While Rwanda has made dramatic progress in decreasing child mortality, chronic malnutrition remains high among children under the age of 5. This hurts not only the economy, but also the welfare of the young. Some people are standing up against the odds, however, taking on the fight against malnutrition.
One such person is Verdiane Mushimiyimana, 41, who lives in a rural district about two hours outside of Kigali, the capital.
As a mother of five children, Mushimiyimana had a hard time providing good and nutritious meals to feed her family. Having seen four of her children grow without enough nutritious foods, she was determined to provide enough for her fifth born, Aimable. Now a bouncing 1-year old baby boy, Aimable has benefitted from six-month exclusive breastfeeding and complementary feeding.
Verdiane learned valuable lessons from her community nutrition group when she joined in July 2012. Her group is one of 436 established in eight of Rwanda’s 30 districts by USAID’s Ejo Heza, or “brighter future,” program, which works to improve livelihoods and food consumption of 75,000 Rwandans, particularly women.
“My last child, Aimable, was born when I was in the USAID Ejo Heza nutrition group. He received proper nutrition and proper health care due to the education I received,” said Mushimiyimana.
The lessons from the nutrition group were also extended to her wider family as all members enjoy a better welfare. “In the last two years with the USAID Ejo Heza nutrition group, I have not had any disease cases in my family,” she said.
Through the program’s integrated approach, beneficiaries like Mushimiyimana also receive agricultural information that promotes kitchen gardening and improved food handling.
USAID’s five-year, $13 million Ejo Heza program began in 2011 and is implemented by Global Communities. The program aims to improve rural nutrition and livelihoods by increasing the supply of and demand for financial services and by improving nutrition behaviors and agricultural practices.
The U.S. Government, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), held a ribbon cutting ceremony today for the Shashemane Farm Service Center (FSC). It is the sixth such center to open in Oromia Region, joining FSCs in Ambo, Bishoftu, Dodola, Fiche and Nekemte. The FSCs provide a complete range of supplies such as quality seeds, fertilizers, plant protection products, and veterinary products; information; and marketing links for Ethiopian smallholders, allowing them to make the step from subsistence to commercial production.
Implemented by CNFA, formerly the Citizens Network for Foreign Affairs, the Commercial Farm Service Program provides grants and training to rural entrepreneurs, both men and women, to create Ethiopian-owned retail farm supply and service centers. These private businesses will serve as innovative models in Ethiopia and throughout Africa.
“USAID and CNFA are pleased to bring these commercial farm service centers with quality supplies, reliable products and extension services to smallholder farmers at fair prices to assist them to increase their production and household income,” said USAID Ethiopia Mission Director Dennis Weller. “Shashemane is the sixth farm service center in Oromia and we expect it will fast become a center of support to farmers in surrounding areas.”
Following a competitive application process, each of the six Ethiopian-owned enterprises received a $40,000 grant that requires a minimum of 1:1 match on behalf of the entrepreneur to ensure that the FSC owner is invested in the enterprise.
“The extended support and unreserved efforts of USAID will allow us to import supplies directly from abroad, to cut out the middle men and to sell products at a lower price,” remarked Adanech Zewdie, the owner and operator of the Shashemane FSC. “This is a big achievement and great news to smallholder farmers in Shashemane.”
The Commercial Farm Service Program is a two-year pilot activity of USAID supported by President Obama's Feed the Future Initiative. Through Feed the Future, USAID is helping vulnerable households participate in economic activities and generate demand for products. These activities bring jobs and income opportunities for rural households.
This release originally appeared on the USAID website.
Tullu Bollo, Oromia, Ethiopia—The Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture (MOA), with support from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and the Agricultural Transformation Agency (ATA), today inaugurated in Oromia the first ever fertilizer blending factory in Ethiopia.
The MOA is working with other partners to open three more in SNNP, Amhara and Tigray. USAID supported the construction of the Oromia factory with a $1.2 million Feed the Future innovation grant and collaborated with the MOA, ATA, and Becho-Woliso Farmers’ Cooperative Union on its operational plan.
The MOA’s fertilizer initiative aims to introduce custom tailored fertilizers to Ethiopia and start in-country production of these fertilizers to greatly increase crop yields. It is expected that this initiative will lead to widespread adoption and accessibility of blended fertilizers, benefiting more than 11 million smallholder farmers in the four regions. The farmers’ cooperatives unions are a vital part of the fertilizer initiative as they will run the factories on a commercial basis with support from the regional governments and Bureaus of Agriculture.
The MOA, in collaboration with the ATA, regional bureaus of agriculture, and USAID’s Agribusiness Market Development activity, have conducted more than 40,000 new fertilizer demonstrations in the four target regions. The results showed yield increases up to 100 percent, when compared to conventional fertilizer application.
“Improved inputs, such as fertilizer and seeds, are a proven factor in agricultural productivity,” said USAID Mission Director to Ethiopia Dennis Weller. “The U.S. Feed the Future initiative has awarded over $4 million in grants for improved inputs to help transform Ethiopian agriculture and benefit smallholder farmers.”
The lack of available fertilizer blends customized to Ethiopia’s soil, the local production cost advantage over importation and the benefits of in-country production to the Ethiopian agribusiness sector led to the establishment of this blended fertilizer factory in Ethiopia.
According to Professor Tekalign Mamo, state minister of agriculture and minister’s advisor who oversees the national soil fertility survey and establishment of fertilizer blending factories, "It is a dream come true!"
This release originally appeared on the USAID website.
Q: Help our readers understand the contextual importance of this report. Why food security, why now?
To answer that, we need to go back in time a little, to 2007 and 2008. The world wasn’t in the best shape. A food, fuel and financial crisis was threatening to push people back into poverty, just as we had started to make progress in getting people out of it. Food price spikes in 2007 and 2008 made it really difficult—in some cases impossible—for people around the world to buy staple foods like rice and wheat. Global stability was at stake, not to mention people’s lives and a whole generation of kids who weren’t getting adequate nourishment to grow.
But that really only provides half the picture. We also need to look forward in time, to 2050, when the world population is expected to exceed 9 billion people. How are we going to sustainably (and nutritiously) feed this many people? There’s a big question mark as to how we’ll do that and we think we’ve got a new approach to answer it.
Q: What’s so new and different about this “new” approach?
When President Obama took office, he was determined to reverse the negative course the world was on. So in addition to the critical distribution of food aid in crises, he mobilized global leaders and businesses to proactively “ramp up” their investments in agriculture to increase production and decrease hunger and poverty. History has shown us that stimulating growth in agriculture is a really effective way at ending poverty. And a lot of the farmers we’re targeting live in rural areas where hunger and poverty are concentrated. That’s another aspect of our approach: instead of trying to do all things everywhere, we’ve targeted our work in 19 specific countries and even within those we’re focusing on key regions and crops that have the greatest potential for reducing poverty and hunger for some of the world’s most vulnerable people, particularly women.
It’s about more than just agriculture too. World leaders committed not just to invest more, but to invest differently. Countries would take on greater leadership and donors would support them as they worked to grow enough to feed their own populations and connect people to the global economy to help feed the world. We’re essentially dealing with hunger today and hunger tomorrow. Feed the Future has been a big part of the U.S. contribution to this global effort as the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative.
Q: So Feed the Future’s been in motion for about four years now – what do we have to show for it?
That’s where our latest Feed the Future report comes in. We’ve never had data like this before for agriculture programs to really show what is happening as a result of what we’ve been doing. And we have a lot to show for it.
Last year we helped nearly 7 million farmers improve the way they work to adopt new and improved technologies and practices that help them grow more while using less land, water and other (often expensive) resources. We’ve also reached more than 12 million children with nutrition interventions designed to give them a healthy start to life so they have the same shot at being productive, happy adults as our children do. We’ve actually been able to replicate results similar to these for about two years now, so we’re really excited about taking them to scale now that we know our approach is working.
Q: What do these numbers mean?
They mean we now have evidence that what we’re doing works. They also show that leadership matters. President Obama put forth a vision for ending hunger—and then backed it up with monetary commitments—that encouraged global leaders to do the same. By collaborating toward a common goal, we’ve been able to get a lot more done and leverage a lot more resources than we ever could have alone.
By collaborating toward a common goal, we’ve been able to get a lot more done and leverage a lot more resources than we ever could have alone.
It makes it all the more urgent for us to build on this momentum, continue investments, and scale our approach by bringing in even more partners from the private sector, civil society, academia, and science.
The end of hunger is in sight! We’re just about on track to cut hunger in half by 2015, per the Millennium Development Goal. Feed the Future has been a large part of the U.S. contribution to achieving this goal.
Two years ago you may remember that President Obama challenged us to end extreme poverty by 2030 and the World Bank, USAID and others have already taken up the charge. Common vision and goals like these help propel us forward but also help us gut-check on progress. So far, so good, but we’re ready to go the distance and really end this. If we can end poverty, why not hunger? They’re inextricably linked and we can end both.
Q: So if ending hunger is actually a possibility now, when can we expect to see it end?
It’s really up to the international community to set a target date, but we’ll be a key voice in those discussions. President Obama’s leadership has already mobilized the world to fight hunger and poverty and helped set a goal date for ending poverty. We do know this for sure: We can end hunger in our lifetimes.
Q: What’s next? How do we get from these results to an actual end date?
The United States doesn’t have the resources to solve this problem by itself nor should we even try to. That’s why this new approach to focus our efforts, coordinate among donors and support countries in their own food security plans is so vital to success. So is the inclusion of all sectors in our work to improve food security, both in terms of public, private and nonprofit but also from a technical standpoint of health, hygiene and sanitation, policy reform, the way we deliver food aid, etc. We need to continue to work smarter.
We have the political will and global momentum we need to end hunger; we just need to sustain it. And we need to keep looking for outside-the-box ideas and approaches. USAID recently launched its Global Development Lab and its purpose is to do just that. Evidence tells us that one-size-fits-all just doesn’t work for development and we’re looking to continue to spur innovation and find new and improved ways to help people move out of poverty and hunger to self-sufficiency and prosperity.
Q: All right, on a closing note: If I’m a reader and I think your mission is really cool and want to be a part of it, what can I do to get involved?
The great thing about this story is it isn’t just about what the U.S. Government, businesses, civil society, or farmers are doing: It involves all of us. We really do need all types of people to be involved in our work. It’s not just about development professionals anymore; it involves small business owners, scientists, American farmers and ranchers, and banks.
If you’d like to work directly with Feed the Future and its associated U.S. Government agencies, you can go to the Feed the Future website and check out the Partner With Us section for opportunities and ideas—this includes student opportunities like fellowships. There’s also the Peace Corps, which is a great way to start serving. And USAID has a foreign service that includes agricultural scientists, private sector partnership experts, and economists. The State Department does too. There are a lot of ways to join.
You can help us keep the global conversation on food security going too. We have a hashtag (#feedthefuture) that gives you the ability to do that on a variety of public media platforms.
This post originally appeared on the USAID blog.
Good morning! Want to start by saying thank you. Some really wonderful, talented people have worked through the nights and many weekends to organize this Global Forum and launch this year’s Progress Report.
This morning, every seat here is filled with invaluable champions and allies.
I see humanitarian, development, and government leaders from around the world—nearly 30 countries, in fact.
I see advocates from both sides of the aisle who recognize that the face of hunger is not a partisan issue—but a moral one, and one with great importance to our shared security and prosperity.
I see leaders from across the U.S. Government—who represent this Administration’s new approach to tackling great challenges not by bureau or Agency, but with the full weight and expertise of the United States Government.
I see USAID Mission Directors and their teams, who are translating policy into results for the world’s most vulnerable people every day.
They have just wrapped up our worldwide Mission Directors conference—an opportunity to share experiences and learn from one another. I’m very proud of them.
It is very fitting to begin with President Obama’s words from his inaugural address in 2009—where before the world, he committed the full power, ingenuity, and resources of the United States government to ending hunger.
To fully understand how far we’ve come, I want to take you back to that day—and what the world had recently come through.
For more than 20 years, agriculture funding in development had been on the decline, leaving the world ill-prepared to cope with the growing challenge of food insecurity.
Rising fuel prices sent prices for basic staples—like wheat and rice—to all-time highs, casting tens of millions of people back to the brink of extreme poverty.
Food riots rocked countries from Senegal to Pakistan. Ten thousand people took to the streets in Dhaka. Cameroon saw worst unrest in 15 years. In a panic, countries implemented short-sighted policy responses like export controls that hurt trade and slowed growth.
Everywhere, a food, fuel, and economic crisis had shrouded the world with pessimism.
But the greatest impact wasn’t felt in the halls of power, but in the bellies of starving children crying every night with hunger.
Without nutritious food, their bodies can’t grow and their minds can’t develop. They laugh and smile just like any kids, but their life-long potential is forever undermined.
They are pulled out of work. The boys are sent off to work and the girls sold off to husbands before they’ll even old enough to fetch water alone.
The Washington Post covered the story of a hunger crisis in Niger that sent hundreds of young girls into forced marriage that closely resembled slavery.
The New York Times covered the story of Haitian children making and eating mudcakes to fill their empty pains in their bellies.
In this environment, President Obama took office determined to reverse course and give millions of people a pathway out of extreme poverty.
As one of his first foreign policy acts, President Obama launched Feed the Future.
Borne out of the President’s pledge at the 2009 G-8 Summit in L’Aquila to mobilize at least $3.5 billion towards global food security—spurring commitments of $18.5 billion from other donors.
In the years since, not every country has met its commitments.
But the United States has. In fact, thanks to tremendous bipartisan support, we’ve even surpassed them—committing $5 billion in the fight to end hunger and malnutrition.
Feed the Future was not just the commitment of money, but of a new approach. Instead of merely providing food aid in times of crises, we were applying a new model to turn agriculture into a business—one that especially worked for women.
Instead of trying to work everywhere at once, we chose partners selectively, based on their own commitments to policy reforms and willingness to invest in agriculture.
In fact, since 2010, we have phased out agricultural programs in more than 30 countries to focus on just 19 where we can have the biggest impact.
Four years later, I am proud to join you today to launch the 2014 Feed the Future Progress Report that delivers on the President’s commitment to the world.
Let me just share with you a few topline numbers:
What does all this mean on the ground?
When President Obama visited Senegal a year ago, he met a farmer named Nimna, who started a women’s farming cooperative in her community with support from Feed the Future. Nimna’s success represents those of farmers across the nation.
In the last year, more than 17,000 Senegalese farmers and small entrepreneurs benefited from nearly $20 million in rural loans and grants.
Meanwhile, our friends at the Millennium Challenge Corporation are rehabilitating the large-scale irrigation system in the Senegal River Valley Delta.
Senegal is now a member of the New Alliance for Food Security, a global public-private partnership launched by President Obama at the G8 Summit at Camp David.
These profits for farmers have quickly translated into results for the entire country: In the last 20 years alone, the rate of extreme poverty has fallen by 55 percent.
Senegal is not alone.
In Haiti, where children once ate mudcakes, Feed the Future worked closely with smallholder farmers to improve productively despite tough planting seasons that weathered two storms and a drought. We increased rice yields by 129 percent; corn by 340 percent; and beans by 100 percent.
Last year, the nationwide demographic health survey released impressive results: including steady increase in childhood vaccinations and steady decrease in chronic malnutrition. The number of children suffering from acute malnutrition halved.
In Ethiopia, we recently partnered with DuPont and local agriculture cooperative to help 35,000 maize farmers increase yields by 50 percent. Private sector investment has encouraged the government to liberalize its seed sector.
Guts Ago Industry—a local Ethiopian company—sources from 10,000 farmers and develops a ready-to-use therapeutic food made with chickpeas.
All told, in the last year alone, we leveraged nearly $70 million in private sector investment for Ethiopian farmers to grow their businesses and hire new employees—and lifted 1.7 million children beyond the threat of starvation and malnutrition.
In 10 years alone, Ethiopia has brought the extreme poverty rate down 20 percentage points—a rate that has help spur the growth of the economy at an astounding 9 percent a year.
These results have come not just from just teaching farmers how to plant, but also from helping them learn how to run successful businesses. That means forging PPPs to make sure the entire chain—from farm to market to table—is profitable.
That is why President Obama announced the New Alliance at G8.
Since then, Grow Africa Reports: of 7.2 billion in planned investments, $970 million of investment were made in the last year alone. 33,000 jobs created. 2.6 million smallholder farmers reached.
If there is still any doubt that we are on the verge of a new Green Revolution, the Economist published an article just last week describing the transformation underway on small farms around the work, as farmers plant improved seed that are resilient in the face of heat, drought, pests, and disease.
From the research labs of the world’s elite universities to the fields of poor farmers, Feed the Future is driving this scientific revolution.
Playing a leading role is ensuring that the latest technologies don’t just sit in a research lab, but get sown into the fields of those who need the most.
We have more than doubled our research investments—developing and deploying more than 34 new drought-tolerant maize varieties in the last five years alone.
And today, I am pleased to announce a new $5 million research partnership with Texas A&M dedicated to eliminating coffee rust, a plant disease that has caused more than $1 billion in economic damage and threatens how millions of Central Americans earn their living.
Today, farmers face the worst outbreak in Latin America’s history. To help stop the crisis before it worsens—or spreads—our partnership will not only develop new rust-resistant coffee varieties, but also strengthen the capacity of the region’s own coffee institutions.
To pioneer similar breakthroughs, we have established 23 Feed the Future Innovation Laboratories led by U.S. universities—the bedrock of our nation’s agricultural capacity and expertise.
Taken together, these investments are lifting families out of extreme poverty and sowing the seeds of productive, profitable agricultural market that will need to feed 9 billion mouths by 2050.
At the end of the day, progress does not come from new seeds alone, but leaders who have the courage to make tough, important decisions.
Gathered from around the world this week, our Agency’s Mission Directors represent just this deeply committed and talented cohort.
They aren’t alone.
At their side are leaders from a dozen U.S. Government Agencies, each of which brings a highly unique and invaluable set of skills and partners to our shared mission.
USADF’s food security programs helped create more than $21 million in new economic activities.
The Peace Corps has fielded more than 12,000 volunteers who help communities make sustainable changes in how they cultivate their food and irrigate their lands.
USDA formally launched our government’s open agricultural data initiative and improved statistical systems in half-a-dozen Feed the Future focus countries.
We are proud to sign an MOU with USDA to improve coordination between our education programs and USDA’s school feeding programs that have nurtured millions of students through McGovern-Dole.
The MCC moved forward on Compacts from Mozambique to Tanzania and tremendously strengthened the rigor of our approach to monitoring and evaluation.
The Department of State has continued to help foster major policy changes that support global and local food security goals.
Managed by the Department of Treasury, the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program (GAFSP) brought total multilateral funding to $961 million for small businesses in 31 countries.
From the Department of State to Commerce to Treasury; from the U.S. Geological Survey to OPIC, Feed the Future truly represents the contributions of entire United States Government.
And lest you get the impression that the United States is in this fight alone, we aren’t. Across the world, partner countries have stepped up and global institutions have stepped forward.
Tanzania removed its export ban; Burkina Faso passed two significant laws governing public-private partnership; and Rwanda has strengthened its focus on supporting farmer cooperatives.
The World Bank, IFAD, WFP, and FAO are all rethinking how they can promote public-private partnership and commodity exchanges. The World Bank is playing a leadership role in the development of Climate Smart Alliance for Agriculture. IFAD is contributing to the New Alliance ICT Extension Challenge—funding one of the six countries themselves.
All are providing intellectual leadership—and support to the G7/G20—to strengthen evidence-based discussion. And all are advancing a post-2015 development agenda anchored by a focus on ending hunger and extreme poverty.
This morning’s launch of the Progress Report does not just celebrate the leadership of our partners or the impact of our investments.
It does something arguably much more important: it upholds our commitment to closely monitor, measure, and publically report on our work.
The Report’s findings are grounded in a robust management system for gathering and disseminating timely, accurate data that measures everything from household income to the participation of women to the prevalence of stunting.
This month, we are proud to launch the Women’s Empowerment Agriculture Index Baseline Report—which provides a comprehensive analysis of findings from 13 countries.
I encourage you to read the report, but its central finding confirms what we all suspect: that—on average—women are twice as disempowered as men. At the extreme, they are three times as disempowered.
The report also finds that across the world, women are most held back by not having access to credit or group memberships in cooperatives or associations. I mention these especially because they are as striking as they are solvable. And we must work together to ensure that women have the same access to capital, technologies, and leadership positions as men.
Just as country-based Demographic and Health Surveys helped dramatically expand monitoring capabilities in global health, Feed the Future’s new open data platform will transform our knowledge and inform cutting-edge approaches.
A few months ago, when President Obama arrived at the Vatican, he presented Pope Francis with a small chest filled with fruit and vegetable seeds from the White House garden.
It was a poignant gift, symbolizing the President’s own commitment to this deeply moral mission as well as power of seeds to feed a global community and sow a bright future.
We have an exceptional mission, and we do pursue it with some exceptional people. But 842 million people—the great majority of whom are children—will still go to sleep hungry tonight.
Over the next three days, as you share experiences and ideas, I encourage you to ask yourself and each other: are we transforming fast enough against our aspirations?
As this impressive report shows, there is no question we have the tools: massive capital, cutting-edge innovations, high-impact partnerships and—perhaps most importantly—unprecedented presidential and bipartisan leadership. The rest is up to us—the leaders in this room and in cities around the world. I look forward to carrying forward this conversation with you over the next three days.
Encourage you to visit the Marketplace, where you can see many of the innovations and learn about the partnerships making a difference on the ground today.
Tonight, on the Hill, we’re going to be joining a tremendous group of bipartisan colleagues to discuss how this decade long endeavor will only succeed if we stay focused and inspired.
And later this week, at the Chicago Council on Thursday, we’ll have an exciting announcement on our strategic vision for giving all children the nutrition they need to survive and thrive.
These remarks originally appeared on the USAID website.
Twenty years ago I visited Tajikistan for the first time. Then a young USAID program officer, that journey took me south toward Khatlon Province near the border with Afghanistan.
Tajikistan faced civil conflict, and on that first trip I saw many buildings destroyed by war. I was there to inspect warehouses and observe humanitarian programs helping displaced Tajiks who barely had enough to eat. All the food I saw being distributed came from outside Tajikistan, donated by international donors in an effort to provide immediate relief.
Returning to Central Asia as USAID mission director in late fall 2013, I have since taken several trips to Khatlon Province, all organized around Feed the Future, arguably the single most important U.S. Government initiative in terms of addressing poverty issues in the poorest region of Central Asia. Undernourishment remains a critical challenge today in Tajikistan. Nearly one out of three children under 5 are “stunted” and nearly 7 percent are described as “wasted”—where their muscle and fat literally waste away.
Most households in Khatlon depend on remittances from fathers, sons and brothers working in Russia. Indeed, remittances represent approximately half the GDP, making Tajikistan the most remittance-dependent country in the world. Nearly one out of 10 Tajiks live in extreme poverty, on less than $1.25/day. Roughly the same proportion of Tajik women are undernourished.
Yet what I saw on these recent trips is vastly different and more hopeful than what I witnessed two decades ago. USAID programs, working with Tajik colleagues and counterparts, are now able to focus on growing food, not distributing emergency supplies. Feed the Future in particular is at the center of this effort, aiming to expand production, reduce poverty and improve nutrition.
Today USAID programs are able to focus on growing food, not distributing emergency supplies. Feed the Future is also training young mothers in Khatlon Province, Tajikistan, on how to prepare more nutritious meals for their children.
An entire younger generation no longer remembers a country that was once torn apart by war—and Tajikistan can finally experience a 'peace dividend' of sorts.
Today, local farmers make their own cropping decisions, no longer forced into blindly following orders passed down from bureaucrats working far away.
A full spectrum of issues is being addressed, ranging from building water-users associations, to educating farmers about their rights, to strengthening production value chains, to educating families about improved nutrition.
Feed the Future is a key driver of this change. Our programs in Tajikistan focus on the neediest districts of the Khatlon Province, itself one of Tajikistan’s poorest regions. Our efforts target women of reproductive age as well as children during the crucial ’1,000 days’ period from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday. Feed the Future empowers Tajiks to pull themselves out of poverty and insecurity by giving farmers the tools and the skills to succeed. Reducing chronic hunger is essential to building a foundation for development investments in health, education, and economic growth. It is essential to the sustainable development of Tajik individuals and communities.
This is good for the people Tajikistan. But it is also good for the world, and, yes, for Americans back home. Tajikistan shares a long and porous border with Afghanistan. Our efforts to improve living conditions in Tajikistan therefore have a direct impact on regional security. Today, we have a unique opportunity to partner with Tajikistan as it moves away from a Soviet-style planning system toward country-led economic growth that will lay the foundation for long-term stability and prosperity.
One stop in my most recent trip included a meeting with a group of Tajik women. Unprompted, a little girl of about three held by one of them broke loose and walked over to where I was sitting, planting herself firmly in my lap for the rest of the meeting.
While our conversation touched on many topics, what I remember most about that trip is the fact that this little girl is not a number or a statistic or even a “beneficiary” of a particular aid program.
She is a real person, loved by her family and with a future ahead of her—one that Feed the Future is working to ensure is much brighter than would have been the case two decades ago. Projects like this involve real people with real hopes and dreams—and, in this case, a new generation that deserves a much better and more prosperous future.
This post originally appeared on the USAID blog.
The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) today announced a $5 million partnership with Texas A&M University’s World Coffee Research to eliminate coffee rust, a plant disease that has caused more than $1 billion in economic damage across Latin America and the Caribbean since 2012 and seriously threatens the livelihoods and food security of those who make their living in the coffee industry, especially small farmers.
The partnership will support research on rust-resistant coffee varieties, address the shortage of disease-resistant coffee seedlings, and expand the capability of the region’s coffee institutions to monitor and respond to coffee rust. Central America’s smallholder farmers grow the bulk of the region’s specialty coffee, a lucrative commodity that is in increasingly high demand in the United States and around the world. With USAID’s investment, research will focus on establishing a more resilient and higher quality regional coffee sector.
“Coffee rust threatens more than your morning coffee—it affects jobs, businesses, and the security of millions across the Americas,” said USAID’s Associate Administrator Mark Feierstein. “We must tackle this outbreak to ensure farmers and laborers have stable incomes, don't start growing illicit crops, or be forced to migrate because they can no longer support their families. This partnership will tap innovative solutions to address the immediate and long-term impacts of coffee rust and help this key agriculture sector rebound.”
The current coffee rust outbreak is the worst in Latin America’s history. Reasons for current outbreak are varied, but USAID plant experts say that climate change is exacerbating the crisis. It is estimated that production will fall by as much as 15-40% in the coming years, which could trigger job losses exceeding 500,000. Decreased production may lead to decreases in incomes for smallholder farmers, making it harder to afford the fungicides and plant maintenance necessary to control the disease. The negative impacts of coffee rust go beyond the farmers and businesses that support the industry—seasonal laborers and their families are losing an import source of income.
Feed the Future, the U.S Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, is working closely with Latin American and Caribbean governments, international and regional organizations, civil society, coffee associations and the private sector to mitigate the crisis, accelerate the recovery, and enable future growth. Earlier today, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah announced that Feed the Future initiative has reached 7 million small farmers and saved 12.5 million children from the threats of hunger, poverty and malnutrition. Feed the Future and complementary efforts have created thousands of news jobs, attracted billions of dollars in investments focused in agriculture, disbursed affordable new technologies aimed at managing the risks of a changing climate, and brought nutrient-packed foods to the mouths of millions of mothers and children around the world.
Overall, USAID is investing $14 million in the fight against coffee rust. In addition to the World Coffee Research partnership, the United States is:
Providing a regional emergency coffee coordinator to assist with regional coordination and disseminate best practices to combat rust.
Helping to develop a coffee pest early warning system to help predict and mitigate future outbreaks.
Working with regional and global partners to identify and disseminate the most effective mitigation strategies.
Collaborating with international financial institutions and coffee companies to develop new financing opportunities for replanting coffee trees with improved coffee varieties.
When President Obama took office, the world was mired in the midst of food, fuel, and financial turmoil that pushed millions of people back to the precipice of poverty. In 2007 and 2008, food prices hit all-time highs, sending prices for basic staples like rice and wheat beyond the reach of the world’s most vulnerable people.
In this environment, President Obama was determined to reverse course and give millions of people a pathway out of extreme poverty. In his first inaugural address, the president outlined his vision of a world without hunger. “To the people of poor nations,” he said, “we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean water flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds.” His remarks marked the beginning of renewed global attention that brought poverty, hunger and undernutrition back to the top of the international agenda.
As one of his first foreign policy acts, President Obama launched Feed the Future. Its aim: to strengthen food security and nutrition for millions of people by focusing on the smallholder farmers at the foundation of the world’s agriculture system. This week, Feed the Future marks four years of progress and has just released a report on its impact to date.
In the spirit of this progress, here are some of the ways that Feed the Future is helping grow a more prosperous future for the 842 million people who will still go to sleep hungry tonight.
Farmers working small plots of land are the backbone of the world’s agricultural system, but often struggle to feed their own families. In the past year alone, Feed the Future has helped nearly 7 million farmers and food producers use new technologies and management practices on more than 4 million hectares, or over 15,000 square miles, of land to boost their harvests.
Poor nutrition is a stealthy killer and the underlying cause of one out of every three deaths of young children in developing countries. Conversely, good nutrition in the 1,000-day window from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday lays the foundation for health, development, and even prosperity for the next generation. In 2013, Feed the Future, in collaboration with the Global Health Initiative, reached more than 12.5 million children with nutrition interventions that can help ensure a stronger and more successful future. Feed the Future also supported nearly 91,000 women farmers in homestead gardening, improving access to nutritious foods and increasing income for women and children.
The ability to borrow money is what allows farm families to make the investments needed to grow more for their families and communities. Working with Feed the Future, local banks are using innovative finance mechanisms to lend to more smallholders, often considered too “risky” by banks. Last year in Senegal alone, more than 17,000 farmers and small entrepreneurs benefited from nearly $20 million in rural loans and grants which helped them access better seeds and modern equipment, as well as weather-indexed crop insurance, and helped negotiate favorable contracts with commercial mills. The results? Farmers’ profits for rice rose by 56 percent and for maize by 173 percent between 2012 and 2013.
A food-secure world will not become a reality without a combination of public and private sector investment. Last year, Feed the Future assistance created 1,175 public-private partnerships, up from 660 the previous year—8 out of 10 involved local small and medium-sized firms. That same year, U.S. Government investments also leveraged more than $160 million in private sector investment, a 40 percent increase from 2012. These alliances foster growth in emerging markets by commercializing new technologies; helping to create policy environments that enable even greater growth; increasing opportunities for investment, finance and risk mitigation; and improving market access and trade.
It’s not enough to just encourage investments that “do no harm.” The U.S. Government works to ensure that the countries we partner with to improve food security adhere to specific policy measures so that the investments benefit women and smallholder farmers as well as investors.
Feed the Future reflects a new model for development—one that emphasizes partnership, linkages and access to tools, technologies and the global economy. Whereas in the past, success meant helping farmers grow more crops, success today means also helping them learn how to be entrepreneurs.
In addition to Feed the Future, in 2014, President Obama proposed changing our largest international food assistance program to allow more flexible, efficient and effective food aid through the purchase of local commodities and the provision of cash vouchers. The goal was to enable the United States to reach 4 million more people in crisis, with the same resources, and speed response time to emergencies. Combined with other legislation, reforms in the 2014 Farm Bill now mean USAID can reach an additional 800,000 chronically food-insecure people with no extra funds. The 2015 Budget seeks additional reforms for emergency food aid that would allow around 2 million more people in crises to be helped without additional resources.
The United States boasts some of the world’s cutting-edge agricultural research facilities. Feed the Future fosters strong partnerships with both U.S. and international agricultural research institutions, such as the University of California, Davis; Virginia Tech and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) to, for example, help develop new strains of cowpea that can fend off common pests and to help India control the papaya mealybug pest that was decimating its horticulture sector. So far, 23 Feed the Future Innovation Labs made up of 70 of the United States’ top academic research institutions have been created.
The Peace Corps has a long history of being on the front lines of the U.S. fight to end global poverty. Partnering with USAID as part of the Feed the Future initiative, the Peace Corps has fielded more than 1,200 Peace Corps Volunteers in countries overseas to help people make sustainable changes in how they cultivate their food, address water shortages and feed their families.
Global leaders today praised President Obama’s Feed the Future initiative for reaching nearly 7 million smallholder farmers and helping to save 12.5 million children from the threat of hunger, poverty, and malnutrition in just the last year alone.
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah said today that since it was formed four years ago, Feed the Future and complementary efforts have attracted billions of dollars in investments focused in agriculture, introduced affordable new technologies aimed at increasing agricultural production and managing the risks of a changing climate, and introduced nutrient-packed foods to millions of mothers and children around the world.
Here is what global leaders had to say:
"African countries have the potential to increase agricultural productivity with the right policies and investments. Programs like “Feed the Future” make an important contribution by supporting innovation, providing technical knowledge, and developing markets for smallholder farmers to sell their products."
“The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation remains grateful for US leadership in long-term agricultural development, and especially the approach USAID has taken – strong country level partnerships; it’s focus on smallholder farmers; and the understanding that women need to be at the heart of any poverty reduction strategy. This US leadership and investment, accompanied by a sound strategy and a focus on measuring impact, is already showing results through increased crop yields and higher incomes. We look forward to continued collaboration and impact.”
"Feed the Future is the United States’ contribution to the exodus from hunger. The report underscores the great progress and potential of the program. Smart and targeted investments in improving smallholder agriculture, maternal and child nutrition, value chains and rural infrastructure are already transforming the lives of hungry and poor people. This is a down payment to global food and nutrition security."
“The progress USAID has achieved through its Feed the Future program over the past four years is making a positive difference for millions around the world. DuPont is pleased to continue our collaboration with USAID as a part of our global effort to promote food and nutrition security for people everywhere.”
“The faculty and staff of Texas A&M AgriLife are focused as much as anyone on conducting and implementing scientific research aimed at feeding the world. They are leaders in helping our government entities, such as USAID, improve people’s access to safe and nutritious food. Their discoveries and advances are making a difference in our country and around the globe.”
“Feed the Future is a clear demonstration of the Obama Administration’s commitment to tackling hunger and malnutrition around the world. When over 842 million people are hungry and undernourished, we need action from all stakeholders. The U.S. Government’s commitment to engaging across sectors and supporting the efforts of smallholder farmers—particularly those of women farmers—is exemplary. Throughout CARE’s worldwide programs, we are seeing results among vulnerable households who are now better able to reap greater harvests, provide for their families and see their children grow into well-nourished adults.”
“Investing in agricultural development is essential to reducing global hunger and alleviating poverty. Since 2010, Feed the Future has worked to empower smallholder farmers, which make up over half of the world’s chronically hungry. Through giving these farmers tools to increase their yields and connecting them to markets, the incomes of the rural poor are increasing sustainably. This approach is moving the U.S. away from a traditional aid-dependent model to one that fosters economic growth and leverages partnerships. We now need to sustain these investments over the long-term to have lasting impact.”
“To truly meet the food security needs of a growing world population, we will need to forge stronger, more robust partnerships across sectors and nations. Feed the Future is an innovative way to bring all necessary stakeholders together to meet this challenge, and it is the direction we must continue to move.”
“African leaders are making significant efforts to put agriculture at the center of their economic transformation strategies. By focusing on agricultural innovation, Feed the Future’s vision and activities are aligned with African aspirations. This policy congruence offers Africa and the U.S. the opportunity to sow the seeds of new agricultural diplomacy that is guided by mutual interest.”
“Feed the Future has had a transformative impact on the international community’s effort to address the underlying causes of hunger and malnutrition.”
"Feed the Future is a model development partnership with countries driving the food security agenda to make hunger history. By taking a comprehensive approach - linking agriculture to nutrition and health, using multiple tools from resilient crops to no tillage agriculture, and engaging all stakeholders from farmers to businesses - Feed the Future shows that effective partnerships can deliver impressive results: better harvests on 4 million hectares, better livelihoods for 7 million farming families contributing to better nutrition for 12.5 million children."
“The American people should be proud of the work being carried out by Feed the Future. Under Rajiv Shah’s incredible leadership, it’s saving lives, improving children’s health, and strengthening the economic well-being, productivity and food security of millions of families and their communities. Nothing is more important to global security than food security. The findings of this progress report demonstrate why this initiative deserves our support and why we should expand it to reach even more communities around the world.”
“Feed the Future has become a breakthrough development model that has a potential to leave a lasting legacy for generations to come. It has raised the bar on tackling hunger and malnutrition, focusing particularly on the critical 1,000 day period from pregnancy through a child’s second birthday. Through this initiative, nutrition becomes the essential bridge between agriculture and health that enables millions of children to reach their full potential.”
"Feed the Future has provided an excellent example of reducing poverty through integration - such as implementing new technologies, coordinating of health and education investments, along with facilitating access to markets - creating a major economic improvement in the lives of very poor rural families. This model of development will be scaled up and used for our government in different new projects to reach our goals to sustainably reduce rural poverty."
“Ending hunger and poverty is achievable, but no one can do it alone. InterAction and its NGO members are proud to be partnering with Feed the Future, bringing our local connections, expertise, passion and private resources to ensure we reach families and communities most in need. Together we can continue to yield the kind of impressive and lasting results documented in this progress report.”
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah announced today that President Obama’s Feed the Future initiative has reached nearly 7 million smallholder farmers and helped to save 12.5 million children from the threat of hunger, poverty, and malnutrition in just the last year alone. Since it was formed four years ago, Feed the Future and complementary efforts have attracted billions of dollars in investments focused in agriculture, introduced affordable new technologies aimed at increasing agricultural production and managing the risks of a changing climate, and introduced nutrient-packed foods to millions of mothers and children around the world.
“Feed the Future has hit its stride, delivering results that are changing the face of poverty and hunger for some of the world’s poorest families,” said Administrator Shah. “Working alongside thousands of partners from the private sector, civil society, and local leaders, we are pioneering a new model of development—one grounded in country leadership, policy reforms, cutting-edge measurement and evidence, and a relentless focus on delivering real results.”
Currently, Feed the Future works in 19 focus countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean. Overall in 2013, the initiative helped nearly 7 million farmers and food producers use new technologies and management practices—such as high-yielding seed varieties—on about 9.9 million acres of land, an area greater than the states of Massachusetts and New Jersey combined. It has reached more than 12.5 million children with nutrition interventions that can help ensure a stronger and more successful future.
Feed the Future and its complementary efforts, such as Grow Africa and the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, have helped to leverage billions of dollars in private sector commitments in African agriculture. In African countries alone, Obama Administration anti- hunger and poverty efforts have helped to reach 2.6 million farmers and gathered $7 billion in private sector commitments to African agriculture.
Here are some examples of how Feed the Future is working:
The 2014 Feed the Future Progress Report was released today during the Feed the Future Global Forum, an event bringing together stakeholders and partners from around the world to highlight progress, address challenges and chart a way forward in the fight against hunger and poverty. The report outlines how Feed the Future is working to scale-up proven technologies and activities, expand nutrition interventions and programs, and conduct research to create the next generation of innovations that can change the lives of food producers and their families. The full 2014 Feed the Future Progress Report can be found online at http://www.feedthefuture.gov/progress.
USAID is the lead U.S. Government agency that partners to end extreme poverty and promote resilient, democratic societies while advancing security and prosperity in the United States and around the world.
This release originally appeared on the USAID website.