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.