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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

Photo of the Week: Securing Water for Food

Securing Water For Food: A Grand Challenge For Development

On September 2, USAID and Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida) announced a new program “Securing Water for Food: A Grand Challenge for Development“ to address water scarcity, one of the most pressing global challenges. Through this Grand Challenge, we will identify and accelerate science and technology innovations and market-driven approaches that improve water sustainability to boost food security and alleviate poverty.

To advance meeting this goal, USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures announced last week that it will invest stage 1 funding in mWater’s mobile tech and open data solution to clean drinking water.

Learn more about the “Securing Water for Food” Grand Challenge.

Read more about mWater’s project, and learn about USAID’s Development Innovation Ventures program.

Like USAID on Facebook and follow @USAID on Twitter for factoids, photos and interesting stories during World Water Week with hashtag #WWWeek

No Longer Just Food: Communities Create Assets to Build Food Security in South Sudan

As USAID’s Food for Peace Officer assigned to South Sudan since October 2011, I have seen firsthand how U.S. government food assistance programs are simultaneously supporting communities’ efforts to create assets that strengthen their food security while providing vital timely assistance to food insecure South Sudanese.

A little over two years since declaring independence following more than 20 years of civil war, South Sudan is still struggling to build infrastructure and institutions to function as a sovereign state. Pockets of continuing civil conflict and erratic weather patterns plus a massive influx of refugees from Sudan and the return of thousands of people of South Sudanese origin after years of living in Sudan have strained food security in this new nation struggling to find its footing. Disputes with Sudan continue to threaten landlocked South Sudan’s ability to export oil through Sudan’s pipeline—and generate revenue South Sudan needs to finance its development. All these factors contribute to a continued need for substantial food assistance in South Sudan.

Women construct a water pond in South Sudan

Women constructing a water pond in South Sudan. Water ponds are built where there is a natural depression and water traditionally collects during the rainy season. The women are deepening and enlarging the area so that they will have water for a longer period of time during the dry season. Photo credit: Elizabeth Chambers, USAID

Poor, vulnerable communities are often risk averse, but in areas of South Sudan where peace has taken hold, citizens have embraced an innovative approach called “Food-for-Assets.” They build a critically needed asset in their community and receive remuneration in sorghum, pulses and vegetable oil, in lieu of cash. This reduces their susceptibility to shocks to their food security and contributes to the development of the community. As these activities are undertaken during the year when such commodities are scarce, this approach frees participants from the daily worry about accessing food for their families. To ensure sustainability, the participants themselves identify their key community needs and the resources required to implement the asset-building projects.

So why is this innovative? As a result of chronic food insecurity and conflict, South Sudan has received widespread free food distributions for years. By focusing on a Food-for-Assets approach, we are fostering a shift from dependency on food aid to sustainable livelihoods. By empowering communities to build or improve local assets, we improve their resilience to shocks, such as floods, so that one day these communities will no longer need food assistance.

Woman in South Sudan observes the construction of a water pond

Woman in South Sudan observes the construction of a water pond. Photo credit: Elizabeth Chambers, USAID

For example, in Warrap State, I visited a community benefiting from one of our food assistance programs supported by the UN World Food Program (WFP). The community had built a bridge over a marshland to connect 5,000 people in 24 isolated villages to main roads, thereby improving access to local markets, health centers and other services. The value of the bridge is incalculable as it not only drastically reduced transport costs for commercial produce and other goods, but also facilitated access to life-saving health care. More importantly, it brought the communities on either side of the bridge together to work on a common goal, become better neighbors and reduce tensions. Local authorities realized the powerful impact of this activity and provided the culverts needed for part of the construction, while USAID provided 48 metric tons of food through WFP to approximately 100 participants in return for their labor. Construction began in November 2012 and was completed in April 2013. When I visited in May 2013 to check on progress of the project, the pride of participants from the communities on each side of the bridge was palpable.

In Northern Bahr el Ghazal State, I visited an access road and cattle pond that a community built—more Food-for-Assets activities USAID implemented with WFP. Local participants provided labor for the road and water point, while WFP distributed 170 metric tons of food contributed by USAID in exchange for their work. WFP also provided hand tools, training and technical support. The road now connects 6,800 people in 48 rural villages to main roads as well as markets, health centers and social services, and the waterhole provides drinking water for their cattle.  As I drove down the new road, I saw new development activities along the way, including the opening of new agricultural lands and building of new markets and classrooms.

Through Food-for-Assets, WFP assisted 445,000 residents in South Sudan between April and December 2012, and plans to reach about one million people in South Sudan through Food-for-Assets activities in 2013. USAID, through its partnership with WFP, provides commodities for Food-for-Assets programs which not only support the construction of roads and bridges, but also rehabilitate farmland, plant vegetable gardens to improve nutrition, dig irrigation ponds, and train farmers on practical skills to improve crop and vegetable production. USAID is the largest provider of food assistance to South Sudan, contributing 41 percent of WFP’s funding.

Learn more about the Office of Food for Peace‘s work to reduce hunger and malnutrition, and ensure that all people at all times have access to sufficient food for a healthy and productive life.

Photos of the Week: AID in Action: Delivering on Results

Driving human progress is at the core of USAID’s mission, but what do development results look like?

USAID is measuring our leadership in results — not dollars spent — implementing innovative, cost-effective strategies to save lives. Through investments in science, technology and innovation, USAID is harnessing new partners and young minds to transform more lives than ever before. Our new model for development embraces game-changing partnerships that leverage resources, expertise, and science and technology to maximize our impact and deliver real results.

Take a look at the Agency’s top recent and historical achievements in promoting better health; food security; democracy and good governance; education; economic growth, and in providing a helping hand to communities in need around the globe.

Read the stories behind the results in the special edition of FrontLines: Aid in Action: Delivering on Results.

Follow @USAID and @USAIDpubs for ongoing updates on the best of our results!

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.

Doubling Incomes and Impact in Cambodia

Working with USAID over the past three years, I have had the opportunity to see tremendous growth and change in many countries, and that impact has been particularly felt in Cambodia as part of Feed the Future, President Obama’s global hunger and food security initiative. Feed the Future supports countries in developing their own agriculture sectors to generate opportunities for economic growth and trade that help reduce poverty and hunger. Agriculture sector growth has proven to be an effective way of reducing poverty, and Feed the Future’s efforts contribute significantly to President Obama’s goal of ending extreme poverty within two decades. The initiative works with families that rely on agriculture for their livelihood, helping them grow more food, raise their incomes, improve their nutrition, and learn farming techniques that enable sustainable income and production for generations.

Asia Bureau Deputy Assistant Administrator Greg Beck remarks on the changes the Feed the Future HARVEST program has had in Cambodia. Photo credit: Suzana Sorinchan/USAID

Asia Bureau Deputy Assistant Administrator Greg Beck remarks on the changes the Feed the Future HARVEST program has had in Cambodia. Photo credit: Suzana Sorinchan/USAID

During my most recent visit to Cambodia, I was able to see these changes taking place first-hand.  I visited 62-year-old Mrs. Koy Muot, who, through techniques learned via Feed the Future, was able to increase her vegetable production and sell a portion of that as a result.  Her income doubled from one short growing season, illustrating the important felt impact this program is having. Even more compelling was her newfound ability to reinvest in her family by purchasing school books and clothes for her grandson and more seeds for her garden next season.

Mrs. Muot was able to make these changes through Feed the Future’s HARVEST program, which helps Cambodians improve on all aspects of food security, from production and access to nutrition in the country while also helping farmers adapt their production techniques to make them more resilient to climate change.  She learned about drip irrigation, water use and pest management in classes.  She was provided with basic equipment and supplies she would need to implement her newly learned farming practices in exchange for her time, land and labor.  She allowed her land to be used as the demonstration plot, with a garden on one side using traditional techniques and on the other side, a garden using HARVEST techniques.  I have to say, the difference between the two plots was remarkable.  The HARVEST side showed a lush garden full of mouth-watering vegetables, while on the other side sat a choked patch of land struggling to survive.

Deputy Assistant Administrator Greg Beck examines plants in a traditional garden along with director of USAID’s Cambodia HARVEST project, Dennis Lesnick, at Mrs. Koy Muot’s garden in Veal village, Cambodia. The traditional portion of the garden, which is underperforming, was later compared to the garden where she utilized techniques she learned in seedling transplanting, trellising, and fertilizing to increase her garden’s yields. The new methods doubled her income from the simple household garden from $30 to $66 with the harvest. This income helped purchase school books and clothes for the householder’s grandson, and seeds for her next garden. Photo credit: Suzana Sorinchan/USAID

DAA Greg Beck examines plants in a traditional garden along with director of USAID’s Cambodia HARVEST project, Dennis Lesnick, at Mrs. Koy Muot’s garden in Veal village, Cambodia.  Photo credit: Suzana Sorinchan/USAID

With her newly learned agriculture skills, Mrs. Muot was able to more than double her income, from $30 a year to $66. Now, every year, she can sell as much as 485 lbs (220 kg) of amaranth, morning glory and long-bean, and keep 100 pounds (45 kg) for her and her family to enjoy.

“After I joined the program, I learned new techniques to grow vegetables. The production now is much better than the traditional way. I consume some and sell the rest. Now I can support my children and grandchildren,” said Koy.

The Feed the Future HARVEST program works in four provinces around the Tonle Sap Lake, Pursat, Battambang, Siem Reap and Kampong Thom areas of Cambodia with some of the highest rates of poor and food insecure families but some of the best opportunities to address these issues through improved agricultural practices. Together with the help of 22 Cambodian NGOs, USAID has worked with and assisted over 47,000 households and beneficiaries including 102 schools and health centers in more than 461 villages.

I’m proud of the hard work that my colleagues at USAID in Cambodia have done with our partners there to make Mrs. Muot’s life better – and those of generations that follow her.

Learn more about Feed the Future’s work in Cambodia.

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:

 

Video of the Week: Improved Potato Farming Yields Results in Bangladesh

Since 2008, farmers in the village of Bokundia in Bangladesh have increased their potato production by 800% and sales more than $500,000. How did they do it? USAID talks about their stories in this video. Stories of associations — association of business with technology, knowledge and markets.

Learn more about our Mission of the Month: Bangladesh.

Follow @USAID and @USAID_BD on Twitter throughout August and join the conversation with #MissionofMonth.

Behind the Scenes: Interview w/ Tjada McKenna on Feed the Future’s progress

In this edition of our “Behind the Scenes” Interview Blog Series, we chat with Tjada McKenna, Feed the Future’s Deputy Coordinator for Development, about global hunger and Feed the Future’s progress.

Tjada McKenna serves as Feed the Future's Deputy Coordinator for Development

Q: How was Feed the Future born?

In 2009 at the G-8 Summit in L’Aquila, Italy, President Obama addressed global leaders on the need to reverse the decades-long decline of agricultural investment and called on them to harness collaboration between donors, partner governments and civil society to strengthen global efforts to reduce poverty, hunger and undernutrition. Feed the Future is President Obama’s U.S. Government initiative and contribution to this global effort to advance food security and nutrition. Driven by the belief that global hunger is solvable, we’re seeing some great results from farms to markets to tables.

Q: What does success look like for Feed the Future?

Success equals results — the number of individuals who have access to better nutrition, the number of farmers who have benefitted from improved agricultural technologies, and the number of new partnerships that work collectively to improve food security, to name a few. We just released our FY2012 Feed the Future Progress Report and just looking at the numbers is pretty jaw-dropping when you think of the individuals whose lives have been directly impacted by the initiative. In 2012, Feed the Future programs reached more than 9 million families; our nutrition programs reached more than 12 million children under five; we helped nearly 7.5 million farmers and other food producers adopt improved technologies or management practices (30 percent of whom were women); we helped boost the sales of agricultural products by more than $100 million, which, in turn, helped increase their incomes; we forged more than 660 public-private partnerships to improve food security from a community level to a global level; and increased the value of agricultural and rural loans overall by more than $150 million.

Q: What is Feed the Future’s approach for achieving success?

We know that meeting our Feed the Future objectives will only happen with true partnerships at every level. We use a combination of multiple approaches that involve collaboration among government partners, agricultural researchers, civil society and community members, the country’s own leadership, in-country and international companies, and other organizations that champion the eradication of extreme poverty and hunger around the world. When we implement Feed the Future programs, we want them to deliver cost-effective results, align with the focus country priorities, see opportunity in innovative partnerships, encourage private investment, and we want to ensure that our programs are deeply ingrained in the culture and business model of the country, so they are equipped to respond to food crises in the future.

A great example is Mercy Chitwanga’s story. Mercy is a dairy farmer in Malawi and Chairperson of the Chitsanzo Dairy Cooperative, a group of smallholder dairy farmers that was awarded a $95,000 Feed the Future grant through the United States African Development Foundation (USADF) in 2011. She received capacity building training through the grant, and now is one of more than 1,000 female dairy farmers in Malawi who are increasing their earnings and accessing more nutritious food for their children with support from Feed the Future.

Q: What’s in Feed the Future’s future?

Reducing poverty and undernutrition through agricultural development remains our anchor. Despite the progress we’ve made already, there is still more to be done. Approximately 870 million people in the world remain hungry today (that’s one in eight people) and 98 percent of them live in developing countries. And the world’s population keeps increasing. It’s projected to exceed 9 billion by 2050, requiring at least a 60 percent increase in global food production. So, we have a lot of work to do.

We will continue striving to make Feed the Future even more effective, to produce more results, and increase the impact and reach of U.S. food assistance to the places that need it most. We’ll also be working toward reducing the prevalence of stunted children under five years of age by 20 percent in the areas where we work. We’ve seen the transformative power of agricultural technologies and we’re looking forward to seeing how innovation will further change and improve the agricultural space, allowing even greater access to nutritious food for people everywhere.

Q: How can people get involved with Feed the Future?

There’s a social media campaign right now inviting our partners, the public, and anyone interested in the issues of hunger and poverty to respond to the question “How will you feed the future?” We welcome responses and ask participants to highlight why they’re involved in the fight against hunger and poverty, and offer suggestions on what others can do to help feed the future too. All ideas are welcome — a blog post, a video, a photo, etc.! You can follow and join the campaign on Facebook and Twitter too using the hashtag #feedthefuture. Visit the Feed the Future website for more information.

You can also visit the “Partner With Us” section of the Feed the Future website to view opportunities to get involved, whether you’re a university student, researcher, civil society organization, or private company.

Resources:

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.

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