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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.

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.

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