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Moving the Dial on Poverty and Hunger: What are Feed the Future’s High-Level Outcome Targets?

This originally appeared on the Feed the Future blog.

The second Feed the Future progress report is out and is generating a lot of buzz about the initiative’s successes last year.

People are talking about big numbers like:

  • 9 million households benefiting directly from Feed the Future investments
  • More than 7 million farmers applying new technologies or management practices
  • More than 12 million children under five reached by nutrition programs
  • Over $115 million in new private sector investment in the agricultural sector as a result of Feed the Future interventions

With more projects coming online and more USAID Missions and agencies like the Peace Corps and the U.S. African Development Foundation reporting into the Feed the Future Monitoring System in fiscal year 2012, results like these are expected to continue.

These numbers are more than just impressive statistics. They are also critical checkpoints on the road toward achieving Feed the Future’s goal of sustainably reducing poverty and undernutrition. Their placement on this road or “causal pathway” can be seen in the Feed the Future Results Framework (PDF), the conceptual and analytic structure that outlines the initiative’s goals and objectives.

Targets and Targeting

In order to track progress toward our goal, Feed the Future, as a whole, has set aspirational targets of reducing the prevalence of extreme poverty (those that live on less than $1.25 per day) and the prevalence of stunting in children under 5 years of age by 20 percent across all Feed the Future focus countries in the areas in which the initiative works. Individual country-level targets are set against these goals, based on the conditions and context on the ground, and range between 15 to 30 percent in each country, averaging approximately 20 percent overall.

From the beginning, we knew that Feed the Future could not do everything, do it everywhere, and do it well. That’s why Feed the Future prioritizes and concentrates efforts and resources in 19 focus countries where the Rome Principles can be best realized. We’ve further focused our resources within these countries in zones of influence: geographic areas strategically chosen based on need and strong potential for agriculture-led economic growth. Feed the Future tracks reductions in extreme poverty and stunting in these zones through baseline, midterm and final population-based surveys conducted in these areas.

Using Data to Understand

We’re currently tabulating the results of the baseline population-based surveys. The raw survey datasets for Bangladesh and Ghana are already available, with more to come. We’ll conduct midterm population-based surveys in 2015 and final population-based surveys in 2017. Results will be available in 2016 and 2018, respectively.

While real changes in poverty and stunting (the result of chronic undernutrition over time) take time to occur and are, therefore, difficult to measure on a year-to-year basis, independent data does show that poverty rates fell by an average of 5.6 percent across Feed the Future focus countries from 2005 to 2011, and stunting decreased by an average of six percent from 2009 to 2012*. Feed the Future has helped contribute to these trends in the past few years and works to accelerate them in the future. Through population-based household surveys, Feed the Future will be able to show progress in its development hypothesis that agriculture-led growth and a commitment to nutrition can help reduce poverty and hunger.

These surveys also track other data (PDF) critical to understanding Feed the Future’s impact such as women’s empowerment, which we measure through the recently-developed Women’s Empowerment in Agriculture Index; women’s dietary diversity; breastfeeding; minimum acceptable diet; expenditures; and comprehensive household demographic information.

How We Got There

Of course, this is not the only way Feed the Future is looking at high-level, outcome data on reducing poverty and hunger. Feed the Future also seeks to understand what interventions are successful, in what contexts, and why. Those questions are at the front and center of Feed the Future’s robust Learning Agenda.

Through the Learning Agenda, Feed the Future is conducting more than 40 impact evaluations to look at key questions related to the Feed the Future Results Framework. An evaluation currently underway in Uganda is looking at how different approaches to integrate gender work to improve nutritional status and dietary diversity. Another in Cambodia is assessing the impact of extension services on increasing farm productivity, household food availability, and income, as well as how interventions that promote the diversification of the food system impact dietary diversity and nutrition among women and children.

These impact evaluations, paired with annual monitoring results like in our latest progress report, will also help us keep a pulse on our progress toward meeting our “20-20 goals” and help us demonstrate how we are getting there.

The road to food security is a long one, but we are committed to stick to it, learning and sharing as we go.

Learn more about Feed the Future’s progress this Thursday. Check out our event page and tune in on social media via the hashtag #feedthefuture.


*Poverty data based on a $1.25/day threshold and obtained from PovCal. Data are either based on recent population-based surveys or World Bank data aggregations for the years 2005 or 2008. Data on stunting is from Demographic and Health Surveys reports or other comparable sources compiled by UNICEF.

Sharing Agricultural Success with President Obama

This originally appeared on the Feed the Future blog

When I first got the idea back in 2008 that the women farmers like myself in central Senegal should join together to help one another succeed, I never would have guessed that five years later I would be sharing that story of success with the president of the United States.

On June 28, I found myself before President Barack Obama himself, explaining to him how bringing my producers’ network together with others in the Kaolack region and receiving assistance from a USAID project, part of the Feed the Future initiative helped us help each other, leading to the formation of a federation of some 3,000 producers who last year produced and sold 13,000 tons of corn on 5,000 hectares of land to feed our families and plan for next season.

Nimna Diayaté showed President Obama how technology helps her corn growers federation in Senegal. Photo credit: Zach Taylor, USAID

In our conversation, President Obama explained my story back to make sure he understood: “So you’ve got all these small farmers, and they all came together to better compete with big agribusiness.”

“That’s right,” I told him. “We created a network in the villages and each network worked together as the Saloum Federation of Corn Producers.”

I explained that our larger numbers afforded us better access to credit, with which our federation was able to access modern farm equipment, like the 12 tractors we have today. I pointed to a picture of the tractors on the display at the agricultural technology marketplace prepared for the president, and he asked me if I could drive a tractor myself.

“No, but I want to learn,” I said, knowing he was teasing me. But I really am going to learn.

To meet President Obama was wonderful. He seemed very happy to hear how a U.S. Government project was helping me and the members of our network. He was also very happy to hear that we now have enough good-quality, locally-grown corn for our own consumption and enough left over to sell, and that we are improving the quality of our seeds and equipment for the next growing season.

We want to make all producers in south-central Senegal aware of how we are producing quality corn so that we can be competitive with imports, find business opportunities, and sell our products at good prices.

Going back to before I had ever heard of USAID or Feed the Future, I was planting two hectares of maize a year. With USAID’s support, Feed the Future helped my little group access seasonal bank credit, with which we bought more seed and fertilizer than ever previously possible.

A year later, I planted 13 hectares and my income tripled. The 2011 harvest was a bad one, with a severe drought hitting our region hard. But the quality of the new seed was so good that despite the lack of rain, I still managed to increase my yield to 15 tons and earn close to $5,000 that year.

That money helped the federation qualify for a loan big enough to buy a brand-new tractor worth $35,000. The tractor has helped us prepare more than 350 hectares of land in our area. In 2012, my own cultivation grew to 18 hectares, including three hectares in new high-yielding hybrid varieties.

All this time our network was growing. In 2012, I was elected president of the new federation, which by then had 2,500 members. Now we can negotiate directly with banks, agro-dealers and buyers from the animal feed industry and today can speak for more than 3,000 corn farmers, both women and men, with the Senegalese government and the private sector with which we deal each day. This last season we produced nearly 4,500 tons, 3,000 of which was sold for a profit that will help us increase our yields still more next year.

Like the corn we cultivate, I feel the success of our federation can grow as high as our dreams. For a simple farmer from rural Senegal, to be successful enough to meet the American president shows that big dreams can come true after all.

Learn more about President Obama’s trip to Africa and view an infographic of the agricultural technologies marketplace where Diayaté met Obama.

(Translated from French by Zack Taylor)

Photo of the Week: POTUS and Administrator Shah at Agriculture Technology Marketplace in Senegal

 

During his trip to Africa, President Barack Obama, along with USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, highlighted the Government of Senegal’s commitment to ensuring prosperity and trade through the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. President Obama joined Administrator Shah to tour the Feed the Future Agricultural Technology Marketplace, a gathering of several West African private sector entities, NGO partners, and farmers demonstrating how key research and innovation can help improve the lives of smallholder farmers. Each booth at the marketplace highlighted how agricultural research and innovation helps West African farmers to increase incomes and nutrition for their families. Photo is from Pete Souza/White House.

Resources:

Follow @usaid and @usaidafrica on Twitter and learn about our global development work using #USAIDAfrica!

USAID Boosts Agricultural Production in Yemen

During my recent visit to Yemen, I had the opportunity to see the many ways that USAID is supporting development in the country at this crucial time. I was particularly impressed by USAID’s successful effort to demonstrate to Yemeni farmers how they can boost agricultural production and conserve water use at the same time by introducing new technologies in the fields.

Yemen faces many challenges, and one of the greatest is critical water shortages. Water is a precious commodity, and nowhere is it more so than in Yemen today. Recently, a school rehabilitation that USAID is supporting in the central highlands of Taizz has been stalled by a local conflict over scarce water resources.

Acting AA Romanowski meets with a Yemeni farmer to discuss how USAID’s Community Livelihoods Project is helping Yemen’s agricultural sector. Photo credit: Dorelyn Jose, USAID/Yemen CLP

This scarcity of water is also having a serious impact on agricultural productivity. Yemen’s agricultural sector needs to adapt green technologies to improve efficiency and raise productivity. USAID’s agricultural demonstration site in eastern Sana’a is showing the way.

In early 2012, as the country was embarking on a post-Arab Spring transition, USAID’s Community Livelihoods Project supported the construction of a solar-powered greenhouse with a highly efficient drip irrigation system at the farm owned by the Sawan Agricultural Cooperative Union in Sana’a. USAID’s support did not end there. USAID also recently completed the construction of a rainwater harvesting system on the site, which will give it a fully sustainable water supply going forward. This is another step further in demonstrating sustainable water solutions where they are most needed.

The greenhouse has since successfully demonstrated that it is possible to grow ten times more vegetables compared to traditional methods while saving water irrigation use by as much as 70 percent. Not only that, the produce from the Sawan greenhouse is of a superior quality, with farmers using just a fraction of pesticides – less than ten percent – normally used in other greenhouses. This is really impressive, I know, because my husband is a “city farmer” and perhaps he should take a look at the Sawan Demonstration Site to boost his crop yields.

When I visited the cooperative, it was expecting to harvest 12 times more than they could reasonably expect from a traditional field of a similar size. The farmers I met filled me with hope for the future of Yemen. I met the sharecropper at the farm, who is now making exponentially more money than he did before the greenhouse was built. I also met some of the farmers who have been inspired by what they saw to replicate these technologies on their own farms. Not far from the demonstration site, six new greenhouses are now up and running. There are now at least 25 new greenhouses farther south of Sana’a, in Damar governorate, initiated by intrepid Yemeni farmers who have been trained at the Sawan Demonstration Site.

I am encouraged to hear that the Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation and the nationwide Agricultural Cooperative Union are now looking at ways of joining forces to support more Yemeni farmers in adapting these green technologies.

In Washington, we talk about our vision of economic resiliency for vulnerable countries and of “feeding the future,” or helping countries transform their own agriculture sectors to forge long-term solutions to chronic food insecurity and malnutrition. Our vision involves increasing the agricultural production and the incomes of both men and women in rural areas. My visit to Yemen confirmed to me how these concepts are translated into reality in places where they can promote much-needed stability. The happy and hopeful faces of Yemeni farmers and their children that I have seen must be a sign that we are doing something right.

A Bright Future for Agriculture in Africa

As my final tour with USAID winds down in the coming months, I can step aside with pride and confidence in the work we’re doing on the African continent to increase food security and nutrition. Having worked in Africa for much of the past 30 years, I am firmly convinced that the Agency’s new focus on modernizing and improving agricultural technologies through Feed the Future, President Obama’s global hunger and food security initiative, is having a demonstrable impact.

Here in Senegal, recent statistics indicate a near-doubling of yields in rain-fed rice, from about 1 ton per hectare to 1.82 tons. In some of the country’s most vulnerable areas, undernutrition has been reduced by a large margin in the last year.

What makes these and other statistics really exciting is an opportunity some USAID Mission Directors don’t get in their entire career: a chance to exhibit some of our major successes to the President of the United States himself, who made Senegal the first stop on his second trip to Africa last week.

While here, President Obama toured the Feed the Future Agricultural Technology Marketplace, where at each stop he was able to see how agricultural research and innovation are helping West African farmers to increase incomes and nutrition for their families.

At one booth, Anna Gaye, an entrepreneur, demonstrated how switching to a small-scale, efficient rice mill and an improved rice variety has tripled yields in her region and freed up her time for alternative activities.

At a Feed the Future agricultural technology marketplace in Senegal last week, President Obama met with farmers, innovators and entrepreneurs whose new methods and technologies are improving the lives of smallholder farmers throughout West Africa. Photo credit: Kate Gage, USAID

At another booth, Pierre Ndiaye, the owner and operator of a factory producing a popular nutritious yogurt-and-millet porridge, explained how USAID helps smallholder producers create his product. We support women’s producer groups around the country to grow quality millet, providing employment to hundreds of women who produce the porridge for local schoolchildren to get a nutritious meal every day.

We were also excited to demonstrate how nutrient fortification of Senegal’s staple foods can result in a radical decrease in undernutrition. Nutrition plays a critically important role in the Feed the Future approach, and fortified food can have a profound effect on the health of children in Senegal and all over Africa.

Yet another stop showed how the technology of today can help farmers as businessmen and women.  A young woman president of a 3,000-strong maize farmers’ union explained how they use the internet and mobile devices to control product quality and organize the marketing of their crops, which allows them to collectively compete with large industrial farms across the globe.

What makes these innovations yet more exciting is the potential for scaling them up and sharing them with other nations. New technology is only as good as our ability to get it into the hands of the millions of smallholder farmers who are the foundation for agriculture-led economic growth. Through Feed the Future, we are working to make successful technologies more and more accessible to the farmers who need them the most.

Looking back on the visit and on our tremendous successes in agriculture thus far, I can’t think of a more exciting, rewarding way to end a career with USAID.

Resources:

Video of the Week: President Obama Speaks on Food Security

During his trip to Africa, President Obama delivered remarks on the importance of confronting an urgent challenge that affects nearly 900 million people around the world — chronic hunger and the need for long-term food security. During his visit to Senegal, the President toured the Feed the Future Agricultural Technology Marketplace, a gathering of several West African private sector entities, NGO partners and farmers who demonstrated how key research and innovation can help improve the lives of smallholder farmers and their families. At the event, and along with Administrator Shah, President Obama highlighted the Government of Senegal’s commitment to ensuring prosperity and trade through the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. The President also announced the release of the Feed the Future 2013 Progress Report, which outlines progress made through the initiative in fiscal year 2012. Read more about the marketplace event.

Follow @USAID, @USAIDAfrica and @rajshah for updates about the President’s trip and #USAIDAfrica about our work in Africa!

Learn more about Feed the Future

A Quick Guide to Feed the Future’s New Progress Report

This originally appeared on the Feed the Future Blog

We just published our second progress report, highlighting results our modern approach to development achieved in fiscal year 2012.

You’ll probably want to peruse the entire report to get the full experience. But for now, here it is in five brief points.

1. Feed the Future was born of the belief that global hunger is solvable. And it is! We have the tools, knowledge and technology today to end it. Hunger and poverty are inextricably linked, so we support countries in achieving their own objectives to tackle extreme poverty by the roots. And we integrate agriculture and nutrition programs to save lives and promote better nutrition while boosting economic growth. We’re implementing a modern, rigorous approach; identifying and making transformative, proven technologies more accessible to more smallholder farmers; promoting favorable policy environments; supporting open and transparent access to data; and embracing innovative partnerships to build resilience and improve food security and nutrition, from farms to markets to tables.

Woman in Liberia tends to her plants. Photo credit: Morgana Wingard/ONE

2. Our efforts are paying off. Feed the Future is focused and selective about where we work to strengthen our impact. We’re working to accelerate positive trends in poverty and stunting reduction in these focus countries. Last year, we reached 9 million households, 12 million children, and 7.5 million farmers. We also helped increase sales for smallholder farmers by $100 million. You’ll have to read our report to get more specifics, but improved nutrition, the use of practices that support local capacity, women’s empowerment, and economic growth are translating into clear returns on investment.

3. Our partners are also rising to the challenge. We forged more than 660 public-private partnerships last year, catalyzing the private sector to invest more than $115 million in agriculture. Through the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, more than 70 African and global companies have pledged to invest more than $3.75 billion so far. U.S.-based nongovernmental organizations pledged to invest more than $1 billion in private funding in support of food security and nutrition too. As part of the New Alliance, African countries are embracing policy reforms and better transparency and building investor confidence. Many of our focus countries have put more resources toward agricultural development, signaling its prominence as a national priority. That’s not all—we also work with the research community and others to develop local capacity and maximize our impact.

4. We’ve come a long way in a short time. President Obama’s pledge to support global food security at the G8 Summit just four years ago set the foundation for Feed the Future. World leaders joined him in increasing investments in agriculture to help ensure that a growing global population, facing challenges like climate change, can sustainably grow and access nutritious foods. Since then, our 19 focus countries have finalized national food security plans and begun to execute on priorities to reduce poverty and hunger and improve nutrition. The New Alliance, launched just a year ago, has grown from three member countries to nine (and counting), with partners from local-level and multinational companies committed to responsible agricultural investment.

5. We need to keep the effort up. There are still almost 870 million hungry people in the world. President Obama challenged us all to end extreme poverty in the next two decades. To meet these challenges, we’re learning what works best in agricultural development and holding ourselves accountable to do more, more efficiently. The U.S. Government is committed to this, but we can’t do it alone. Beating hunger, poverty and undernutrition takes leadership and collective action, not just resources. Countries must take ownership and take on accountability, and we must work alongside our partners, including civil society and the private sector, in support of a common vision of shared progress and prosperity. Feed the Future and the New Alliance embody this approach. We’ll continue to improve the effectiveness of our efforts, pioneering this new model of development that focuses on results, evidence and innovation to solve some of the greatest, and yet surmountable, challenges of our time.

We encourage you to read the report for detailed information. We even have a scorecard to track results and how we’re changing the way we work to be more effective. Take a look and let us know what you think. Click over to Facebook and Twitter to share your reactions.

While you’re at it, let us know what you’re doing to help feed the future too. Just add the hashtag#FeedtheFuture to your social media post.

Video of the Week: Feed the Future in Tanzania

Feed The Future is the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative focused on specific countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. In Tanzania, U.S. Government (USG) assistance will support MKUKUTA, the National Strategy for Growth and Poverty Reduction. This represents a critical effort as the country is not presently on target meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for reducing the percentage of people below the food poverty line and halving the number of people below the income poverty line. USAID is working closely with other USG organizations through a ‘whole-of-government’ approach, bringing its technical expertise and capacity to lead this initiative.

Learn more about Feed the Future.

Follow @USAID and @USAIDAfrica on Twitter to learn more about our work in Africa and use #USAIDAfrica to join the conversation.

On the Front Lines in Africa

Nowhere is development such an important part of U.S. engagement as it is in Africa. In anticipation of the President’s trip next week, we thought we’d share some of our favorite FrontLines stories about our work in Africa. President Obama’s strategies on global development and Africa have laid the foundation for a new approach that focus on sustainable development and a new operational model for assistance. We look forward to the opportunities that this visit will bring.

Our Favorites include:

Food Security

Child Survival

Innovation

Women and Development

Conflict Mitigation and Prevention

  • Ethiopia: Peace Brokers: USAID-sponsored reconciliation efforts usher in historic truce accord in Ethiopia’s pastoral south.

Democracy, Human Rights, and Government

Humanitarian Assistance

Resilience

  • Niger: Niger’s Tree of Life: In the face of recurring food insecurity and acute malnutrition, USAID is promoting the cultivation of hardy, vitamin-packed moringa as one way to build resilience in communities in the drought-prone Sahel.

Follow @USAID and @rajshah on Twitter for updates on the trip and to learn more about our work in Africa. Join the conversation using #USAIDAfrica.

How Better-Trained Farmers are Slowing Brazil’s Deforestation

This originally appeared on the Mercy Corps’ Blog.

In Pará, Brazil, farmers are turning a profit and the government is on track to slow deforestation thanks to local nonprofit Imazon, which got them to work together.

By 2003, Brazil was on the verge of an environmental catastrophe. As its economy expanded, cattle ranchers needed more land to graze their livestock, and few laws prevented them from burning down thousands of square kilometers of untitled land in the Amazon, causing vast environmental damage. In the worst regions, like Pará, widespread poverty meant that stopping deforestation was at the bottom of the government’s list, despite massive efforts by groups like Greenpeace and Imazon.

Imazon has trained Brazilian cattle farmers to use their pastures more efficiently, reducing the need to cut down trees to clear land. Photo credit: Lou Gold/Flickr

A wave of environmental laws passed by the federal government from 2004 to 2008 seemed to complicate things for local governments and economies, even as deforestation rates fell. Many municipal governments couldn’t fully meet government targets under the new regulations but faced economic sanctions if they didn’t. A beef embargo prevented farmers from selling their meat to mainstream supermarket chains like Carrefour and Walmart if their municipality ended up on a blacklist for failing to reduce illegal deforestation to government-mandated levels. The government confiscated herds and sawmills from the law’s offenders. When Paragominas, a municipality in Para where Imazon worked, was placed on the list, 2,300 jobs and all the municipality’s federal agricultural credits disappeared within a year.

Imazon found itself helping save the local economy. It created a training program for the local government to learn how to use satellite technology to track deforestation. Since most of the affected land wasn’t titled, Imazon also helped farmers formalize their land titles and trained them in improved farming techniques, like rotating crops and limiting overgrazing, to make their land more productive and reduce the need to cut down more rainforest.

It worked. Farmers trained in better methods required less land to turn a profit, so they cut down fewer trees.

In just a few years, Imazon’s program in Paragominas helped to reduce illegal deforestation by more than 80 percent. When farmers in Paragominas implemented Imazon’s training techniques, most saw their incomes increase, even as they stopped clearing additional land. Inspired by the success of the program, the state government decided to launch its own Green Municipalities Program in 2011, essentially promoting Imazon’s collaborative approach in Paragominas at a state level. Now, more than 94 of Para State’s 143 municipalities have signed onto the Green Municipalities Program, and both the state government and Imazon are straining to meet the demand.

However, a new breakthrough came when Imazon attracted the attention of the Innovation Investment Alliance (PDF), a new partnership between Mercy Corps, USAID and the Skoll Foundation. This April at the Skoll World Forum, the partners announced their first grant of $3.4 million, complementing an earlier $2.6 million from Skoll. The funding will support Imazon to scale the successes in Paragominas across the state of Para. The project has ambitious goals, as the government has promised to reduce deforestation by 80 percent over the next seven years. By systematizing the training process, the Alliance hopes to leave the state government capable of responding to the growing demand from farmers and municipal governments who have seen Imazon’s programs work in Paragominas.

The question is how Imazon can show their methodologies work. Mercy Corps will help Imazon to test its approach in 10 municipalities serving as guinea pigs, drawing from its own network of experts in impact analysis.

But Imazon’s biggest success may be its ability to get locals on board with its ideas. 94 municipalities have already signed on to reducing deforestation through the Green Municipalities Program, and Cameron Peake, Mercy Corps’s director of social innovations special initiatives, says she’s impressed at how the nonprofit has persuaded the local farmers and government that environmental sustainability, economic growth, land rights and good governance can actually go together.

And that achievement, for one, is too valuable to put a number on.

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