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Archives for Food Security

Water, Food and Extreme Poverty

A farmer ploughs his field in a village in West Bengal, India. The Securing Water for Food Grand Challenge for Development is helping harness ideas that have the potential to enable developing world farmers to grow more food with less water, or to make more water available for agriculture.

A farmer ploughs his field in a village in West Bengal, India. The Securing Water for Food Grand Challenge for Development is helping harness ideas that have the potential to enable developing world farmers to grow more food with less water, or to make more water available for agriculture. / A Sourav Karmakar

At USAID’s second Frontiers in Development Forum, we’re focusing on the role of innovation, science and technology in eradicating extreme poverty by 2030. Over the past year, I have witnessed the potential of scientific and technological breakthroughs to address some of the developing world’s greatest challenges through our Grand Challenges for Development.

Our role at USAID is to help define these challenges, prioritizing key elements of the fight against extreme poverty. We then open our doors to potential solutions from a variety of disciplines, locations and specializations – in search of the most promising innovations. These Grand Challenges are developed in the form of prizes that have the potential to catalyze the world in the fight against extreme poverty.

The Securing Water for Food Grand Challenge for Development is an important element of this fight. The availability of water for food is crucial to farmers and others who depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. The number of people impacted by water stress and insecurity will only continue to rise, and providing simple, sustainable and cost-efficient solutions to this issue could help a poor family or community could grow more food, harvest a surplus, and earn additional income.

Over the past year, we launched two calls for Security Water for Food innovations. More than 570 applications represented more than 90 countries. Of these, we selected 17 award recipients whose proposals best demonstrated the potential to either enable the production of more food with less water, or to make more water available for food production, processing, and distribution.

Solar-activated Lilypads kill viruses, bacteria, and protozoa in water used for agriculture in Mexico.

Solar-activated Lilypads kill viruses, bacteria, and protozoa in water used for agriculture in Mexico. / Puralytics

Ancient technologies are being revisited to provide Nepalese farmers with access to water for irrigation.

Ancient technologies are being revisited to provide Nepalese farmers with access to water for irrigation. / aQysta Holdings

These 17 winners will receive funding and acceleration support. Some were as simple as Aybar Engineering’s multi-purpose tool to move water from areas where it reduces crop yields to areas where it improves crop production, or aQysta Holding BV’s “Barsha” pump offering low maintenance, round-the-clock irrigation powered by flowing water that can help farmers double their crop yields.

Puralytics’ Lilypad acts like its namesake, floating on a body of water, while a solar-activated nanotechnology coating treats the water—sans chemicals, filters, pumps or electricity.

Practical Action proposed a unique sandbar cropping program in Bangladesh, where large, sandy islands appear in many rivers during the dry season and can actually be used by poor farmers to grow pumpkins.

Innovators MetaMeta & SaltFarmTexel and Wageningen University and Research Center have developed crops that can grow in highly saline conditions. With the support of this prize, they will find ways to transfer these crops to developing countries.

Learn more about all of the Securing Water for Food innovations here. We congratulate all of the award nominees, and are honored to support these innovative approaches in improving water availability and food security around the world – part of our work towards ending extreme poverty.


Christian Holmes is USAID’s Global Water Coordinator

Mobile Agriculture: A Lifeline for Pakistan’s Farmers

A ‘connected’ farmer is sharing information with a ‘non-connected’ farmer in his community. / USAID/Pakistan

A ‘connected’ farmer is sharing information with a ‘non-connected’ farmer in his community. / USAID/Pakistan

Spend five minutes on any busy street in Pakistan and you will think that you are in one of the most connected countries in the world. Most people, regardless of economic class, have a mobile phone, and farmers are no exception. Most of these farmers live in isolated remote communities which can be prone to major natural disasters and violence from militants. These communities have extremely poor infrastructure, almost no public transportation, and little access to basic financial services. Mobile phone coverage, however, penetrates into some of the most remote areas of Pakistan, reaching otherwise isolated rural communities.

For these communities, mobile phones are a lifeline. Recognizing this, USAID Pakistan has partnered with the regional government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Telenor, an international mobile network operator in Pakistan, to create and deliver tailored mobile solutions to get information to peach and potato growers as well as fisheries in Swat Valley.

By delivering real-time information about market prices and new techniques, weather forecasting, and diversified financial services via mobile technology, the service helps Pakistani farmers and hatchery managers improve productivity and get better returns on their investments. As their incomes increase through more informed decision making, they are able to invest in better quality inputs and equipment.

Around 1,500 people are included in the pilot project, which is focused on testing and scaling up what works to ensure that the program’s digital development tools meet participant’s needs.

A farmer participating in the USAID pilot program is reading a text alert on best farming practice. / USAID/Pakistan

A farmer participating in the USAID pilot program is reading a text alert on best farming practice. / USAID/Pakistan

The project provides two basic services. First, it sends alerts to mobile phones to provide farmers with tips and advice in their local language, helping them to increase the quality and quantity of their production. Participants can also use their mobile phones to access recorded advisories from an interactive voice response (IVR). In a country where the literacy rate is low, voice-based services address the difficulties faced by those unable to read or write.

These text and voice services provide a wide range of information. Weather forecasts help them decide when to plant, irrigate and harvest. Information on market prices and consumer trends help them understand which products will yield the highest returns for their efforts. Farmers also receive technical advice on how to fight pests or diseases, improve farming practices for more sustainable agriculture, and apply processing techniques that reduce food wastage. They can learn about regulations, available subsidies and local fairs.

Fresh potatoes from the farms in Swat / USAID/Pakistan

Fresh potatoes from the farms in Swat / USAID/Pakistan

Initial feedback from the pilot is promising. More than 90 percent of the participants who received the messages said that they were well-timed and useful, and three quarters have adopted the service’s recommended practices. Subscribers also reported that they shared the information with non-subscribed farmers, underscoring the value of the information and quadrupling the project’s reach.

As a corollary to the project, mobile financial services, including remittances, mobile banking and value-added services like crop insurance are also being introduced. This will help boost food production, improve livelihoods and incomes and introduce technological solutions to improve efficiency in the agricultural supply chain.

By analyzing calls Pakistani farmers place to the IVR service, agricultural specialists and research organizations can build an accurate picture of the challenges rural farmers face and the evolving trends in Pakistani agriculture.

At its core, mobile agriculture is about putting information into farmers’ hands and empowering them through sustainable and scalable solutions. The hope is that the success of this partnership will encourage and enable other private sector players to enter the market, contributing to a well-informed and more prosperous farming community throughout the country. It is also expected that these innovations will create new economic opportunities in this politically sensitive region, where financial stability is an essential factor in the region’s overall resilience.


Shehla Rizwan is Development Outreach and Communications Specialist for USAID/Pakistan

Extraordinary Efforts in U.S. Food Assistance Underway as Extreme Food Insecurity Stalks South Sudanese

It was raining hard as we slipped and slid through the narrow muddy lanes between the dilapidated plastic-covered shelters that are home to roughly 3,600 displaced persons. Here in the town of Bor in Jonglei state South Sudan, I traveled to see for myself the conditions of some of the 4 million people who require emergency food aid. The political crisis that erupted last December in the capital, Juba, has triggered a brutal conflict that has caused more than 1 million people to flee their homes.

Protection of civilian site in Bor, South Sudan. / USAID

Protection of civilian site in Bor, South Sudan. / USAID

At the U.N. compound in Bor, I saw where thousands of people have sought shelter and protection as fighting has devastated their homes and livelihoods. I marveled at how some of the children, despite having endured crowded conditions here for many months, sing a song of welcome, and at the teacher who tells them education is their future and that all things are possible if only they study. This undaunted hope during such extreme hardship and uncertainty is inspiring.

At this U.N. compound and others like, it is estimated that 95,000 people have settled. At least here, in these facilities they are receiving some aid and protection from the conflict that rages around them. Outside of these compounds, there are an estimated 750,000 South Sudanese in hard- to-reach places that have not yet seen much assistance or protection due to conflict and the onset of seasonal rains that render nearly two thirds of the country inaccessible by road.

Because conflict disrupted the prepositioning of food throughout the country before the rains set in, the U.N. and its partners are now mounting a major air operation across the three most conflict-affected states in an effort to mitigate famine.

WFP airdrops in South Sudan.  /  WFP/Guilio D’Adamo

WFP airdrops in South Sudan. / WFP/Guilio D’Adamo

USAID is taking five major steps to help the people of South Sudan:

  • As the potential scale of the crisis began to emerge in February 2014, USAID shipped 20,000 metric tons (MT) of U.S. food to the region. By May, when U.N. officials alerted the world to the possibility of famine, Food for Peace put that food into action, rapidly moving it to the U.N. World Food Program’s South Sudan program.
  • At the South Sudan Humanitarian Pledging Conference in Oslo, Norway in May, $112 million of the almost $300 million pledged by the U.S. Government was for food assistance. These funds go toward 29,600 MT (enough to feed 1.8 million people for a month) of in-kind food aid to WFP, and regional purchase by WFP and UNICEF of specialized nutritious foods.
  • As part of our Oslo pledge, the United States provided $8 million to support a dramatic scale-up of emergency air operations. This is one of the first times USAID will use its new authorities in the Farm Bill for activities that “enhance” in-kind food programs. By providing a generous and early contribution to the U.N. to begin leasing aircraft to deliver food, USAID helped to ensure the air assets needed for expanded operations are in place as the rains begin.
  • USAID is tapping a seldom-used special authority in the Farm Bill—the Bill Emerson Humanitarian Trust—to respond to extraordinary, unforeseen and expanding need with additional food aid.
  • In March and April, USAID doubled its monthly procurement of U.S.-manufactured ready-to-use food products to prevent and treat malnutrition so it can speed these products to South Sudan for use later this year and next.

These extraordinary efforts will help bring emergency food assistance to hundreds of thousands of people in need, and remind the South Sudanese people of the compassion and generosity of the American people as they face the most extreme crisis this young nation has known since its independence in 2011.


Dina Esposito is the Director of USAID’s Office of Food for Peace

Feed the Future Just Published a New Report – So What?

Tjada Mckenna

Tjada Mckenna

We sat down to chat with Feed the Future’s deputy coordinator for development, Tjada McKenna, about Feed the Future, its latest results, and where we’re at in the fight to end hunger.

Q: Help our readers understand the contextual importance of this report. Why food security, why now?

To answer that, we need to go back in time a little, to 2007 and 2008. The world wasn’t in the best shape. A food, fuel and financial crisis was threatening to push people back into poverty, just as we had started to make progress in getting people out of it. Food price spikes in 2007 and 2008 made it really difficult—in some cases impossible—for people around the world to buy staple foods like rice and wheat. Global stability was at stake, not to mention people’s lives and a whole generation of kids who weren’t getting adequate nourishment to grow.

But that really only provides half the picture. We also need to look forward in time, to 2050, when the world population is expected to exceed 9 billion people. How are we going to sustainably (and nutritiously) feed this many people? There’s a big question mark as to how we’ll do that and we think we’ve got a new approach to answer it.

Q: What’s so new and different about this “new” approach?

When President Obama took office, he was determined to reverse the negative course the world was on. So in addition to the critical distribution of food aid in crises, he mobilized global leaders and businesses to proactively “ramp up” their investments in agriculture to increase production and decrease hunger and poverty. History has shown us that stimulating growth in agriculture is a really effective way at ending poverty. And a lot of the farmers we’re targeting live in rural areas where hunger and poverty are concentrated. That’s another aspect of our approach: instead of trying to do all things everywhere, we’ve targeted our work in 19 specific countries and even within those we’re focusing on key regions and crops that have the greatest potential for reducing poverty and hunger for some of the world’s most vulnerable people, particularly women.

It’s about more than just agriculture too. World leaders committed not just to invest more, but to invest differently. Countries would take on greater leadership and donors would support them as they worked to grow enough to feed their own populations and connect people to the global economy to help feed the world. We’re essentially dealing with hunger today and hunger tomorrow. Feed the Future has been a big part of the U.S. contribution to this global effort as the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative.

Feed the Future provides credit opportunities to help smallholder farmers purchase agricultural machinery and teaches them how to use these tools to boost harvests. / Wasif Hasan, USAID

Feed the Future provides credit opportunities to help smallholder farmers purchase agricultural machinery and teaches them how to use these tools to boost harvests. / Wasif Hasan, USAID

Q: So Feed the Future’s been in motion for about four years now – what do we have to show for it?

That’s where our latest Feed the Future report comes in. We’ve never had data like this before for agriculture programs to really show what is happening as a result of what we’ve been doing. And we have a lot to show for it.

Last year we helped nearly 7 million farmers improve the way they work to adopt new and improved technologies and practices that help them grow more while using less land, water and other (often expensive) resources. We’ve also reached more than 12 million children with nutrition interventions designed to give them a healthy start to life so they have the same shot at being productive, happy adults as our children do. We’ve actually been able to replicate results similar to these for about two years now, so we’re really excited about taking them to scale now that we know our approach is working.

Q: What do these numbers mean?

They mean we now have evidence that what we’re doing works. They also show that leadership matters. President Obama put forth a vision for ending hunger—and then backed it up with monetary commitments—that encouraged global leaders to do the same. By collaborating toward a common goal, we’ve been able to get a lot more done and leverage a lot more resources than we ever could have alone.

It makes it all the more urgent for us to build on this momentum, continue investments, and scale our approach by bringing in even more partners from the private sector, civil society, academia, and science. The end of hunger is in sight! We’re just about on track to cut hunger in half by 2015, per the Millennium Development Goal. Feed the Future has been a large part of the U.S. contribution to achieving this goal.

Two years ago you may remember that President Obama challenged us to end extreme poverty by 2030 and the World Bank, USAID and others have already taken up the charge. Common vision and goals like these help propel us forward but also help us gut-check on progress. So far, so good, but we’re ready to go the distance and really end this. If we can end poverty, why not hunger? They’re inextricably linked and we can end both.

Market surveys with Tanzanian farmers, traders and retailers supported by Feed the Future help identify bottlenecks in the vegetable value chain. / Srinivasulu Rajendran, AVRDC

Market surveys with Tanzanian farmers, traders and retailers supported by Feed the Future help identify bottlenecks in the vegetable value chain. / Srinivasulu Rajendran, AVRDC

Q: So if ending hunger is actually a possibility now, when can we expect to see it end?

It’s really up to the international community to set a target date, but we’ll be a key voice in those discussions. President Obama’s leadership has already mobilized the world to fight hunger and poverty and helped set a goal date for ending poverty. We do know this for sure: We can end hunger in our lifetimes.

Q: What’s next? How do we get from these results to an actual end date?

The United States doesn’t have the resources to solve this problem by itself nor should we even try to. That’s why this new approach to focus our efforts, coordinate among donors and support countries in their own food security plans is so vital to success. So is the inclusion of all sectors in our work to improve food security, both in terms of public, private and nonprofit but also from a technical standpoint of health, hygiene and sanitation, policy reform, the way we deliver food aid, etc. We need to continue to work smarter.

We have the political will and global momentum we need to end hunger; we just need to sustain it. And we need to keep looking for outside-the-box ideas and approaches. USAID recently launched its Global Development Lab and its purpose is to do just that. Evidence tells us that one-size-fits-all just doesn’t work for development and we’re looking to continue to spur innovation and find new and improved ways to help people move out of poverty and hunger to self-sufficiency and prosperity.

Q: All right, on a closing note: If I’m a reader and I think your mission is really cool and want to be a part of it, what can I do to get involved?

The great thing about this story is it isn’t just about what the U.S. Government, businesses, civil society, or farmers are doing: It involves all of us. We really do need all types of people to be involved in our work. It’s not just about development professionals anymore; it involves small business owners, scientists, American farmers and ranchers, and banks.

If you’d like to work directly with Feed the Future and its associated U.S. Government agencies, you can go to the Feed the Future website and check out the Partner With Us section for opportunities and ideas—this includes student opportunities like fellowships. There’s also the Peace Corps, which is a great way to start serving. And USAID has a foreign service that includes agricultural scientists, private sector partnership experts, and economists. The State Department does too. There are a lot of ways to join.

You can help us keep the global conversation on food security going too. We have a hashtag (#feedthefuture) that gives you the ability to do that on a variety of public media platforms.

Explore our website, read our report, and stay tuned for more ideas and opportunities.



Tjada McKenna is the acting assistant to the administrator in the USAID Bureau for Food Security and the Feed the Future deputy coordinator for development.

Tajikistan Transformed: Feeding the Future


Map of Tajikistan

Map of Tajikistan

Twenty years ago I visited Tajikistan for the first time. Then a young USAID program officer, that journey took me south toward Khatlon Province near the border with Afghanistan.

Tajikistan faced civil conflict, and on that first trip I saw many buildings destroyed by war. I was there to inspect warehouses and observe humanitarian programs helping displaced Tajiks who barely had enough to eat. All the food I saw being distributed came from outside Tajikistan, donated by international donors in an effort to provide immediate relief.

Returning to Central Asia as USAID mission director in late fall 2013, I have since taken several trips to Khatlon Province, all organized around Feed the Future, arguably the single most important U.S. Government initiative in terms of addressing poverty issues in the poorest region of Central Asia. Undernourishment remains a critical challenge today in Tajikistan. Nearly one out of three children under 5 are “stunted” and nearly 7 percent are described as “wasted” – where their muscle and fat literally waste away.

Most households in Khatlon depend on remittances from fathers, sons and brothers working in Russia. Indeed, remittances represent approximately half the GDP, making Tajikistan the most remittance-dependent country in the world. Nearly one out of 10 Tajiks live in extreme poverty, on less than $1.25/day. Roughly the same proportion of Tajik women are undernourished.

Yet what I saw on these recent trips is vastly different and more hopeful than what I witnessed two decades ago. USAID programs, working with Tajik colleagues and counterparts, are now able to focus on growing food, not distributing emergency supplies. Feed the Future in particular is at the center of this effort, aiming to expand production, reduce poverty and improve nutrition.

Left: In Tajikistan, USAID used to focus on providing emergency food aid, including to this girl in Garm, Rasht Valley in 2006. / Janice Setser, Mercy Corps  Right: Today USAID programs are able to focus on growing food, not distributing emergency supplies. Feed the Future is also training young mothers in Khatlon Province, Tajikistan, on how to prepare more nutritious meals for their children. / USAID

Left: In Tajikistan, USAID used to focus on providing emergency food aid, including to this girl in Garm, Rasht Valley in 2006. / Janice Setser, Mercy Corps. Right: Today USAID programs are able to focus on growing food, not distributing emergency supplies. Feed the Future is also training young mothers in Khatlon Province, Tajikistan, on how to prepare more nutritious meals for their children. / USAID

Today USAID programs are able to focus on growing food, not distributing emergency supplies. Feed the Future is also training young mothers in Khatlon Province, Tajikistan, on how to prepare more nutritious meals for their children.

An entire younger generation no longer remembers a country that was once torn apart by war — and Tajikistan can finally experience a “peace dividend” of sorts.

Today, local farmers make their own cropping decisions, no longer forced into blindly following orders passed down from bureaucrats working far away. A full spectrum of issues is being addressed, ranging from building water-users associations, to educating farmers about their rights, to strengthening production value chains, to educating families about improved nutrition.

Feed the Future is a key driver of this change. Our programs in Tajikistan focus on the neediest districts of the Khatlon Province, itself one of Tajikistan’s poorest regions. Our efforts target women of reproductive age as well as children during the crucial ‘1,000 days’ period from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday. Feed the Future empowers Tajiks to pull themselves out of poverty and insecurity by giving farmers the tools and the skills to succeed. Reducing chronic hunger is essential to building a foundation for development investments in health, education, and economic growth. It is essential to the sustainable development of Tajik individuals and communities.

Women of Bokhtar district, Tajikistan label and pack the tomatoes collected from their greenhouses. / USAID

Women of Bokhtar district, Tajikistan label and pack the tomatoes collected from their greenhouses. / USAID

This is good for the people Tajikistan. But it is also good for the world, and, yes, for Americans back home. Tajikistan shares a long and porous border with Afghanistan. Our efforts to improve living conditions in Tajikistan therefore have a direct impact on regional security. Today, we have a unique opportunity to partner with Tajikistan as it moves away from a Soviet-style planning system toward country-led economic growth that will lay the foundation for long-term stability and prosperity.

One stop in my most recent trip included a meeting with a group of Tajik women. Unprompted, a little girl of about three held by one of them broke loose and walked over to where I was sitting, planting herself firmly in my lap for the rest of the meeting.

 The author with a young Tajik girl. / USAID

The author with a young Tajik girl. / USAID

While our conversation touched on many topics, what I remember most about that trip is the fact that this little girl is not a number or a statistic or even a “beneficiary” of a particular aid program.

 She is a real person, loved by her family and with a future ahead of her — one that Feed the Future is working to ensure is much brighter than would have been the case two decades ago. Projects like this involve real people with real hopes and dreams — and, in this case, a new generation that deserves a much better and more prosperous future.



Jonathan Addleton is the Mission Director in USAID’s Central Asia Republics Mission located in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Previously he has served as a U.S. Ambassador in Mongolia.

Reuniting Families Separated during Conflict in South Sudan

Violence and insecurity in South Sudan have forced more than 1 million people from their homes since mid-December. / Jacob Zocherman for Mercy Corps

Violence and insecurity in South Sudan have forced more than 1 million people from their homes since mid-December. / Jacob Zocherman for Mercy Corps

Violence and insecurity in South Sudan have forced more than 1 million people from their homes since mid-December.

Among those fleeing are thousands of children lost from their families — heaping tragedy upon tragedy. Some were sent to safety by parents who could not afford a journey to safety themselves. Others became separated from their parents during the recent violence that has ravaged their country and left them traumatized.

Tracing the families and reunifying these separated children is challenging due to the constant movement of people searching for safe havens in and out of the country. Unaccompanied children face being trafficked, abused, illegally adopted or forcibly recruited by armed forces.

Since the onset of violence December 15, USAID through its Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance (OFDA) has helped launch five programs dedicated to identifying and supporting boys and girls who have become separated from their families and reuniting them with surviving caregivers, when possible. One of the programs USAID is supporting established a group of community outreach workers working within the displaced community to identify lost children. Another is training and supporting social workers who are on the ground addressing the needs of children who become separated from their families. Working alongside the U.N. Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and other partners, USAID has helped identify more than 3,000 unaccompanied, separated, and missing boys and girls–and have helped reunite more than 400 with their families so far.

Nyawal Ruach, a young mother from Bor, is just one of the people USAID has helped. Ruach lost track of her two sons amid the chaos of a big tank shooting. She was gathering clothing from their home so they could flee the violence when her two boys – who Ruach had tied together to ensure they would not get lost from each other – went missing. They had followed a group of people running to escape. Ruach was able to find her sons through a center USAID is helping support to trace families and rescue lost children.

Thousands of South Sudanese children are separated from their families or unaccompanied by an adult and at risk of being trafficked, abused, illegally adopted or forcibly recruited by armed forces. Photo Credit: Phil Moore / AFP

Thousands of South Sudanese children are separated from their families and at risk of being trafficked, abused, illegally adopted or forcibly recruited by armed forces. / Phil Moore, AFP

USAID is also providing safe and nurturing spaces for displaced children to learn, play and engage in psychosocial support activities—helping South Sudanese children cope with the traumas of war while reducing their exposure to risks for exploitation and abuse.

The people of South Sudan face a steady stream of challenges as violence and insecurity continue to mount. And in a twist on tragedy, the outbreak of famine is becoming a real possibility for up to 1 million people over the coming months if there is not increased fast and sustained aid to the world’s newest country.

No child should be forced to uproot. In South Sudan, more than 380,000 children have already faced violence and displacement when they should be playing in the safety of their own communities. Helping these devastated families reunite may be one of the few bright spots in the midst of this horrible conflict.



Eileen Simoes is the Response Manager for the South Sudan Response Management Team

Small Changes Make a Big Difference in Madagascar

On a hill amidst unkempt grass and wild vegetation in the outskirts of Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo, stands a shabby-looking wooden hut, surrounded by banana trees and other makeshift shelters.  A few feet below, a middle-aged woman is attending to a few customers that come to buy a few items at her food stand. Her name is Honorine, and the hut is her home. Her life has substantially improved thanks to a USAID-funded food security program.

Christopher La Fargue, FFP Officer, buys fruit at Honorine’s shop. Photo: Bruno Rasamoel

Christopher La Fargue, FFP Officer, buys fruit at Honorine’s shop. Photo: Bruno Rasamoel

ASA or Ankohonana Sahirana Arenina (promotion of vulnerable families) is one of the five social protection centers partnering with CRS in Antananarivo to provide technical assistance and training, as well as food rations, to poor families in this teeming city.  Annually, the center identifies about 40 extremely vulnerable households –mostly headed by women—and provides them with training in an income-generating activity that will help them earn a decent living. The beneficiaries come to the center for a 10-month training, and receive a monthly food ration of corn-soy blend, fortified cooking oil, and rice. On completion of their training, the beneficiaries are given some equipment to help start the business of their choice.

Julienne is one beneficiary of the project, who received training and equipment from the center. She started pig farming in 2010, and she has ever since increased her livestock by 300 percent. Using the sales proceeds, she has embarked on brickmaking and is now building a house for her family.

Germaine used to do the laundry for a living, which would barely help her make ends meet. Joining the center helped her save some money, which she used to buy a sewing machine and start a sewing business. She then diversified into chicken farming and earned enough money to send her children to school. The farming is doing very well, and Germaine is now turning her mud house into a brick home.

Bodo, another beneficiary, is the widowed mother of five children. She felt ostracized earlier because she was poor, and her neighbors and relatives would look down on her. Her life improved soon after joining ASA as she could earn and even save money thanks to chicken farming. She was able to buy new clothes for her and her family, and the neighbors are now more considerate and respectful. Our life has changed thanks to the center and USAID’s support, she said.

With the help of the center, Honorine started a small food stand selling homemade soup, doughnuts, noodles, fruit, and other vegetables. Although she still lives in a wooden hut near a garbage dump, her life has improved. With the money that she saved, she bought two pigs that are kept in the countryside, and she is confident her life will continue to improve, as she has seen with her fellow ASA peers.

Ms. Sarah, the ASA project coordinator spoke highly of the project that helped many vulnerable families improve their living condition. Eight hundred and forty families in Antananarivo have benefited from the project since its start in 2009, and 2,549 people among the five social protection centers throughout the country. Although the food security program ends in June of this year, and the distribution of food rations ceased last September, her center will continue to provide training to the most vulnerable in the city, and she is seeking to expand the ASA activity with other donor support.

The Power of Household Consumption and Expenditure Surveys (HCES) to Inform Evidence-Based Nutrition Interventions and Policies

Understanding food consumption patterns and nutrient intakes is essential for informing evidence-based food and nutrition policies. The international food and nutrition community, however, faces a lack of accurate and reliable data.

Conducting Household Consumption and Expenditure Surveys (HCES)

Though individual dietary surveys, such as 24‐hour recall and observed-weighed food records, are typically viewed as the gold standards for measuring food consumption, they carry prohibitive costs and their methods are complex. For example, during a 24-hour recall, interviewers must exhaustively ask respondents to report the amounts of all foods and beverages consumed by each household member in the previous 24 hours and provide detailed information on the ingredients and preparation methods of mixed dishes. Few of these surveys have been conducted in developing countries and most at only a small scale, calling into question their validity in formulating national nutrition policies.

Household Consumption and Expenditure Surveys (HCES)—a collective term for multipurpose household surveys—are being increasingly recognized as an inexpensive and more readily available alternative for tracking food consumption patterns. More than 700 surveys have been conducted, covering over one million households in 116 low- and middle-income countries. HCES generally collect food consumption information using the recall method and a predetermined list of food items (potentially leaving out important foods). Interviewers ask respondents whether each food item was consumed during a given recall period (typically the last 7 or 14 days) and if so, how much was consumed. While HCES may be less precise than individual diet surveys by design, their relative costs and benefits make them a practical tool for enacting national policies and identifying communities where nutritional interventions are highly needed.

Among their strengths, HCES are:

  1. Routine: HCES are typically conducted every three to five years
  2. Low-cost: HCES are processed and paid for by institutions outside the health/nutrition sector, and thus relatively inexpensive to use for secondary analysis
  3. Representative: HCES are statistically representative at the national, and usually subnational, level
  4. Comprehensive: HCES contain detailed household food consumption and acquisition information and allow direct observation of the agriculture and nutrition nexus, through markets, value chains, and other such pathways

Since 2012, USAID’s Strengthening Partnerships, Results, and Innovations in Nutrition Globally (SPRING) project has focused efforts on improving HCES as a source of more relevant and precise food and nutrition data. Recently, SPRING provided technical guidance in using HCES for designing and monitoring food fortification programs—the process of adding micronutrients to food. SPRING presented the economic feasibility of maize flour fortification in Kenya, Uganda, and Zambia using HCES data at a meeting with the World Health Organization. SPRING has guided discussions on introducing a fortification monitoring module and identifying standard indicators to use in current or planned HCES at a workshop with the East, Central, and Southern Africa Health Community Technical Working Group on Monitoring and Evaluation. SPRING is also sponsoring a symposium on HCES at this year’s Micronutrient Forum Global Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The conference is expected to draw hundreds of policymakers, program managers, and scientists from around the world.

The use of HCES data constitutes an exciting and unexploited opportunity to address food consumption information gaps. SPRING will continue to work with USAID and partner organizations to repurpose HCES to make them more attuned to countries’ nutrition policy needs and strategies. Country programs and funders are eager to adapt these tools and use the information they provide to improve policies, programs, resource allocation, and ultimately, nutrition outcomes.

SPRING is funded by USAID under a five-year cooperative agreement. SPRING’s experienced implementation team consists of experts from JSI Research and Training Institute, Inc., Helen Keller International, The International Food Policy Research Institute, Save the Children, and The Manoff Group. For more information about SPRING’s work in HCES, visit

Could Your Business Benefit from Collaborating with Feed the Future? Find Out

This blog post originally appeared on the Feed the Future blog

So, you’re interested in how your business can team up with the Feed the Future initiative. Or, maybe you’re just a food or agriculture business with resources, expertise, and a desire to help the poor and expand into new markets.

Tomato farmers receiving support from USAID's  Tanzania Agriculture Productivity Porgram. Photo Credit: Fintrac

What if there was a tool to help you explore the concept (and benefits) of collaborating with the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative and share your interest in a partnership?

Well, now there is.

The Public-Private Partnership Opportunity Explorer is the latest addition to the private sector engagement hub on the Feed the Future website. This interactive online tool is the first stop on your way to a partnership with Feed the Future.

Use it to determine if a partnership is right for your company and, if so, get the ball rolling.

Who can use it?

This online tool helps level the playing field for companies of any size and in any location to work with Feed the Future.

Feed the Future is looking to partner with private companies that:

  • Work in an area pertinent to improving food security and nutrition
  • Work or want to work in Feed the Future countries and sectors
  • Can bring new resources that meet minimum resource requirements
  • Bring a win-win mentality to achieving business and development goals

Does this sound like you? Check out Feed the Future’s private sector engagement hub to learn more and get started.

How does it work?

Screenshot of Feed the Future websiteUse this tool to quickly learn about public-private partnerships, find out where Feed the Future works and where your company might fit in, and submit your interest.

As the lead agency for this U.S. Government initiative, we have a private sector team at USAID that will review your submission and help you navigate the process of working with the U.S. Government. We’ll match you with the right agencies and opportunities to address your interest and provide a go/no-go answer.

The goal is to reduce the transaction costs on both sides—public and private—of initial exploration. We know time is money for businesses, and this tool and our team are here to maximize it.

On a technical level, you need to have Javascript and cookies enabled on your desktop computer in order to use the tool at this time—the cookies expire when you close your browser, so we’re not saving any information you haven’t formally submitted to us.

Why did you create it?

Feed the Future has some big goals for global food security and we can’t achieve them alone.

The development landscape is changing and we’re embracing the critical role that private investment plays in it, including growing and maintaining local capacity and markets. Private businesses bring efficiencies, resources, markets, expertise and innovation that can ultimately create the conditions where development assistance is no longer needed.

We want to work with companies who see partnerships as making good business sense. So, through Feed the Future, we’re engaging the private sector to develop joint work that is integral to core business strategies and global food security. Together we have a greater and more lasting impact than if we worked alone.

This tool helps streamline the discovery process, get us on the same page, and get to a decision quickly.

When can I expect to hear back from Feed the Future?

Feed the Future will follow up with a response to your interest within two weeks. Why so long? Given that this is a whole-of-government initiative drawing on the strengths of ten U.S. Government agencies, there are many points of entry to a public-private partnership. We take the time to look at your idea and help match you to the right opportunity.

If we decide that working together is a good fit, it can take anywhere from six months to a year to get a partnership off the ground. You can learn more about all the phases of partnership and what to expect on the Feed the Future website.

It takes some time, but it can be totally worth it. Your business can achieve its goals while being a part of something even greater: fighting hunger, poverty and undernutrition.

Start the process today by visiting Feed the Future’s website and checking out the tool.

Want more?

Webinar to Highlight How Extension, Technology, and Behavior Change Combine to Improve Agriculture and Nutrition

This blog post is by John Nicholson, SPRING Knowledge Management Manager, JSI Research and Training Institute, and Kristina Beall, SPRING SBCC Project Officer, The Manoff Group.  SPRING is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and helps to strengthen country efforts to scale up high-impact nutrition practices and policies.

Leveraging the power of social capital and technology, Digital Green has pioneered the use of low-cost, community videos as an agriculture extension tool that allows farmers to record and share successful techniques with other farmers in their community. The work began as a part of Microsoft Research India’s Technology for Emerging Markets team in 2006, eventually spinning off into the non-governmental organization (NGO), Digital Green. This young, dynamic NGO has already helped produce over 2,600 videos that have been shared with more than 150,000 rural households across India, Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Ghana. Digital Green’s grassroots approach — producing context-specific videos by the community and for the community—improves the efficiency of existing agricultural development efforts by a factor of ten times, per dollar spent.

Example of Digital Green video production

Example of Digital Green video production

USAID’s global nutrition project, Strengthening Partnerships, Results, and Innovations in Nutrition Globally (SPRING), is partnering with Digital Green in Odisha, India, to test the feasibility of adapting this video-based methodology specifically to promote high-impact maternal, infant and young child nutrition, and hygiene practices. Under the SPRING/Digital Green model, a local NGO partner – VARRAT – has worked in Keonhjar District of Odisha to produce 10 videos that showcase key nutrition and hygiene behaviors, often celebrating early adopters of these important nutrition practices. Videos are shared among small community women’s groups on a weekly basis using portable, battery-operated pico projectors. A robust suite of analytic tools, coupled with feedback from community members, then provides Digital Green and its partners with timely data to better target both production and distribution of videos. The collection of 10 nutrition- and hygiene-specific videos produced under this collaboration can be viewed along with the corresponding adoption analytics on the Digital Green website.

On December 17th, SPRING will host a webinar examining the Digital Green work through a multispectral lens, focusing on their unique approach and the growing partnership to scale-up technology to improve both agricultural and nutrition outcomes. Visit the SPRING website for more information and to register for the webinar.

This webinar is part of SPRING’s continuing collaboration with the Bureau for Food Security and Bureau of Global Health to identify promising approaches to better link nutrition and agriculture.

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