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Feed the Future Just Published a New Report – So What?

Tjada Mckenna

Tjada Mckenna

We sat down to chat with Feed the Future’s deputy coordinator for development, Tjada McKenna, about Feed the Future, its latest results, and where we’re at in the fight to end hunger.

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.

Feed the Future provides credit opportunities to help smallholder farmers purchase agricultural machinery and teaches them how to use these tools to boost harvests. / Wasif Hasan, USAID

Feed the Future provides credit opportunities to help smallholder farmers purchase agricultural machinery and teaches them how to use these tools to boost harvests. / Wasif Hasan, USAID

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.

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.

Market surveys with Tanzanian farmers, traders and retailers supported by Feed the Future help identify bottlenecks in the vegetable value chain. / Srinivasulu Rajendran, AVRDC

Market surveys with Tanzanian farmers, traders and retailers supported by Feed the Future help identify bottlenecks in the vegetable value chain. / Srinivasulu Rajendran, AVRDC

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.

Explore our website, read our report, and stay tuned for more ideas and opportunities.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tjada McKenna is the acting assistant to the administrator in the USAID Bureau for Food Security and the Feed the Future deputy coordinator for development.

Improving Nutrition, Building Resilience for Families, Societies

Images of a food desert where affordable and nutritious food is difficult to find stir the imagination in the United States. So what about an actual desert where malnutrition, poverty, chronic vulnerability and a harsh climate collide and conspire against women and children?

In the Sahel – an arid zone next to the Sahara Desert that stretches across the northern part of sub-Saharan Africa – seasonal rains are becoming less predictable, and droughts more frequent and more severe. The region is marked by chronic food insecurity and high malnutrition rates: 20 million people are food insecure and 5 million children are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition.

USAID reached 12.5 million children under age 5 in the FY 2013, through our nutrition programs, and an additional million children through leveraging global health resources and partnerships with other donors.

As one can imagine, the challenges are multi-faceted and complex; they are exacerbated by extreme poverty, inequality, limited access to basic services, poor education opportunities and environmental degradation.

For the past year, humanitarian, food security and health experts from across USAID worked to develop a multi-sectoral approach toward improving nutrition, advancing development and building resilience among vulnerable populations like those in the Sahel.

At a conference today organized by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, national security director Susan Rice will unveil the thinking that will guide the Agency’s policies and programs for nutrition in both emergency and development contexts and strengthen systems and delivery platforms for nutrition services both within the health sector, and also within the agriculture, water and sanitation, and humanitarian assistance sectors.

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Eveline Sonia works at the Fresh Produce Exporters Association of Kenya’s Practical Training Center, which teaches best practices to horticulture farmers. The association is a Feed the Future private sector partner in Thika, Kenya. / Riccardo Gangale, USAID

USAID’S 2014-2025 Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy is the first of its kind at the Agency and it builds on President Obama’s commitment to create a world where every child has the potential for a healthy and productive life.

In the strategy, USAID is prioritizing the prevention of malnutrition given the irreversible consequences of chronic under-nutrition early in life. The strategy establishes very clear targets for how America’s investment in nutrition will reduce stunting and recommends ways the United States can advance improved nutrition and build resilience for millions of people.

Investments in Improving Nutrition

The 1,000 days from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday is the most critical time for positive impact on a child’s cognitive, intellectual, and physical development. Good nutrition in the first 1,000 days lays the foundation for health, development, and even prosperity for the next generation.

Conversely, under-nutrition inhibits the body’s immune system from fighting disease and impedes cognitive, social-emotional, and motor development. It contributed to 3.1 million, or just under half of child deaths worldwide in 2011.

Uganda is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. Feed the Future is helping increase opportunities for smallholder farmers like Alice Monigo in Uganda by providing trainings for women. /CNFA

Uganda is one of the fastest growing economies in Africa. Feed the Future is helping increase opportunities for smallholder farmers like Alice Monigo in Uganda by providing trainings for women. / CNFA

Research, including the recent Lancet Maternal and Child Nutrition series, is providing strong evidence that improving nutrition is one of the best investments we can make in development, estimating that every $1 spent has as much as a $138 return.

That is why coordinated planning and programming of effective nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions across multiple sectors (agriculture, health, water and sanitation, education, environment, and economic growth, livelihoods, and social protection) and multiple platforms (public, private, and civil society) is vital.

Since 2008, the United States has doubled nutrition funding and tripled agriculture funding, targeting our investments where we can deliver the greatest results; helping children across the globe survive and thrive from the drylands of the Sahel to the refugee camps on the borders of Syria.

Undernutrition is among the biggest threats contributing to child mortality in Tajikistan. Improving the access families have to nutritious food is a key component in Feed the Future’s strategy in the country. /CNFA

Undernutrition is among the biggest threats contributing to child mortality in Tajikistan. Improving the access families have to nutritious food is a key component in Feed the Future’s strategy in the country. / CNFA

Sahel

Due to the harsh climate in the drought-prone Sahel, the few vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables that are cultivated locally are expensive and rarely become a regular part of villagers’ diets. USAID is training extension agents to share conservation farming techniques with village cultivators, allowing them to thrive where hardship is the norm. In addition to climate-smart agriculture, the approach focuses on health and nutrition, micro-credit and savings, local governance, disaster preparation, conflict mitigation, improved access to markets, and more effective methods of irrigation.

Dr. Shah said improving nutrition and building resilience to the shocks and vulnerabilities that keep those communities teetering on the edge of extreme poverty will be critical to the goal of ending extreme poverty in the next two decades.

And if we can succeed in the Sahel, giving communities the capacity to achieve and sustain healthy, well-nourished families, odds are we can do it everywhere.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Chris Thomas is a Communications Advisor in the Bureau for Global Health providing strategic counsel to political and civilian leadership and technical staff on matters of public interest. He plans, implements, and evaluates communications highlighting U.S. efforts to improve health and development globally.

Tajikistan Transformed: Feeding the Future

 

Map of Tajikistan

Map of Tajikistan

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.

Left: In Tajikistan, USAID used to focus on providing emergency food aid, including to this girl in Garm, Rasht Valley in 2006. / Janice Setser, Mercy Corps  Right: 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. / USAID

Left: In Tajikistan, USAID used to focus on providing emergency food aid, including to this girl in Garm, Rasht Valley in 2006. / Janice Setser, Mercy Corps. Right: 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. / USAID

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.

Women of Bokhtar district, Tajikistan label and pack the tomatoes collected from their greenhouses. / USAID

Women of Bokhtar district, Tajikistan label and pack the tomatoes collected from their greenhouses. / USAID

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.

 The author with a young Tajik girl. / USAID

The author with a young Tajik girl. / USAID

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.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jonathan Addleton is the Mission Director in USAID’s Central Asia Republics Mission located in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Previously he has served as a U.S. Ambassador in Mongolia.

10 Ways America is Helping Feed the World

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.

* Nearly 842 million people suffer from chronic hunger. That’s 1 in 8 people. Most of this hunger is rooted in poverty.

* By 2050, the world’s population is expected to grow to more than 9 billion people. This will require at least a 60 percent increase in agricultural production to feed all of us.

* 75 percent of the world’s poor live in rural areas in developing countries. Most people who live in these areas rely directly on agriculture for their livelihoods, particularly women.

* Studies show that growth in the agriculture sector is, on average, at least twice as effective at reducing poverty as growth in other sectors.

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.

Sydney Msimanga proudly shows off one of the bulls he purchased with a loan he received from a credit program set up by USAID in Zimbabwe. / Fintrac Inc.

Sydney Msimanga proudly shows off one of the bulls he purchased with a loan he received from a credit program set up by USAID in Zimbabwe. / Fintrac Inc.

1. By Empowering Farmers

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.

As part of the Feed the Future initiative, a USAID project is training young women in southern Tajikistan on how to prepare nutritious food for children under 5 years old. /USAID

As part of the Feed the Future initiative, a USAID project is training young women in southern Tajikistan on how to prepare nutritious food for children under 5 years old. / USAID

2. By Helping Families Nourish their Children

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.

“This modern technology reduces my time in the field. Before, I used traditional methods. I needed more people to work during planting and harvesting. That increased my production cost. But now, I use this machine and I make more profit,” says this farmer in southern Bangladesh. /USAID, Wasif Hasan

“This modern technology reduces my time in the field. Before, I used traditional methods. I needed more people to work during planting and harvesting. That increased my production cost. But now, I use this machine and I make more profit,” says this farmer in southern Bangladesh. / USAID, Wasif Hasan

3. By Encouraging Banks to Loan to “Risky” Borrowers

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.

Sales Clerks Hiwot Tefera and Beyenech Gossaye are ready to welcome customers at the new Bishoftu Farm Service Center in Ethiopia. This is one of six locally-owned centers established through the USAID Commercial Farm Service Program (CFSP). /CNFA Ethiopia CFSP

Sales Clerks Hiwot Tefera and Beyenech Gossaye are ready to welcome customers at the new Bishoftu Farm Service Center in Ethiopia. This is one of six locally-owned centers established through the USAID Commercial Farm Service Program (CFSP). / CNFA Ethiopia CFSP

4. By Involving the Private Sector in the Fight Against Global Hunger

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.

Salimata Sagnol feeds her chickens outside their coop in the village of Tengréla, Burkina Faso. A U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation program funded a package of agricultural trainings along with construction materials for her chicken coop and ongoing technical support for Sagnol and other rural farmers like her. /Jake Lyell

Salimata Sagnol feeds her chickens outside their coop in the village of Tengréla, Burkina Faso. / Jake Lyell

5. By Promoting Responsible Investment

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.

Horticulture producers in Mozambique’s Beira Corridor often sell their produce at extremely low prices because of a lack of market knowledge and access. /CNFA

Horticulture producers in Mozambique’s Beira Corridor often sell their produce at extremely low prices because of a lack of market knowledge and access. / CNFA

6. By Helping Farmers Become Entrepreneurs

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.

This child was formerly categorized as malnourished but has recovered. Her family is attending a nutrition course at the national hospital in Chimaltenango, Guatemala, where they also received supplemental food aid./ Michel A. Armenta

This child was formerly categorized as malnourished but has recovered. Her family is attending a nutrition course at the national hospital in Chimaltenango, Guatemala, where they also received supplemental food aid. / Michel A. Armenta

7. By Reforming Food Aid to Save More Lives

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.

Muhammad Sarr and Patrick Trail use an electronic device to take soil samples around small millet plants and record the data. Their results will help determine how to better grow millet. But the scope of the research goes beyond this too: It's helping improve the skills of students in agronomy. /USAID

Muhammad Sarr and Patrick Trail use an electronic device to take soil samples around small millet plants and record the data. Their results will help determine how to better grow millet. But the scope of the research goes beyond this too: It’s helping improve the skills of students in agronomy. / USAID

8. By Involving U.S. Students and Universities in the Fight against Global Hunger

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.

Peace Corps Volunteer Jackie Gerson spreads knowledge about the unbeLEAFable Moringa oleifera tree and its nutritional benefits at the Ndiba Ndiayène weekly Louma market in Senegal. / Amanda Grossi, Peace Corps

Peace Corps Volunteer Jackie Gerson spreads knowledge about the unbeLEAFable Moringa oleifera tree and its nutritional benefits at the Ndiba Ndiayène weekly Louma market in Senegal. / Amanda Grossi, Peace Corps

9. By Sending Some of our Best and Brightest Abroad

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.

July 2012 Maize harvest in Ugenya, Kenya. Feed the Future works with small holder maize farmers, including women farmers, and all the components of the maize value chain in Kenya to increase rural farmers' incomes and tackle the underlying causes of food insecurity. USAID/Kenya works with the Kenya Agriculture Research Institute and private sector seed companies to promote better, drought resistant varieties of maize. /USAID/Siegfried Modola

July 2012 Maize harvest in Ugenya, Kenya. Feed the Future works with small holder maize farmers, including women farmers, and all the components of the maize value chain in Kenya to increase rural farmers’ incomes and tackle the underlying causes of food insecurity. / USAID, Siegfried Modola

10. By Helping Farmers Weather the Weather

Maize is the major staple and an important cash crop for farmers in East and Southern Africa, but it is threatened by climate change. U.S. Government-supported projects have contributed to the release of 140 drought-tolerant maize varieties in 13 countries since 2006. Building on this work, Feed the Future strengthens public and private sector seed systems to ensure that new varieties can reach smallholders at scale. In 2013 as a result of U.S. Government investments, farmers planted more than 28,000 hectares, or nearly 90 square miles, of land with improved high-yielding varieties across the key maize-producing countries of Tanzania, Ghana and Kenya.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Kelly Ramundo is USAID’s Blog Editor

10 Ways the U.S. Government is Fighting Global Climate Change (that you’ve never heard about)

Photo Credit: Daniel Byers, SkyShip Films 2011

Nepals Imja Lake / Daniel Byers, SkyShip Films 2011

1. In Nepal, rapidly expanding glacial lakes are often unstable and prone to burst their banks, washing out communities below. USAID is working with high-mountain communities to help measure the impact of melting glaciers on Imja Lake, not far from Mount Everest base camp.

Read about how we’re helping bring Andean expertise to Nepal’s glacial lake region.


Wheat farmers in Kazakhstan are learning about the expected climate change impacts on their crop.

Wheat farmers in Kazakhstan are learning about the expected climate change impacts on their crop. / USAID

2. In Kazakhstan, Central Asia’s breadbasket, USAID is working with the government to ensure wheat farmers get better weather and climate forecasts to make better planting and harvest decisions. A severe drought in 2012 slashed Kazakhstan wheat harvests by half, contributing to a worldwide food shortage that led the World Bank to issue a global hunger warning.

Read more about how we’re helping to preserve “Asia’s breadbasket.”


Ethiopian Sheep

Ethiopian Sheep / Nena Terrell, USAID

3. Cows, camels, goats and sheep are the lifeblood of pastoralist farmers in Kenya and Ethiopia. But these poor farmers live with the constant threat that a severe drought, like the one in 2009, could decimate herds and flocks. USAID is working with locals to develop livestock insurance, new water conservation practices and other measures so pastoralists can survive and bounce back from severe droughts.

Read more about how East Africa’s dryland herders are taking out a policy on survival.


Forest measurement demonstration near Lae by staff of Forest Research Institute, Papua New Guinea.

Forest measurement demonstration near Lae by staff of Forest Research Institute, Papua New Guinea. Photo: Low Emission Asia Forests project / USAID, RDMA

4. Worldwide, forest destruction generates more greenhouse gas emissions each year than do all the trains, planes and cars on the planet. Worldwide, 50 soccer fields of forest are lost every minute of every day, and forests in Southeast Asia are being cleared faster than almost anywhere on earth. In Papua New Guinea, USAID is working to teach forest carbon measurement techniques so that local people and communities can show the progress they are making conserving tropical forest.


multispectral imagery of the Nzoia River basin

The Nzoia River basin lies entirely within the Lake Victoria basin in Kenya. The SERVIR-Africa team captured multispectral imagery of the Nzoia River basin from the NASA’s EO-1 satellite on August 23, 2008 to provide baseline imagery of this frequently flooded area for future analysis. / NASA, EO-1

5. Fighting climate change requires good data. USAID and NASA partner to provide satellite-based Earth observation data and science applications to help developing nations improve their environmental decision-making as well as monitor other issues like famines, floods and disease outbreaks. We are currently working with Tanzania’s weather agency to use satellite data to map climate and weather risks and to create early warning systems, including for malaria outbreaks.

Read more about how USAID uses data to better manage land resources.


The Russian boreal forest

The Russian boreal forest / Vladimir Savchenko

6. What happens when anyone can become a forest ranger? USAID is supporting World Resources Institute with the Global Forest Watch interactive global forest mapping tool. The online tool allows people to access – or upload – near real-time information about what is happening on the ground in forests around the world.


Southern downtown section of Hue. Photo: Spencer Reeder, Cascadia Consulting

Southern downtown section of Hue. / Spencer Reeder, Cascadia Consulting

7. In 2006, the Vietnamese city of Hue was paralyzed for days, submerged under more than six feet of floodwater after a large rain. USAID today helps Hue and other at-risk coastal cities anticipate and address the repeated flooding and other climate impacts on roads and energy systems by helping them plan smarter cities that can weather climate events. In Hue, we are helping urban planners customize and apply a tailored software tool that anticipates the effects of climate change on critical infrastructure.

Read more about how USAID is helping build a climate-smart Vietnam.


Asma Molla with her husband Jalal, their five sons, and their two solar lamps.

Asma Molla with her husband Jalal, their five sons, and their two solar lamps. / Souradeep Ghosh, Arc Finance

8. Worldwide, more than 1.4 billion people lack access to electricity, and 2.8 billion lack access to modern cooking fuels and devices. In Uganda, India and Haiti, USAID is helping low-income people buy devices that improve their incomes and quality of life, and reduce carbon emissions at the same time by expanding the availability of consumer financing for clean energy products. We are also helping 13 companies develop and test business models that will make it easier for tens of thousands of poor people to purchase clean energy products such as solar lanterns and clean cookstoves.

Check out how USAID’s Renewable Energy Microfinance and Microenterprise Program is improving the quality of life of low-income populations while at the same time helping USAID partners to reduce carbon emissions.

Read more about how the Renewable Energy Microfinance and Microenterprise Program is bringing clean energy to people who live most of their lives in the dark.


Fish market in Gizo, Solomon Islands

Fish market in Gizo, Solomon Islands / USAID CTSP, Tory Read

9. Ever hear of the Coral Triangle? This  massive swath of ocean in between Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Solomon Islands and Timor-Leste is not only likely where your seafood dinner came from – it’s reefs also buffer shorelines against waves, storms and floods, helping to prevent loss of life, property damage and land erosion. But today, as much as 90 percent of Coral Triangle reefs (and the 360 million people that depend on them) are threatened by overfishing, population growth, development, pollution and the impacts of climate change. USAID helps protect this “amazon of the seas” by helping the six Coral Triangle nations better manage the most biodiverse and productive ocean region in the world.

Read more about how the Coral Triangle Initiative is helping protect this unique marine wonder and check out this photostory.


A Cofan shaman.

Strengthening their organizations has enabled the indigenous Cofan people to preserve their cultural identity and ancient knowledge / Thomas J. Müller

10. Deforestation is a major contributor to climate change. Several studies show that deforestation and illegal trafficking of species are significantly lower in indigenous territories, even when compared with natural protected areas, such as national parks and reserves. USAID is equipping indigenous populations to become active guardians of the Amazon biome in Colombia, Ecuador and Peru, and is investing in youth who will continue the fight to preserve the native culture and territory as future scientists, lawyers, doctors and political leaders.

Serbia Plugs Into Cow Power

In the past, I would speed up when driving by a farm. The only thing I could think of was the awful smell that made me hold my breath. Now, I slow down and think of endless supplies of clean energy, thanks to a USAID project that is helping convert manure into renewable energy– all the while, banking on American industrial expertise.

On one farm in Blace, a town of 11,000 people in southern Serbia, 700 cows produce thousands of gallons of manure each day. But this farm’s waste does not “go to waste.”

With support from USAID’s Agribusiness Project, manure from the Lazar Dairy is being “digested” by Serbia’s first biogas plant and converted into electricity, which the dairy sells to the national electricity company, EPS, at a preferential rate applicable to renewable energy suppliers.

Lazar pays about €0.05/kWh for the electricity it purchases from EPS, but it will receive about three times as much for the electricity that it sells to power company.

Lazar Dairy Biogas Plant 5

A DAI-led USAID project supported the construction of Serbia’s Lazar Dairy new biogas plant. The plant was designed by DVO Inc., of Chilton, Wisconsin, a leading U.S. designer and builder of anaerobic digesters.

Ushering the $2 million plant from drawing board to full operation took two-years. USAID’s Agribusiness Project acted as the “matchmaker” between Lazar Dairy and DVO, Inc., of Wisconsin, a leading U.S. designer and builder of anaerobic digesters.

The dairy had faced significant problems dealing with its manure, a major pollution issue. Now, this is virtually eliminated by the digester — a sealed container — as is the odor problem. Since its inauguration in May 2012, the plant has been operating 24 hours a day, seven days a week, feeding up to 1 MW of renewable electrical energy into the national electrical grid every month—enough to power more than 1,000 homes.

In addition to generating biogas that powers the generator, the leftover solids and liquids are filtered and used for cow bedding and as fertilizer. The recycling of other organic waste (such as whey from cheese production at the farm) results in a liquid fertilizer and waste heat in the form of hot water that can be used to heat buildings.

Lazar Dairy Biogas Plant 3

A DAI-led USAID project supported the construction of Serbia’s Lazar Dairy new biogas plant. The plant was designed by DVO Inc., of Chilton, Wisconsin, a leading U.S. designer and builder of anaerobic digesters.

“The introduction of the bio-digester completely changed our business operations. We now have a steady cash inflow and dispose of our waste without harm to the environment,” said Milan Vidojevic, owner of the Lazar Dairy and one of Serbia’s most successful entrepreneurs.

Bolstering technological innovations like these, which encourage economic growth both abroad and at home, while supporting responsible agricultural practices, is a priority at USAID.

“This investment demonstrates that environmentally sound production can increase profits AND provide wide reaching benefits for the whole community. The U.S. Government is proud to have facilitated this process, through which this American technology has found its way to Blace,” said the former U.S. Ambassador to Serbia, Mary Warlick.

Lazar Dairy, which employs 120 people, is an economic engine for villages around Blace. In addition to its dairy farm, Lazar buys up to 45,000 liters (12,000 gallons) of milk per day from a network of more than 2,000 local farmers within a 100-kilometer radius. Its processing plant converts this raw milk to processed milk, yogurt, creams, and cheeses.

As a result of USAID’s assistance since early 2009, the company has generated annual sales of nearly $1 million, which translates to more than $600,000 in cash payments to the 2,000 raw-milk suppliers. Should future environmental regulations in Serbia allow it, the dairy would be eligible for additional revenue through the sale of carbon credits.

Farmer-to-Farmer: The Impact You Can’t Measure

For seven years, I’ve served as the program manager for the USAID-supported Farmer-to-Farmer Program. Like many agricultural development programs, Farmer-to-Farmer strives to help smallholder farmers improve productivity, access new markets, develop local organizations, and conserve environmental and natural resources.

To reach these results, our program employs a unique approach.

We rely on the expertise of U.S. farmers, agribusinesses, cooperatives and universities to provide voluntary technical assistance to rural farmers, producer groups, businesses and service providers in more than two dozen countries around the world. These volunteers spend an average of two to three weeks working hand in hand with their assigned hosts.

This member of the Community Based Fisheries Management group increases his income and better feeds his family with bountiful fish yields, thanks to technical assistance from the Farmer-to-Farmer Program. Photo by Sk. Ahmad-Al-Nahid, Winrock International

This member of the Community Based Fisheries Management group increases his income and better feeds his family with bountiful fish yields, thanks to technical assistance from the Farmer-to-Farmer Program. Photo: Sk. Ahmad-Al-Nahid, Winrock International

Assignments range from developing a strategic business plan and building the capacity of the host organization’s workforce to providing training in new technologies.

Since the program’s inception in 1985, we have recorded and reported on measurable activities, such as the increase in beneficiary incomes, the number of people trained, or the area of land under improved environmental and natural resource management. This is the data. And we can measure it empirically.

But I want to talk about the immeasurable: the incredible relationships fostered between our volunteers and their hosts.

These relationships are the lifeline of Farmer-to-Farmer. It’s what makes it special and different from other agricultural development programs.

Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer Alejandro Segarra-Carmona (right) shows farmers in El Salvador how to apply sustainable pest control techniques to their crops.

Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer Alejandro Segarra-Carmona (right) shows farmers in El Salvador how to apply sustainable pest control techniques to their crops. Photo: Ricardo Hernandez Auerbach, Winrock International

Scott and Ngila’s Story

The story of Scott Stovall and Ngila Kimotho highlights the deep bonds that can develop between a volunteer and beneficiary. Scott, a native of New Mexico, started volunteering with the Farmer-to-Farmer Program 13 years ago. Over those years, he visited countries in Africa, Latin America and Eastern Europe, but it was an assignment in Kenya that turned a business consultation into a friendship.

In 2011, Ngila, the owner of Dryland Seed Limited, requested a Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer to help devise a business plan for his small company. At the time, Dryland produced 100 tons of seed and hoped to apply for funding to procure processing equipment. Farmer-to-Farmer sent Scott to help Ngila develop the skills to achieve these goals.

Scott worked with Ngila to write a business plan that enabled Dryland to successfully apply for funding from the African Seed Investment Fund. With the new processing equipment purchased through the investment grant it received, Dryland’s business grew.

A year later, Ngila requested that Scott come back to help his company apply for another grant. Scott returned to Kenya in 2012 and helped Ngila write a second business plan that placed Dryland in the top 30 businesses selected to receive funding from the African Enterprise Challenge Fund.

Ngila Kimotho proudly shows a bag of Dryland Seed Limited’s improved seeds that he sells in a small shop he owns in Kenya. Because of the technical assistance provided by the Farmer-to-Farmer Program, Dryland Seed Limited was able to expand its production and is now involved in processing hybrid seeds.

Ngila Kimotho proudly shows a bag of Dryland Seed Limited’s improved seeds that he sells in a small shop he owns in Kenya. Because of the technical assistance provided by the Farmer-to-Farmer Program, Dryland Seed Limited was able to expand its production and is now involved in processing hybrid seeds. Credit: CNFA

What I described in the previous paragraph is a factual account of how a Farmer-to-Farmer volunteer helped a small agribusiness access financial support. It does not, however, tell the whole story. It doesn’t include all of the email exchanges between Scott and Ngila throughout the year where they shared business tips.

It doesn’t mention that Ngila invited Scott to stay with his family. It doesn’t record Ngila telling us that he and Scott have developed a close relationship and that he’s come to trust Scott with all information, not only about Dryland, but also about his family. It doesn’t and can’t measure the value of the friendship formed.

Participation in Farmer-to-Farmer programs provides some beneficiaries with the most interaction they will ever have with a U.S. citizen. Overall, volunteers have donated millions of dollars’ worth of time to complete nearly 16,000 assignments in more than 110 countries all around the world. These volunteers have helped generate higher incomes, improve crop production and expand economic growth for smallholder farmers.

But to me, the real impact and success of the Farmer-to-Farmer Program is what we can’t measure: the long-lasting friendships developed between hosts and volunteers.

Interested in getting involved with the Farmer-to-Farmer program? Watch the video above to hear from more volunteers and visit the USAID website for more information.

Improving Agriculture to Help Lift Nigerian Families Out of Poverty

Alex Thier (far left) looks on as a Nigerian farmer checks the starch level of his cassava crop. (Photo Credit: USAID)

Alex Thier (far left) looks on as a Nigerian farmer checks the starch level of his cassava crop. (Photo Credit: USAID)

Standing at the gates to the Nigerian cassava processing plant, Thai Farms, we held our breath while watching a local farmer anxiously weigh a sack of his latest cassava crop. Cassava, a starchy local staple crop, takes 12 to 24 months to grow, but begins to rot after only 48 hours out of the ground.  So for this local farmer, transporting and being able to quickly sell his crop is essential to getting a good price.

To determine purchase prices, cassava is weighed and then tested for starch content through a simple, yet ingenious method of submersing the cassava tubers in water to test buoyancy. The higher the starch content, the more cassava flour is produced and the more money the farmer earns per kilo. The farmer breathed a sigh of relief when the starch content turned out to be high enough for the factory to buy his produce, but not high enough to fetch the best price.  The farmer left relieved, but somewhat disappointed and hopefully inspired to plant improved varieties next season.

In Nigeria, more than 70 percent of the population earns their livelihood from agriculture and 70 percent of the MARKETS II farmers live on less than $1.25 each day. By giving these farmers the tools to improve their harvest and connecting them with buyers, USAID is helping the farmers earn a higher selling price that is essential to increasing their household income and lifting their families out of extreme poverty.

a fish pond

Fish swim in one of many fish ponds at the USAID supported Timmod Farms in Nigeria. (Photo Credit: USAID)

Thai Farms exemplifies the MARKETS II model of connecting local farmers to new markets and technologies. However, there are several other local agri-business enterprises boosting the economy in Nigeria. Timmod Farms, for example, is a Nigerian success story. The farm was established in November 2004 with just four ponds of fish and is now one of the leading fish processors in Nigeria. Timmod Farms produces a smoked catfish that is well-known in the local Nigerian market and has been recognized by the Federal Department of Fisheries in Nigeria. The extremely entrepreneurial owner, Rotimi Omodehin, keeps adding new parts to the business, but is also concerned about the potential for further growth. Every step on the value chain suffers from some fundamental constraints, especially reliable access to energy and credit. These producers pay three to five times the price of energy from the grid to power their enterprises with expensive diesel generators. This is necessary as the power supply from the utility is unreliable and surges can damage expensive equipment. Credit, meanwhile, is hard to get at all and often costs 20 to 25 percent annual interest making loans hard to get, very expensive and very risky. To really enable small famers and small enterprises to drive inclusive economic growth, these problems will have to be addressed.

USAID has the opportunity to pull farmers out of poverty by sharing best practices in agriculture activities and focusing on value chains as a whole. Let us know what programs have been most successful for you or share your local stories of success.

Cooking With Green Charcoal Helps to Reduce Deforestation in Haiti

An organization in northern Haiti is promoting a cooking fuel made from agricultural waste that can save trees, help farmers increase their yields and generate additional income.

“Our aim is to try to stop deforestation in Haiti by teaching people to switch from cooking with charcoal to using cooking briquettes, small discs made from charred agricultural waste,” said Anderson Pierre, the Supply Chain Manager for Carbon Roots International (CRI), a USAID-supported non-profit organization operating in Quartier Morin.

Workers create cooking briquettes, small discs made from charred agricultural waste, in northern Haiti on Dec. 12, 2013. Photo copyright Kendra Helmer/USAID

Workers create cooking briquettes, small discs made from charred agricultural waste, in northern Haiti on Dec. 12, 2013.
Photo © Kendra Helmer/USAID

Despite the fact that only about 2 percent of Haiti’s forests remain, it is difficult to shift habits of cooking with wood charcoal to methods that are environmentally friendly.  According to Pierre, other alternative fuels are still not well-known – or accepted.

“We work little by little, changing perceptions and providing information on the benefits of using briquettes,” Pierre said.

CRI employs smallholder farmers and entrepreneurs to produce carbon-rich char from agricultural waste such as sugarcane bagasse, the fibrous matter that remains after sugarcane stalks are crushed to extract their juice. CRI uses this waste to create two innovative products: renewable charcoal cooking briquettes called “green charcoal,” and “biochar,” a potent natural soil additive that increases soil fertility and removes carbon from the atmosphere. CRI sells the briquettes as an alternative to traditional wood charcoal through a network of women retailers, and disburses biochar back to farmers to increase crop yields and further raise incomes.

As a result, the project contributes to the sustainability of Haitian agriculture and provides income opportunities for women entrepreneurs. It offers a comparably priced, locally appropriate green cooking fuel to the Haitian marketplace, as well as encourages the adoption of biochar as a viable tool for increasing agricultural productivity and soil resiliency.

CRI’s efforts to promote green charcoal are gradually gaining ground in northern Haiti. While they’ve been focusing on market research and production, they plan to expand to bulk sales and more roadside kiosks this spring. In December, CRI ran a public awareness campaign in Quartier Morin under the slogan “Green Charcoal is Your Charcoal”, using demonstration stands and offering free samples of briquettes.

“The Haitian consumer likes the fact that this comes from a source other than wood. People have heard about a Haiti that used to be green. They understand that deforestation is not good. If they have an alternative, they will go for it,” said Ryan Delaney, co-founder of CRI. The briquettes are 5 to 10 percent cheaper to buy than wood-based charcoal and they can be burned in a traditional cook stove, making it an attractive fuel alternative.

USAID is supporting CRI through a $100,000 Development Innovation Ventures award. The USAID award has helped CRI prove itself — it developed a network of producers, started production and created viable markets for biomass products.

“We want this to be a self-sufficient project,” Delaney said. “We have just purchased a machine that can increase the briquette production from 3,000 briquettes a day to 3 tons an hour. There is a lot of sugarcane production in Haiti providing the needed sugarcane waste…. Right now we sell small-scale, but we have ambitious expansion goals.”

Delaney estimates the charcoal market in Haiti to be valued at about $700 million a year (approximately $90 million in northern Haiti).  “The potential to scale in Haiti and beyond is enormous, as there is little centralized production of charcoal,” he said.

This month, the U.S.-based CRI expects formal operations to begin for their for-profit entity in Haiti, called Carbon Roots Haiti, S.A.  Eventually CRI wants to hand over green charcoal production to Haitians, Delaney said. ”Ultimately, we envision this as a Haitian company run by Haitians.”

Launched in October 2010, USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures (DIV) holds a quarterly grant competition for innovative ideas, pilots and tests them using cutting-edge analytical methods, and scales those that demonstrate cost-effectiveness and widespread development impact. DIV uses a staged-funding model inspired by venture capital to invest comparatively small amounts in relatively unproven ideas, and continues to support only those that prove effective.

For more information on DIV and how to apply, go to http://www.usaid.gov/div. For more information on CRI visit http://www.carbonrootsinternational.org/ and see photos of CRI in Haiti on Flickr.

Read another story about how USAID is fighting deforestation through an improved cooking technology program.

Anna-Maija Mattila Litvak is the Senior Development Outreach and Communications Officer for USAID/Haiti.

Want to empower women in agriculture? Use technology.

It’s very difficult to effectively manage responsibilities if you have neither the authority over nor access to the required skills, networks, resources, or decision-making power needed to complete critical tasks. Yet, that is the situation women in Tanzania’s agricultural sector face.

According to research from the World Bank, women form the majority of Tanzania’s agriculture work force – particularly in rural areas, where 98 percent of economically-active women are involved in agriculture. They prepare, plant, weed, harvest, transport, store, and process their farms’ products. In addition to these time and labor-intensive activities, women also cook meals and perform other household management tasks. These are crucial in a country where 42 percent of children under 5 years old suffer from stunted growth, due to malnutrition, and 16 percent are underweight.

Tanzanian women are keenly aware of their responsibilities and the challenges embedded therein. Limited decision-making power, unfavorable regulations, and biased sociocultural norms reduce their access to finance, land, technical training, labor-saving equipment and other productive resources. As a result, barriers are stifling their potential to be leaders of technological invention, entrepreneurship, and legal and regulatory change throughout the agriculture sector. But these challenges are not insurmountable.

In fact, with a little help from the U.S. Agency for International Development, farmers are developing their own solutions.

The Innovations in Gender Equality (IGE) to Promote Household Food Security program, in close coordination with Feed the Future projects in southern Tanzania, is helping farmers address constraints they face when working in agriculture.

This project is a partnership between Land O’ Lakes International Development , the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Development Lab (MIT D-Lab), and USAID.

It offers community-centered technology design training to smallholder farmer groups in the Southern Agricultural Corridor of Tanzania. Trainees, the majority of whom are women, develop prototypes in group settings and receive in-depth coaching from MIT D-Lab trainers.

What do the results of these technology design trainings look like?

  • Time and labor burdens are reduced. These technologies – developed by farmers, for farmers – save time and reduce drudgery, freeing up women’s availability to engage in alternative income-generating opportunities.
  • What’s impossible alone becomes possible together. When we ask IGE farmer-inventors why they never developed the technology design prototypes before that they are designing now, one answer is constant: they couldn’t do it alone. D-Lab’s community-centered design philosophy fosters teamwork from the start, which farmers credit for bringing to life the culture of innovation and invention in their villages.
  • Men and women are working together. Women’s empowerment is a community-wide endeavor, with men’s active involvement and support being a critical factor. The technologies farmers are developing are transforming women’s-only agricultural tasks into tasks in which husbands and wives work together, producing a greater overall benefit for themselves and their families.

What technologies are farmers developing?

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Photo Credit: Giselle Aris

Mwanahamisi Goha’s palm oil technology design group, called Jitegeme group, consists of two women and three men. They collectively developed the palm oil extracting machine prototype pictured above, which can extract 20 liters of palm oil in 30 minutes. This is a major improvement, because standard models typically take four hours to extract the same amount of palm oil (a popular product on local markets) and require two people to operate instead of one. This new prototype also allows operators to sit instead of stand.

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Photo Credit: Giselle Aris

Arafa Mwingiliera and Habiba Njaa’s peanut sheller group, Ukombozi, in Morogoro, grinds nuts using a prototype they developed with three other group members. This technology can shell up to 20 kilograms of peanuts in just five minutes – an amount of work that used to take an entire day when shelled peanuts using their bare hands. Women in southern Tanzania often sell peanuts as snacks along the roadside to passers-by and use them in place of cooking oil to season vegetables. Peanuts are high in protein and calories, making them a good source of nutrition and energy, especially for young children.

Photo Credit: Giselle Aris

Photo Credit: Giselle Aris

Amina Hussein, Veronica Hogo and other members of the rice thresher technology design group, Lupiro, test their prototype, which they designed using locally available and affordable materials. This technology can thresh 15 to 20 100 kilogram bags of rice per day without crop loss due to spillage (which occurs when farmers thresh rice by hand). The productivity levels achieved by this prototype are a massive improvement compared to traditional hand threshing, from which farmers yield only two to three 100 kilogram bags of rice per day with up to 5 percent of crops lost to spillage. Rice is one of the main staple crops of Tanzania, and, along with maize and horticulture, is one of the Feed the Future target value chains. These value chains are essential to Tanzania’s food security, which has motivated many farmer technology design groups to develop prototypes that bolster their productivity.

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Photo Credit: Giselle Aris

Stella Malangu, a member of the rice winnower technology design group, Jitambue, in Morogoro, smiles after using the prototype she helped design and build. It generates wind to separate rice from chaff and other unwanted particles and pests before storage. When farmers in this group winnowed rice using traditional methods, which required them to stand and be in constant motion, they were able to clean one 100 kilogram bag of rice per day. With their new prototype, these farmers can now winnow six 100 kilogram bags of rice in just three hours. This technology has dramatically reduced time and labor burdens! And it has even led male community members to become involved in what was previously only women’s work.

What’s next?

Every technology needs investors. Even in cases where inventors have designed functional prototypes, they still require:

  • Resources and skills to transform prototypes into successful commercial products
  • Media attention to accelerate the time it takes for locally popular products to become nationally and regionally renowned and adopted
  • Policy change to address major constraints for women working in Tanzania’s agriculture sector

IGE is working in each of these areas to ensure technology continues to help transform the lives of smallholder farmers in Tanzania. For more information on how you can get involved, visit our website.

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