8 Ways Feed the Future Fights Hunger with Science

October 12, 2016
Photo by Abdul-Rahaman Abdulai

This week, partners working together to achieve global food security – from researchers, scientists, the private sector, to NGOs, and more – gather at the World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa. They’re there to celebrate the latest achievements of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity, or availability of food in the world. 

This year’s four laureates, Maria Andrade, Robert Mwanga, Jan Low, and Howarth Bouis, all of whom are from Feed the Future partner organizations, are tackling some of the world’s biggest challenges in food security with game-changing research and innovations. 

The need for this type of research is clear. We won’t achieve the Sustainable Development Goals without food security and nutrition. And feeding a growing planet even as climate patterns change will require new approaches and innovations. 

Feed the Future is providing much-needed support to researchers and scientists around the world, like this year’s World Food Prize laureates, who are committed to helping build a food-secure future. 

Here are eight ways our investments are contributing to incredible progress: 

  • 1. In partnership with research institutes, U.S. universities, and the private sector, Feed the Future has supported the development of more than 900 innovations that are helping farmers increase yields, fight pests and adapt to changing climatic conditions. These innovations—like new drought-tolerant maize that is now being grown by more than 4.8 million farm families on 2.4 million hectares across Africa and pest biocontrol for papaya growers that has led to $1 billion in added crop value—are helping families prosper.
     
  • 2. Across Africa and South Asia, Feed the Future is driving efforts to get higher-yielding, drought-tolerant maize hybrids into the hands of smallholder farmers. Yields from these new hybrids are 30 percent higher during common mid-season droughts than those achieved by the older varieties. 
     
  • 3. And our efforts don’t stop at maize; in total, Feed the Future research investments have generated 198 varieties of climate-resilient crops.
     
  • 4. Many farming families struggle in their fight against diseases and pests that destroy their harvests. One such disease is wheat stem rust, which threatens wheat production around the world. Feed the Future supported the development of breeding and seed multiplication programs to overcome this threat. Today, Feed the Future rust-resistant wheat varieties are being grown onmore than 25 million hectares in Africa and Asia. 
     
  • 5. In Bangladesh, eggplant farmers are trying to cope with the stem borer, a pest that can make harvests unfit for the market. In response, Feed the Future and our partners developed a pest-resistant eggplant that is poised to benefit millions of consumers across Bangladesh and help farmers ensure their produce meets market standards. This is just one example of the 144 disease- and pest-resistant crop varieties Feed the Future has helped generate. 
     
  • 6. Feed the Future’s research efforts also translate into better nutrition for families. One outcome of these investments is the orange-fleshed sweet potato, which is a rich source of vitamin A – a nutrient that is commonly lacking in the diets of the poor. The powerful orange-fleshed sweet potato is being recognized at this year’s World Food Prize. Three researchers from the International Potato Center—Drs. Andrade, Mwanga, and Low—are being acknowledged for their pioneering work in the development of the orange-fleshed sweet potato. Eight Feed the Future focus countries in Africa have embraced these sweet potatoes as an effective strategy to combat vitamin A deficiency. In Uganda alone, more than 100,000 farming households are growing and feeding them to their families and in Ghana, the sweet potato may become the country’s most popular crop in the Northern Region, where vitamin A deficiency is prevalent. 
     
  • 7. The fourth honoree, Dr. Bouis, the founder of HarvestPlus, was instrumental in breeding high-nutrient staple crops. Feed the Future has supported his organization’s work to scale up the production and marketing of biofortified crops.
     
  • 8. Resilient crops and nutritious sweet potatoes are just a few examples that show how research and innovation are helping end hunger and uplift lives around the world. Feed the Future teams up with more than 70 top U.S. colleges and universities along with many partner country research and educational institutions to forge innovative solutions in a variety of areas to global hunger, poverty and malnutrition.

As we work toward a food-secure future together, let’s not forget to celebrate this year’s World Food Prize laureates and all of our partners in research who are helping advance food security and reach a healthier, more prosperous world. 

Later this week Feed the Future will publish its latest data, stories and results that show downward trends in poverty and stunting. Stay tuned!