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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!

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

Food Security Takes Center Stage during President’s Last Day in Senegal

This originally appeared on the Feed the Future Blog

It’s not every day that the president of the United States travels to Senegal.

It’s also not every day that he announces more than $180 million in agriculture investments in the West Africa region to improve food security.

President Obama delivers remarks during a visit to the Feed the Future Agricultural Technologies Marketplace in Senegal. Photo credit: Kate Gage, USAID

Today, during his first stop on his Africa trip, 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. Senegal announced its intention to join the New Alliance earlier this month.

  • The Government of Senegal announced that, in partnership with the Government of Canada, it will commit to three key policy reforms to help build an environment more conducive to investment in the agriculture sector.
  • Ten private sector companies—nine of them Senegalese enterprises—have signed letters of intent to invest over $134.4 million in the agriculture sector. These investments will help provide new market opportunities for smallholder farmers through activities including maize, peanut and rice production and processing; fertilizer; organic soy and peanut seed production; and processing for cashews, dairy, millet and tomato.

At the same time, President Obama also announced that the United States has delivered on a major New Alliance commitment made at the 2012 G8 Summit at Camp David. USAID and the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) have launched the Scaling Seeds & Technologies Partnership, a multilateral effort that will coordinate diverse country-led, donor-financed and private-sector efforts to promote technology-driven agricultural productivity growth. The $47 million grant will work to increase production of high-quality seeds by 45 percent over three years (for 97,758 metric tons of additional seed) and ensure that 40 percent more farmers gain access to innovative agricultural technologies.

Closing out his time in Senegal, 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.

At the marketplace, President Obama announced the release of the Feed the Future 2013 Progress Report, which outlines progress made through the initiative in fiscal year 2012.

These investments in agriculture embody our new approach to development, which emphasizes:

  • Country-led reforms that foster a positive environment for private investment
  • Partnership with the private sector as an engine of growth and development
  • Innovations in science and technology to bend the curve of development
  • Local capacity building to ensure sustainable, long-term progress

See the White House fact sheet on global food security and nutrition for more information.

Additional Resources

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.

Photo of the Week: Improving Nutrition in Honduras

Mothers participating in the USAID ACCESO program in Santa Maria, La Paz, Honduras are being taught how to prepare more nutritious food for their undernourished children by incorporating the vegetables they grow in their gardens into their traditional rice and tortilla diet. Here a young child eats a spoonful of visibly nutritious rice, as his older sister looks on. Photo is from Michelle Los Banos-Jardina, USUN Rome.

Follow @USAID@USAIDGH and @FeedtheFuture on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation about global health issues including #nutrition.

It’s The Silent Killer: Undernutrition

Shivani Cotter is a member of Mom Bloggers for Social Good. Photo credit: Shivani Cotter

This morning, my daughters ate a hearty breakfast. They had eggs, toast and a yogurt each. What do you think women and children in poverty-stricken regions throughout the world ate (or did they)?

I remember reading an article by Anap Shah a few years ago that I have never been able to get out of my head. The heading read, “Today, around 21,000 children died around the world.”

I was shocked! Living in a bubble, I rarely paid attention to how devastating the numbers were (about 1 child dying every 4 seconds)! Although written a few years ago, that article was the catalyst for my quest to learn more about global nutrition and it’s effect on women and children.

Anap Shah caused two conflicting emotions: First, relief that my children didn’t fall into one of those statistics. Second, sick to my stomach that I even felt that way!

Did you know that nearly 165 million children under 5-years-old suffer from undernutrition today? According to the Lancet medical journal, malnutrition contributes to 3.1 million under-five child deaths annually. The numbers are stunning but don’t have to be. The U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative, led by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), is dedicated to reducing them. It’s working towards building a better future for mothers and children.

Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, has already improved nutrition and helped people lead healthier lives in Zambia, Guatemala, Tanzania and more. Through Feed the Future in the past year alone, 12 million children have been positively affected — and that is just the beginning. Feed the Future shares their knowledge with the people in poverty-stricken locations and support country-owned programs addressing undernutrition. Their monthly newsletter is filled with information regarding their latest goals and progress.

USAID believes in integrating their approach on dealing with global health and nutrition by forging the right partnerships through initiatives like Feed the Future. USAID, on behalf of the U.S. Government, signed on to the global Nutrition for Growth Compact, and supports the Lancet Series on Maternal and Child Nutrition, which is chock filled with information about the importance of improving nutrition globally. Their goal is to ensure every child is given the best start possible in life.

The first 1,000 days from a woman’s pregnancy to a child’s second birthday are the most critical for a child’s development. By focusing on maternal health and young children, the U.S. Government through USAID and the Feed the Future initiative are striving to cut the death toll for children under 5 years old. Find out more about their goal and ways to help here.

Shivani Cotter is a writer, blogger and social media activist. Through her blog, TrendingMom.com, Shivani is dedicated to teaching others how to live positive and fulfilling lives as well as leaving a lovely legacy for her daughters. Shivani is part of Mom Bloggers for Social Good, a global coalition of 1000+ mom bloggers, in seventeen countries, who spread good news about the amazing work non-profit organizations and NGOs are doing around the world.

Follow @USAID@USAIDGH and @FeedtheFuture on Twitter and use #GHMatters to join in the conversation about global health issues including #nutrition.

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