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Meeting the President: How the United States is Helping Women Farmers in Senegal

This originally appeared on the Feed the Future Blog

When I learned that I had been chosen to present my work with women farmers in Senegal to the president of the United States, the first thing I did was cry.

A minute later my thoughts cleared.

I have important things to tell President Obama, I said to myself, about how women farmers have benefited enormously from partnership with the United States.

Since 2002, I have been a member of a farmer organization of some 600 members—two thirds of whom are women—that works in 52 villages in the rural community of Mampatim, Senegal. I also work for a nongovernmental organization, supported by USAID through the Feed the Future initiative, that helps the group’s members succeed.

Anna Gaye prepares to demonstrate rice milling to President Obama in Senegal in June 2013. Photo credit: Stephane Tourné

Anna Gaye prepares to demonstrate rice milling to President Obama in Senegal in June 2013. Photo credit: Stephane Tourné

Farming in the valley

Since upland farming areas are traditionally farmed by men, our women members are obliged to work in the valleys, often under difficult conditions due to flooding. With little organization, many of these women worked very hard with negligible results.

Membership in our organization, known as an economic interest group, affords members like me legal recognition through which we can obtain credit. Historically, our group, called Kissal Patim, enabled us to cultivate small garden patches near village wells that provide off-season vegetables for market, as well as larger half-acre rice plots that yielded perhaps 200 kilograms during the rainy season.

But our partnership with Feed the Future got us to think much bigger. Feed the Future introduced members of Kissal Patim to several recently developed strains of seed that can produce yields as much as three times greater while using less water!

Meeting the president

On the big day, my mouth was dry as President Obama approached the booth we had set up to exhibit our activities, but he put me at ease right away. First, I demonstrated a traditional method of rice processing. I tried not to smile as he took the heavy ram from my hands and started pounding the pestle himself. “That’s painful!” the president said through his translator, examining his hands a minute later.

“That’s what women lived with every day before our partnership with Feed the Future,” I said.

That partnership brought, among other benefits, a portable, electric rice mill, which was also on display. The mill takes only 20 minutes to separate 40 kilograms of rice, which previously would take an entire day. The president was curious as to who actually owned the machine, and I explained our group manages it for our common use.

The mill, I explained, was very important to our progress. My fellow farmers and I were initially reluctant to grow more rice since the task of having to pound so much more would be huge. Our acquisition of the milling machines changed all that. We were free from the drudgery of the pestle.

The time saved also gives us more time to engage in commercial activities, such as the production and sale of palm oil and nutritious rice porridge made ​​with peanuts, not to mention time to prepare for the next growing season.

President Obama congratulated and encouraged us.

The visit was like a dream. The president of the United States! As soon as it was over, I was eager to get back to Mampatim and tell the story to my fellow women producers.

The visit had a positive impact on all our work: I feel more courageous and ambitious, and the photos I showed my colleagues inspired them to redouble their efforts in their production plots. It has created a spirit of competition among them all!

Begun in 2010, this partnership with Feed the Future through USAID’s Economic Growth Project has helped women access several new varieties of high-yielding rice, as well as introduce fertilizers that have further increased yields. Some of the plots have grown fourfold, up to an entire hectare, each of which yields and average of four-and-a-half tons. In the future, we hope to manage even larger plots.

(Translated from French by Zack Taylor)

This post is part of a series of posts by marketplace participants who met Obama in June 2013.

Additional Resources: 

Optifood: A New Tool to Improve Diets and Prevent Child Malnutrition in Guatemala

This blog is part of a series to coincide with A Promise Renewed in the Americas: ”Reducing Inequalities in Reproductive, Maternal and Child Health Summit“ during September 10-12 in Panama.

What does it REALLY take to ensure young children get the proper nutrition to grow strong and healthy? This is an especially important question in poor rural communities in Guatemala, where about half of the children under five years of age are stunted (too short for their age—a sign of long-term deficits in the quantity and/or quality of food, including the right vitamins and minerals).  In some parts of western Guatemala, more than eight in ten young children are stunted.

Woman feeds her child. Photo credit: INCAP

Woman nourishes her child. Photo credit: INCAP

Now there’s a new tool to help answer the question:  Optifood is a computer software program, developed by the World Health Organization (WHO) in collaboration with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, Food and Nutrition Technical Assistance III Project (FANTA), and Blue Infinity, that provides scientific evidence on how to best improve children’s diets at the lowest possible cost using locally available foods. Optifood identifies nutrient gaps and suggests food combinations the local diet can fill—or come as close to filling. It also helps identify local foods’ limits in meeting nutrient needs and test strategies for filling remaining nutrient gaps, such as using fortified foods or micronutrient powders that mothers mix into infant or young children’s porridge.

The Government of Guatemala is fighting stunting through its Zero Hunger Initiative, which aims to reduce stunting by 10 percent by 2015 and 24 percent by 2022 through nutrition, health, agriculture, and social safety net programs. The U.S. Government and USAID are supporting these efforts through Feed the Future and Global Health Initiatives focused on the Western Highlands. USAID/Guatemala asked the USAID-funded FANTA/FHI 360 to help find strategies to improve the nutritional quality of children’s diets in the region. The challenge was to develop realistic and affordable diets for children that both meet their needs and are firmly based on scientific evidence. FANTA worked with its local partner, the Institute of Nutrition of Central America and Panama (INCAP), to collect the diet data needed for Optifood from communities in two departments of the Western Highlands, Huehuetenango and Quiché. FANTA then used Optifood to analyze the information.

The Optifood analysis found that a combination of locally available foods including tortillas, potatoes, beans, eggs, green leafy vegetables, and a fortified cereal known as Incaparina, along with mother’s breast milk, could satisfy children’s nutrient needs, except for two nutrients required for children 6-8 months—iron and zinc. Optifood results showed that adding a micronutrient powder, known locally as Chispitas, would help make sure these very young children get enough iron and zinc.  It is important to note that the Guatemalan Ministry of Health already provides Chispitas in some areas, but it does not yet reach all parts of the country where it is needed.

Woman tends to crops. Photo credit: INCAP

Woman tends to crops. Photo credit: INCAP

FANTA then found out how much this diet would cost and whether families in the Western Highlands could afford it. One feature of Optifood is it provides cost information and can identify the lowest-cost diet that meets or comes close to meeting nutrient needs. Optifood found that it would cost about 25 to 50 U.S. cents a day to give this improved diet to a child 6–23 months old in Guatemala. At first, this may not seem like much money, but for the 51 percent of the population in the Western Highlands who earn less than US$3.15 a day, it amounts to 8 percent to 15 percent of their daily earnings.

Next steps in the process include testing the diet to see whether mothers can really feed it to their young children. We’ll be asking questions like, “Do mothers have any difficulties? Is cost really a problem? Are the recommendations hard to understand or follow? Do children like the combinations of food?”

Once the diet is found to be practical, feasible, and affordable, FANTA will work with partners to develop a strategy and plan to promote the recommended foods in the right combination, quantity, and frequency to improve children’s diet intake as well as promote the use of Chispitas to help meet iron and zinc needs.

FANTA is also working with the Government of Guatemala, USAID, development partners, and the private sector to make fortified foods for young children even better and test their nutrient levels with Optifood. FANTA is collaborating with the Guatemalan Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock to develop extension messages and materials to support production of the nutritious foods identified by Optifood, disseminate messages and improve practices through USAID-funded Feed the Future demonstration sites, with support from INCAP. In collaboration with the Ministry of Health, FANTA will also help health workers (through an e-learning program) and community health workers learn about and promote the Optifood diet, and as needed, FANTA will provide additional ongoing training and technical expertise.

Optifood, which will soon be available for free download on the WHO website, is a truly powerful tool that can strengthen Guatemala’s ability to help its children thrive and reach their full potential.

Follow @USAID and @USAIDGH from September 10-12 for live tweets and Facebook content from the conference. Follow the hashtag: #PromiseRenewed or #PromesaRenovada.

What Do Walmart and USAID Have In Common?

This originally appeared on the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition Blog.

So what do Walmart and USAID have in common? That was a question we at Walmart asked ourselves several years ago.

Well, for starters we both can be found all over the globe, but what else? We both work with farmers and business owners—USAID through sustainable development efforts and Walmart through our supply chain. We both have demonstrated a commitment to community-oriented solutions that solve big problems. And perhaps most importantly, like USAID, Walmart believes that businesses have an important role to play in advancing the economic development of the communities we serve around the world.

(from L-TO-R) Mike Duke, President & CEO, Walmart; Dan Bartlett, Executive VP of Corporate Affairs, Walmart; Rajiv Shah, Administrator, USAID. Photo credit: USGLC

(from L-TO-R) Mike Duke, President & CEO, Walmart; Dan Bartlett, Executive VP of Corporate Affairs, Walmart; Rajiv Shah, Administrator, USAID. Photo credit: USGLC

That’s why today Walmart, the Walmart Foundation, and USAID signed a new global Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to work even closer together on our common goals. You see, Walmart and USAID share the same approach to doing business, believing in the power of partnerships, leveraging assets, and maximizing resources.

Walmart’s global initiatives often have a development goal, and we are excited to work alongside USAID on Women’s Economic Empowerment, Farmer Training and Sustainable Agriculture, and Vocational and Youth Skill Training. Whether it’s our initiative to train one million farmers or to double our sourcing from women-owned businesses, the goal is to help farmers and women access modern supply chains, increase their income, and in turn, contribute to the economic development of their communities.

By working hand-in-hand with the USAID Forward initiative, Walmart will be able to leverage and scale existing programs while allowing us to maximize one another’s expertise. In Central America, while USAID helps train farmers on agricultural standards and how to produce more in their harvests, Walmart can determine the right assortment and timing for farm products we need in our stores. It’s a win-win as farmers have a sustainable income from their work, Walmart has access to locally grown fruits and vegetables, and consumers in the region have the products they want.

Last year alone, Walmart purchased $75 million in produce from 3,400 small and medium-sized farmers and their families, accounting for 35 percent of fruit, grain, and vegetables sold in our stores across Central America.

We look forward to strengthening our partnerships with U.S. development programs as we continue to invest in emerging markets. We believe there will be new opportunities to leverage the Feed the Future initiative to assist more African farmers in providing for their families, serving as another effective example of just how much a difference public-private partnerships can make.

This is truly doing good by doing well, and it’s important for building our economy here at home, providing opportunity in struggling communities around the world, and in creating a better, safer world.

Sarah Thorn serves as Senior Director of Federal Government Relations for Walmart and as Vice President of the Board of Directors for the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition.

Learn more about the partnership between USAID and Walmart.

Why Strong Land Rights Advance Food Security

This originally appeared on Devex Impact

Under U.S. President Barack Obama’s Feed the Future initiative, we have made incredible strides in increasing crop yields, agricultural surpluses and farmers’ incomes.

We have supported training, the implementation of new technologies and climate-smart management techniques to facilitate economic growth, increase security for the world’s most vulnerable populations, and improve child nutrition and life expectancy. We have targeted assistance to women smallholder farmers, who contribute the great majority of smallholder agricultural labor, resulting in greater investments in children’s health and education.

A woman on a cassava farm at Cauca, Colombia. Clear and defined property rights empower farmers to make better economic decisions with their land, avoid land conflicts or illegal land grabs, and enable them to look into long-term resource management and sustainability practices. Photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT/CC BY-SA

A woman on a cassava farm at Cauca, Colombia. Clear and defined property rights empower farmers to make better economic decisions with their land, avoid land conflicts or illegal land grabs, and enable them to look into long-term resource management and sustainability practices. Photo credit: Neil Palmer/CIAT/CC BY-SA

In order to continue this momentum and make hunger, undernutrition and extreme poverty permanently a thing of our past, we must do more. This includes working with governments around the world to help them develop secure property rights for farmers — both large and small-scale.

We hear from smallholder farmers around the world that they want to increase their productivity and earn greater income to feed their families, send their children to school, and pay for medicine and other life necessities — in short, they want a better life. But in many parts of the world, farmers lack the tools, technology and rights to achieve these aspirations.

To take advantage of new tools and technologies, farmers in all countries need strong property rights to be certain that they will have their land long enough to realize the benefits of their investments. They need to have confidence that their land and crops will not be seized by more powerful interests — particularly if they make productivity-enhancing investments, for example in soil and water conservation — without due process and compensation. Strengthening property rights is even more important for women, who often have fewer and weaker property rights than men, yet play a larger role in agriculture in many countries where we work.

When property rights are clear and secure, all farmers are empowered to make better economic decisions, including whether to sell or lease their land, expand their production, recruit non-family labor, and plant long-term crops for local consumption and for the market. With clear rights to land, farmers are more likely to make investments that increase crop yields, practice sustainable farming methods that improve soil quality, and better manage their resources. At the same time, transparent land rights provide those interested with the option to move out of agriculture — and encourage responsible investment for those who choose to stay…

Read the rest of the article.

Learn more about USAID’s work in securing land tenure and resource rights

From the Field in India and Nepal: Tibetan Refugees Grow Household Incomes Via Organic Kitchen Gardens

Kunchok Dolma lives with her 89-year-old husband in a simple house in the Jampaling Tibetan refugee settlement near Pokhara, Nepal. At 68, Kunchok struggled to grow vegetables to feed her family, a fact she attributes to her lack of knowledge about gardening in her new home, which is quite different from what she knew and practiced on the Tibetan Plateau.

“I used to farm using traditional methods, but we are in a different climate here and I didn’t have much idea about what to do when harmful insects attacked our plants,” she says. Kunchok yearned to be able to grow crops again in her new surroundings. “It keeps me going and is necessary for living.”

With organic gardening techniques learned through USAID’s EDOTS project, Kunchok Dolma now produces enough vegetables to feed her family as well as help her save on her monthly expenses. Photo credit: TechnoServe

I learned about Kunchok’s story in New Delhi, where USAID partners recently met to share successes and lessons learned from the Economic Development of Tibetan Settlements in India and Nepal project (EDOTS). The project is improving the economic status of Tibetan settlements through a range of activities that address unemployment and underemployment. By improving livelihood opportunities in the settlements, the hope is that Tibetan youth will find enough opportunities to remain, thus ensuring that Tibetan identity, cultural and linguistic traditions are passed on through the generations.

Kunchok was a keen participant in the EDOTS agriculture outreach activities. Through project funding, she obtained the basic necessities to start a small kitchen garden next to her house and joined a group mushroom growing cooperative as well. More than 50 farmers from Kunchok’s community took part in the EDOTS-sponsored organic gardening and mushroom cultivation workshops.

Kunchok’s garden thrived through both the winter and summer growing seasons, and she was able to improve her family’s diet with the produce harvested, which included tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables and spices. “Now I have a clear idea of jholmol [organic pesticide] techniques for controlling insects and managing a kitchen garden, which makes me more interested in my farming work,” she says.

Finally, she says with emotion, “We, the people of Jampaling, are hard workers. The [USAID EDOTS] project has made us hard workers in agriculture again. This project has restored the culture of farming in Jampaling and has made me and my people great. Thank you.”

Though the EDOTS project is slated to end soon, Kunchok and the other project beneficiaries are upbeat. With their niche, high-value produce in demand at nearby markets and restaurants — especially by tourists — they are confident of their ability to more fully participate in the broader Nepali economy now and in the future.

A New Partnership to Support Colombia’s Coffee Farmers

As the largest purchaser of high quality Colombian coffee, Starbucks has spent over forty years building relationships with farmers throughout Colombia. Around the world, we proudly serve Colombian coffee as a single origin coffee, in many of our blends, and feature Colombian coffee as part of our Special Reserve program which brings the world’s most exquisite small lot coffees to the global spotlight. At the heart of this success, are smallholder farmers who for generations have cultivated a vibrant coffee industry and culture.  We are very proud to expand support for smallholder farmers with the tools and resources they need to maximize productivity and deliver the quality that has made Colombian coffee famous.

Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz meets with USAID Administrator Raj Shah on partnership. Photo Credit: Starbucks

Starbucks Chairman and CEO Howard Schultz meets with USAID Administrator Raj Shah on partnership. Photo Credit: Starbucks

Today is another important step in our ongoing commitment to Colombia. Starbucks and USAID just announced an innovative new public-private partnership to help increase Colombian coffee yields and enhance livelihoods of Colombian farmers. Building on the long history of the FNC (Colombia’s Coffee Federation), this $3 million commitment over three years will come in the form of technical assistance from our Farmer Support Center in Manizales to deliver training and agronomy support to farmers in some of the most vulnerable regions. Together, USAID and Starbucks have the opportunity to scale the impact of this investment and reach an additional 25,000 farmers across the region. We call that using our scale for good – a recognition that our global footprint offers opportunities to reach out and have a positive impact on the one million people around the world in our coffee supply chain.

With access to the right information and tools about responsible growing practices, we believe farmers will be able to improve their farming capabilities and business acumen to become more resilient in the long run. Specifically, we’ll be able to expand the delivery of a soil and foliar analysis tool, one that has repeatedly proven to dramatically improve yields and reduce farmer input expenses. Farmers that didn’t previously have access to this information will now have tools to become more productive. We expect this positive impact to reverberate across our Colombian coffee supply chain.

While nearly all of the coffee Starbucks purchases from Colombia is verified under our buying program, C.A.F.E. Practices (Coffee and Farmer Equity), our partnership with USAID will allow us to significantly expand our ethical sourcing efforts in the country. We’re proud to work with USAID, an organization that shares our vision for improved farmer livelihood in Colombia and has the expertise and track record to take this program to vulnerable communities throughout the region.

At Starbucks, we know the best results come when we collaborate with governments, entrepreneurs, suppliers, and nonprofit organizations at the local level to build sustainable and scalable solutions. USAID is offering companies like ours the opportunity to partner with an organization that understands what it means to work at the nexus of these issues, approaching big challenges with creative solutions. We are excited to launch this partnership in Colombia, the first of its kind, and will continue to explore opportunities in other regions as we continue our pursuit of high-quality, ethically sourced coffee.

Video of the Week: Empowering Women Through Horticultural Innovations

The USAID Horticulture Project in Bangladesh aims to educate and train local farmers on innovative agricultural technologies that help diversify crops to increase nutritional value. With our partners the International Potato Center, AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center, BRAC and Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute (BARI), we are working with local farmers to diversify diets and agricultural production systems with potato, orange-fleshed sweet potato, summer tomato, and nutritious indigenous vegetables. Meet some of the women farmers that have benefited from training in grafting tomato and producing sweet potato seedlings.

Learn more about our Mission of the Month: USAID Bangladesh.

Like USAID Bangladesh on Facebook and follow @USAID_BD and #MissionofMonth on Twitter for ongoing updates!

Planting the Seeds of Sustainability in South Sudan

In the world’s newest nation of South Sudan, the legacy of four decades of civil war continues to challenge efforts to gather reliable current statistics on health, education, the economy and other factors. USAID and other development partners are seeking to help the South Sudanese people build a robust and resilient economy. Key to that effort is modernizing and expanding the agriculture sector. Because decades of war often forced people from their land, South Sudan as a whole lost much of its agricultural knowledge base. As a result, most of South Sudan’s food is imported, despite significant arable land, plentiful water and good quality soil. In spite of the challenges, most South Sudanese are still involved in agriculture, typically as subsistence farmers producing crops such as maize, sorghum, cassava and groundnuts. Production levels are low, however, and even farmers in the most fertile region—the “Greenbelt” that crosses the three Equatoria states—are affected by a number of adverse conditions, including poor quality seeds, deficient farming equipment, lack of roads to get their goods to market and post-harvest losses due to inadequate or nonexistent storage.

A farmer inspects his crops. Photo credit: Sait Mboob

A farmer inspects his crops. Photo credit: Sait Mboob

To examine the effects of USAID’s assistance in South Sudan’s agriculture sector since 2012, a USAID team led by economist Paul Pleva recently completed a cost-benefit analysis of the $26 million in USAID funds currently being spent annually in South Sudan in support of the Feed the Future Initiative.  Part of the analysis examined two different techniques for improving crop yields, both being promoted under USAID’s Food, Agribusiness and Rural Markets (FARM) project.  Begun in 2010, the FARM project seeks to boost agricultural growth through improved inputs, strengthen market linkages, improve the conditions for private sector investment and improve infrastructure to facilitate trade.

Pleva analyzed the two techniques being implemented through the FARM project to improve crop yields. One technique required relatively expensive farming inputs, but promised potentially dramatic yield increases.  A second technique focused on more simple improvements such as improved seeds, proper weeding and seed row spacing for more modest yield increases.  The team observed actual outcomes produced by the two techniques and considered the sustainability of each.

Pleva led a collaborative effort to collect data from multiple sources, identify inconsistencies and compare the quality of those sources. He used inexpensive technologies such as Google Apps to ensure that USAID implementing partners around the world could provide input.

Cheaper farming techniques improve farming yields and result in greater profitability for South Sudanese farmers. Photo credit:

Cheaper farming techniques improve farming yields and result in greater profitability for South Sudanese farmers. Photo credit: Sait Mboob

After comparing the results, the USAID team found that of the two interventions, the cheaper technique of improving farming yields resulted in greater profitability for South Sudanese farmers and provided a much better chance of sustainability after the project ends.  The evidence for this finding was significant and, as a result, USAID turned the focus of the project toward the cheaper and more sustainable intervention.

Small sums can generate big returns—in this case for both farmers and USAID. USAID made a modest investment of resources—the staff time of a small team—to conduct the cost-benefit analysis, and in doing so, increased the development impact of taxpayer dollars significantly. Farmers in South Sudan, one of the world’s poorest countries, stand to benefit economically from the findings of this analysis—a potential path out of poverty.

By using economic analysis to prove that simple techniques can best assist South Sudan’s farmers, USAID had avoided an all too common trap in development—unsustainable projects that fall apart when donors conclude a project or cease assistance to a sector or country. Lessons like this one not only save money in the short-term, but by helping people to increase their household income and food security they also decrease the likelihood that emergency funds will be needed to help these communities in the future.

Helping Feed the Future One (Fortified) Rice Grain at a Time

In 1977, our father earned a USAID scholarship to leave Mali and pursue graduate studies at Purdue University. As one of the first Africans to benefit from an effort to identify and train the next generation of agriculture experts, he earned his doctorate and went on to work for the United Nations for the next three decades as a food security and sustainable development expert. In the 1980s, he was stationed to work in Ethiopia during the height of the famine, which made a lasting impression on our family. Almost four decades later, USAID brought us together with President Obama to share our idea for transforming the rice industry and combating farmer poverty and malnutrition in Mali.

Aiché and N'Baye Having Dinner

Aiché and N’Baye having dinner. Photo credit: Salif

Taking part in Feed the Future’s Agricultural Technology Marketplace during President Obama’s visit to Senegal was a great honor for us. The struggle against food insecurity and malnutrition forms a fundamental part of our identity due to our father’s work and our experiences growing up in Ethiopia and Mali. We are acutely aware of how fortunate we are. Our father—the only child in a family of 14 to finish high school—instilled a deep sense of obligation in us from a very young age.

And about four years ago, while still in college in the United States, that sense of obligation turned into action. A spike in rice prices in 2008 captured our attention. We were angered to witness how the increase in prices led to even greater food insecurity in Mali. We committed ourselves to tackling food shortages and malnutrition in Mali, in part by producing a locally grown vitamin-fortified rice.

We had almost no knowledge of the rice plant, rice production or rice processing, so we had to a lot of homework. We searched online for studies by USAID, picked the brains of professors, emailed our business model and financial projections to seasoned entrepreneurs to deconstruct, and video chatted with technology providers in Argentina and China to put together a business plan that won over $130,000 in prize money and awards. With these funds, we returned to Mali in 2011 to conduct a pilot study that culminated in the marketing of locally-produced fortified rice in Africa for the first time, selling 10 tons despite the new entry of this product into local markets.

Today, we are the founders of Malô, a Malian social enterprise that produces high quality, fortified rice to address the twin problems of farmer poverty and malnutrition. We work in partnership with a 30,000-member farmer cooperative in Mali’s biggest rice producing zone.

Our first processing and fortification facility, with the capacity to meet the needs of more than 25,000 people per year, will be up and running by the end of 2013. And plans for a processing center to feed a million people a year are back on track after a period of political uncertainty. Next year we will begin production of fortified rice kernels in Mali so other rice millers in West Africa can offer affordable fortified rice to their customers.

In our brief chat with President Obama, we were impressed by his desire to understand the details of Malô’s business model as well as what it meant for farmers and consumers. Hearing him articulate his philosophy for achieving food security, in person, was powerful. He stressed that economic growth as a result of improved performance in the agriculture sector was most effective in reducing poverty. He also said that food aid was no longer sufficient and that by leveraging investments by companies, the impact will be deeper and broader. And finally, he argued that bolstering African agriculture should not be seen as a burden or waste, but a remarkable opportunity for all.

After our experience in Senegal, we are convinced more than ever that helping nourish the future is our life’s calling. Together with our partners, we are excited about the promise of African farmers and consumers—and meeting their aspirations will be a fun and rewarding journey.

Resources:

 

From the Field in Georgia: Collaboration Bears Fruit for Georgian Farmers

I love a sweet, juicy mandarin and I’m lucky to live in a country where these near-perfect citrus fruits are grown. Farmers here in Georgia grow some of the best mandarins in the world. But getting these delicious fruits to market and eventually into the mouths of other mandarin-lovers can be a challenge.

Revaz Kokobinadze is a mandarin grower from the Adjara region in western Georgia. On his own, he only has cash on hand to purchase 60 percent of the materials he needs to grow mandarins on his quarter-hectare orchard. But now that he is part of a farmers’ group established through USAID’s Economic Prosperity Initiative, he and farmers like him are able to obtain interest-free loans to get what they need for successful mandarin production.

Revaz Kokobinadze in his orchard. Kokobinadze is one of the more than 1,000 farmers who will benefit from USAID supported interest-free loans. Photo credit: Deloitte/USAID Economic Prosperity Initiative

Revaz Kokobinadze in his orchard. Kokobinadze is one of the more than 1,000 farmers who will benefit from USAID supported interest-free loans. Photo credit: Deloitte/USAID Economic Prosperity Initiative

USAID has helped establish 50 farmer groups for Georgia’s two leading agricultural exports — mandarins and hazelnuts. Farmers were reluctant to come together at first, but they soon realized the commercial incentives of working together. As the saying goes, sometimes it takes a village. Now, these farmers make decisions together on everything from production and management practices, to the types of treatments to use.

To help these farmer groups succeed, in June 2013 USAID’s Economic Prosperity Initiative developed an interest-free financing scheme, which allows smallholder farmers to buy the agricultural materials they need and conduct soil testing. When farmers join together to make purchases, they can buy in greater volume and get a better price.

USAID then linked the farmer groups to a microfinance organization to provide credit for agricultural materials and laboratory services. The arrangement allows farmers to purchase what they need at rates they could otherwise not afford. The microfinance organization pays the suppliers and the farmers pay back the interest-free loans after the harvest.

More than 1,000 mandarin and hazelnut growers will benefit from these interest-free loans.

Belonging to a farmer group not only enables farmers to afford necessary materials, but also empowers them to improve management practices through consultations with extension specialists as part of USAID’s Economic Prosperity Initiative.

These same groups will see additional benefits of farmer groups during harvests later this year. USAID is helping to establish partnerships with hazelnut processors and mandarin packaging houses. Farmers now have what they need to produce better quality products on a larger scale, and they are more likely to receive a better price for their products.

Because of the loan he received, Revaz anticipates a greater harvest of high-quality fruit this year. “It was a simple procedure,” Revaz says. “A representative of the microfinance organization came to my plot and interviewed me about my farm’s production.” Once he submitted his application, the approval took less than 20 minutes.

By working together, Georgia’s farmers are finding it easier to get their delicious produce to market, and that’s good news for mandarin consumers like me in Georgia and the entire region.

Learn more about the Economic Prosperity Initative.

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