Last week I had the chance to travel around Mozambique with two Senate staff members who were interested in seeing how the U.S. Government is improving food security in the country. We visited the Nacololo community in Monapo District of Nampula Province in the northeast, where USAID partner Save the Children has been implementing a development food assistance program since 2008.

Called SANA, or ‘good health’ in the local language Emakwa, the program focuses on assisting rural communities with market-driven agriculture, community-managed nutrition, and disaster preparedness and management. USAID has actively integrated SANA activities with other U.S. Government-funded initiatives, such as Feed the Future and the USAID-funded program Strengthening Communities through Integrated Programming (SCIP), to address community development in a holistic manner.

In Nacololo we met community members from ten farmers associations that USAID and its partners helped the community establish. Association forming is the first step USAID takes to help farmers learn better farming techniques as well as begin to develop their farms into businesses. Of the ten associations, three are now formal legal entities, one a forum (union of associations), and one a cooperative. Cooperatives are the highest level of farmer organizations, where farmers are actively working to make a profit by marketing their products nationally and in some cases for the export market.

The Senate staff members saw firsthand farmers taking that next step towards advancing their farming businesses through the integration of SANA with Feed the Future, which aims to support Mozambique’s economic growth, in part by strengthening targeted agricultural value chains.

The cooperative Ossucana Limited of Nacololo was a good example of this integration. It was formed in February 2012 and has 15 individual members. The cooperative is funded by members from an existing association – initially established under the development food assistance program – who have transitioned from their association to form the cooperative.

This advancement from association to cooperative has been important in solidifying the gains farmers have made to make their farming more profitable. Feed the Future is building on development food assistance achievements, enabling farmers to make connections to buyers and commodity markets, growing their businesses and increasing their incomes for the long term. One cooperative, for example, is already selling its sesame to India through connections made to a sesame exporter. This effort will ensure sustainability of the gains farmers have made, and lead to long-term food security.

Leonor Domingues is Food Security and Disaster Response Advisor for USAID’s Mission in Mozambique. For seven years she has overseen the Title II development food assistance programs.