the world.
About an hour and half drive outside of Addis Ababa, Project Mercy, a faith-based relief and development organization, owns a 350-acre dairy farm in Cha Cha, Amhara Regional State. Through its Dairy Cattle Breeding Program, Project Mercy has a vision to help improve the nutritional status of men, women and children and generate new incomes by cross breeding Ethiopian indigenous cattle with the local British Jersey breed.
Currently, Ethiopian indigenous cattle only produce one to two quarts of milk per day, which is not enough for the typical Ethiopian family of eight. As a result, the majority of children in Ethiopia do not consume milk, leading to malnourishment and other complications such as stunted growth.
As part of the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative, the USAID Agricultural Growth Program-Livestock Market Development project is partnering with Project Mercy to help the organization achieve its vision.
Through this partnership, the project is providing technical assistance to beneficiaries before and after the dairy cows are transferred to local families. Technical assistance includes activities such as developing a farm management plan, hosting training sessions and improving animal feed production. All of these ensure that the crossbreed will achieve its highest levels of production and will increase milk production up to 12 quarts per day. In addition, the project is linking targeted households to new markets where families will be able to sell their milk products.
This project contributes to the goals of Feed the Future, which works to reduce poverty, hunger and undernutrition in 19 focus countries around the world. USAID is the lead agency for this whole-of-government initiative.
Watch the short video below to learn more about this partnership.
This post originally appeared on the USAID blog.
Soon after I arrived in Cambodia, I made a trip to see a few of the activities that USAID supports to improve the lives of rural Cambodians. Agriculture—especially rice—is of huge importance to Cambodia and I was able to see how our support is helping farmers become more successful by introducing new techniques. I also saw how our funds are improving Cambodian children’s education by strengthening school facilities and increasing their knowledge about nutrition.
Not far from Cambodia’s most famous landmark, Angkor Wat, farmers in Siem Reap and Kampong Thom provinces are learning about better, more efficient ways to raise fish and grow crops and vegetables. In addition to the training and supplies they receive through our food security program, USAID HARVEST, rural families are also eating better as a result of the nutritional information provided by HARVEST’s trainers.
The bottom line is that their production is allowing farmers to earn more income and provide their families with a more diverse and nutritional food basket. Greg Beck, USAID’s Deputy Assistant Administrator for the Asia Bureau, saw this when he enjoyed personal interaction with one such farmer during his visit this year. Read about his reflections on his Cambodia visit here.
Nutrition is a very important priority for me and my team, as it continues to be one of Cambodia’s main development challenges.
Studies show that too many Cambodians suffer from malnutrition. That’s why USAID’s program (Improving Basic Education in Cambodia) not only focuses on the classroom, but in the vegetable garden, too. In addition to providing computer labs, the project also teaches students about nutrition, water and sanitation by teaching them to install and maintain a vegetable garden. They also learn about the importance of protein and how important fish is to their protein requirements. These valuable nutritional resources will help school children eat right, grow strong and eventually join Cambodia’s growing workforce.
This post originally appeared on the USAID blog. USAID HARVEST is part of the U.S. Government's Feed the Future initiative.
In the world’s newest nation of South Sudan, the legacy of four decades of civil war continues to challenge efforts to gather reliable current statistics on health, education, the economy and other factors. USAID and other development partners are seeking to help the South Sudanese people build a robust and resilient economy.
Key to that effort is modernizing and expanding the agriculture sector.
Because decades of war often forced people from their land, South Sudan as a whole lost much of its agricultural knowledge base. As a result, most of South Sudan’s food is imported, despite significant arable land, plentiful water and good quality soil.
In spite of the challenges, most South Sudanese are still involved in agriculture, typically as subsistence farmers producing crops such as maize, sorghum, cassava and groundnuts. Production levels are low, however, and even farmers in the most fertile region—the “Greenbelt” that crosses the three Equatoria states—are affected by a number of adverse conditions, including poor quality seeds, deficient farming equipment, lack of roads to get their goods to market and post-harvest losses due to inadequate or nonexistent storage.
To examine the effects of USAID’s assistance in South Sudan’s agriculture sector since 2012, a USAID team led by economist Paul Pleva recently completed a cost-benefit analysis of the $26 million in USAID funds currently being spent annually in South Sudan in support of the Feed the Future initiative.
Part of the analysis examined two different techniques for improving crop yields, both being promoted under USAID’s Food, Agribusiness and Rural Markets (FARM) project. Begun in 2010, the FARM project seeks to boost agricultural growth through improved inputs, strengthen market linkages, improve the conditions for private sector investment and improve infrastructure to facilitate trade.
Pleva analyzed the two techniques being implemented through the FARM project to improve crop yields. One technique required relatively expensive farming inputs, but promised potentially dramatic yield increases. A second technique focused on more simple improvements such as improved seeds, proper weeding and seed row spacing for more modest yield increases.
The team observed actual outcomes produced by the two techniques and considered the sustainability of each.
Pleva led a collaborative effort to collect data from multiple sources, identify inconsistencies and compare the quality of those sources. He used inexpensive technologies such as Google Apps to ensure that USAID implementing partners around the world could provide input.
After comparing the results, the USAID team found that of the two interventions, the cheaper technique of improving farming yields resulted in greater profitability for South Sudanese farmers and provided a much better chance of sustainability after the project ends. The evidence for this finding was significant and, as a result, USAID turned the focus of the project toward the cheaper and more sustainable intervention.
Small sums can generate big returns—in this case for both farmers and USAID. USAID made a modest investment of resources—the staff time of a small team—to conduct the cost-benefit analysis, and in doing so, increased the development impact of taxpayer dollars significantly.
Farmers in South Sudan, one of the world’s poorest countries, stand to benefit economically from the findings of this analysis—a potential path out of poverty.
By using economic analysis to prove that simple techniques can best assist South Sudan’s farmers, USAID had avoided an all too common trap in development—unsustainable projects that fall apart when donors conclude a project or cease assistance to a sector or country.
Lessons like this one not only save money in the short-term, but by helping people to increase their household income and food security they also decrease the likelihood that emergency funds will be needed to help these communities in the future.
This post originally appeared on the USAID blog.