November 16, 2012

Across Eastern and Southern Africa, poor farmers struggle to grow enough food to feed their families, generate income, and escape poverty. But declining soil fertility and a changing climate are eroding crop yields, while increasing threats from weeds, pests, and plant and animal diseases leave smallholder farmers vulnerable to catastrophic losses.

To find innovative, sustainable farming strategies that address these challenges, a recently initiated Feed the Future program led by the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture is linking poor farmers across Tanzania and Malawi with local, regional and international research partners. Through their participation in research, these farmers are helping USAID-sponsored scientists identify and integrate the multiple technologies needed to transform agricultural production in key agro-ecosystems and are dramatically reducing the time between the development of research innovations and their widespread adoption by farmers.

In the program’s first year, an initial round of pilot projects set important benchmarks in:

  • Participatory research: Researchers worked with local farmers to establish field trials of legume intercropping (growing two or more crops in the same farming area) and no-till soil management techniques in four districts of Malawi. They also collected baseline data and surveyed local farmers, including women, about cropping practices and key agricultural challenges in rural Tanzania and central Malawi. Researchers will build on these relationships with an active co-learning approach, collaborating with farmers to adapt combinations of promising agricultural technologies to local practices and agro-ecological conditions.
  • Local seed production systems: Many smallholder farmers lack access to high-quality seeds. This limits crop productivity, particularly for legumes, which hold many unrealized nutritional and agronomic benefits. To help meet farmers’ demand for more and better legume seeds, one pilot project contracted Tanzanian, Malawian and Zambian farmers to plant and multiply high-quality starter seed developed by agricultural research institutions, then sell the harvested grain for commercial distribution through local agro-dealers. The program distributed more than six tons of starter seed to its contract farmers, who have already used it to generate more than 30 tons of legume seed for commercial distribution.
  • Small-scale agricultural manufacturing: Along with poor-quality seed, smallholder farmers identified lack of access to labor-saving equipment as a major challenge. To address this, two projects built the capacity of small-scale entrepreneurs to meet the manufacturing needs of their local farming communities. The first project demonstrated that small, locally manufactured metal silos could reduce post-harvest grain losses from as high as 60 percent to below 10 percent, then invited Kenyan master artisans to train 20 local manufacturers to produce the silos. The second project tested the labor-saving potential of different rotary weeding tools and then trained 34 local blacksmiths to manufacture three different models.

In addition to laying a strong foundation for ongoing participatory research efforts with local farmers, these first-year activities also built crucial partnerships between international and African research institutions, government offices, national universities, and NGOs. As the most promising technologies are taken to scale, these partnerships set the stage for local food security stakeholders to extend successful approaches across broad agro-ecological zones, where many farmers face similar constraints and opportunities.

This story from Tanzania and Malawi comes from the Africa Research in Sustainable Intensification for the Next Generation (Africa RISING) program, part of Feed the Future’s efforts in Sub-Saharan Africa. In addition to the Southern African systems described here, the program is active in the Ethiopian Highlands and the Sudano-Sahelian zone (within Ghana and Mali). The three regional efforts are coordinated under an overarching research design, monitoring and evaluation framework, communications strategy, and collaborative management structure

November 7, 2012

Rhoda is a widow in Malawi who has sustainably intensified the productivity of her half hectare of land to feed her family through the use of fertilizer trees and other improved management practices. In this video, Rhoda and Jerry Glover, an international research advisor at USAID, talk about how Rhoda has been successful and how to replicate her story.

September 27, 2012

The following is an excerpt from U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's remarks at the Feed the Future: Partnering with Civil Society event around the 2012 U.N. General Assembly. Read the full remarks on the U.S. Department of State website. To watch a broadcast of the event and learn more, visit our U.N. General Assembly page

As a result of all the work of so many people over the last four years, food security is now at the top of our national and foreign policy agendas, as well as that of so many other nations in the world, because we understand it is a humanitarian and moral imperative, but it also directly relates to global security and stability. I’ve seen in my travels how increased investments in agriculture and nutrition are paying off in rising prosperity, healthier children, better markets, and stronger communities.

So we meet here today knowing that progress is possible, is taking place. But I want to say a few words about our civil society partners, because along with the private sector, which already is giving unprecedented support to agricultural development in Africa, and now through our New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, are really increasing their investment and their collaboration.

But civil society organizations are crucial to our success in both the public and the private sector. They have longstanding relationships in communities and valuable technical expertise, and they work every single day on their commitment to try to make the world a better place for all of us.

So today, I am pleased to announce a new commitment by civil society groups: InterAction, an alliance of 198 U.S.-based organizations—and Sam Worthington, its president, is here today—is pledging more than $1 billion of private, nongovernmental funds over the next three years to improve food security and nutrition worldwide.

August 21, 2012
Oris Chimenya, USAID/MalawiPresident Joyce Banda joins USAID/Malawi Mission Director Doug Arbuckle and USAID Chief Economist Steven Radelet for the official launch of Feed the Future in Malawi.

On July 12, President Joyce Banda of Malawi officially launched the Feed the Future initiative in Chiwamba, announcing the country’s flagship Feed the Future project, which will focus on integrating nutrition into Malawi’s agriculture sector. President Banda was joined by the Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Hon. Professor Peter Mwanza; USAID Chief Economist, Dr. Steven Radelet; and U.S. Ambassador Jeanine Jackson.

In her remarks, President Banda lauded Feed the Future’s value chain approach to food security, which entails making focused investments in areas ranging from production to consumption in order to improve agriculture and nutrition. She noted that Feed the Future supports and complements her own Presidential Initiative on Hunger and Poverty Reduction; both initiatives focus on diversifying Malawian agriculture, with special emphasis on the legumes and livestock value chains.

In addition, President Banda pledged that her government would provide basic services for development and urged the private sector to be a partner in Malawi by playing a major role in growing and developing the agriculture sector.

President Banda spoke to the critical role that USAID played in shaping her vision for development. As a participant in a USAID Women in Development study tour to the United States in the late 1980s, President Banda credits the trip with inspiring and enabling her to found Malawi’s active and vibrant National Association of Business Women nearly 20 years ago. USAID will manage the flagship Feed the Future project to integrate nutrition into Malawi’s agricultural value chains.

In his remarks, USAID’s Radelet praised President Banda on her decisive action to improve the nation’s macro-economic policy, and her focus on addressing the governance and human rights issues that were inherited from the previous administration. He also highlighted the U.S. Government’s sustained commitment to collaborate with the Malawian government to implement Feed the Future and other Presidential initiatives such as the President’s Malaria Initiative and PEPFAR.

As part of the launch ceremony, President Banda visited a local female farmer who raises dairy cows and grows groundnuts, pigeon peas, and maize. She also attended an agriculture fair that showcased Feed the Future’s value chain approach and highlighted innovations in the three focus value chains of Malawi’s Feed the Future strategy: dairy, groundnuts, and soya. The fair included presentations by food processors, seed companies, farmer organizations, research centers, and government departments. 

Feed the Future aims to raise agricultural productivity, increase household incomes, and improve nutritional status, targeting 270,000 households in South-Central Malawi.

Did you know that Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton recently visited a Feed the Future site in Malawi? Read more about her trip to Africa!

August 21, 2012
Oris Chimenya, USAID/MalawiSecretary Clinton is introduced to Malawi’s Minister of Agriculture and Food Security, Professor Peter Mwanza, by USAID Malawi Mission Director Doug Arbuckle as Malawi Foreign Minister (left) Ephraim Chiume looks on.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton traveled to sub-Saharan Africa from July 31 through August 10 for an extensive tour of the continent, which included stops in Senegal, South Sudan, Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, and Benin. The tour focused on numerous policy issues including democracy and governance, economic growth, peace and security, and women’s empowerment.

Secretary Clinton also notably highlighted Feed the Future and food security issues during her visit to Malawi, where she discussed economic and political governance and reform with President Joyce Banda, who assumed office earlier this year. Between FY 2010 and 2012, $51 million in Feed the Future resources were invested to strengthen Malawi’s agriculture sector.

Delivering remarks at the Feed the Future-supported Lumbadzi Milk Bulking Group, Secretary Clinton said, “We want to help agriculture in Malawi get even stronger, so that all the children will have better lives. And I particularly thank the women farmers who are here before me for their hard work, and their families, their husbands, and their children for being part of this successful program.”

The dairy sector is also a Feed the Future priority in Malawi and has expanded rapidly in recent years, thanks in part to U.S. investments. Over the past decade, milk production in Malawi has increased 500 percent.

Want to read more about Secretary Clinton’s travel to African countries? Click here to visit the Department of State’s trip page.

August 7, 2012
U.S. Department of StateDairy farmer Margaret Chinkwende explains her work to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Martin Banda of USAID in Lilongwe, Malawi.

Secretary of State Clinton visits farmers at Malawi’s Lumbadzi Milk Bulking Group. Dressed in locally produced “chitenge,” she joined the farmers in a dance to celebrate successful growth in the dairy sector. Chitenge are highly valued cultural depictions of special events in Malawi. 

During her visit, the Secretary noted that with U.S. support, Malawi’s dairy sector has grown, with milk production up 500 percent, and announced ongoing commitment to support agriculture in Malawi. Through Feed the Future, President Obama’s global hunger and food security initiative, the U.S. is supporting growth in the agricultural sector to help reduce poverty and undernutrition. Read more about Feed the Future’s initiatives in Malawi.

This post originally appeared on the USAID IMPACTblog.

More from Secretary Clinton's visit:

August 5, 2012

For the past decade, the United States has been supporting Malawi’s dairy sector, including this center. And thanks to your work and the support we have given you, Malawi’s milk production has increased 500 percent. Thousands of farmers have benefited. (Applause.) I was delighted to meet some of the farmers and the workers here. And I want to thank all of you. I’m also proud that we see a partnership with PEPFAR, so people can also receive HIV testing and counseling services here.

Now, Malawi and the United States are building on this success. Today I am pleased to announce that over the next three years, the United States intends to invest in Malawi more than $46 million to strengthen the entire agricultural chain. (Applause.) We are also proud to make a gift to this center of this purebread dairy bull—his name is Emanuel (applause)—and a liquid nitrogen network to help farmers throughout the region improve their dairy cattle breeding. As Secretary of State of the United States, I’m very pleased that I could be here to see all of you and to see Margaret’s cow, the technical testing, and the beautiful milk that I just observed.

July 19, 2012
USADFMercy Chitwanga says that she can support her children as a single mother for the first time thanks to a Feed the Future grant from USADF.

Mercy Chitwanga, a dairy farmer in Malawi, has seen big improvements in her farm’s milk production and her family’s income since 2011. Mercy is 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). The dairy sector is a Feed the Future priority in Malawi because of its high potential for growth.

The capacity building grant to Chitsanzo provides training in livestock management and strengthens market linkages for the cooperative’s members, many of whom are women earning a living wage for the first time. Mercy 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. For many of Chitsanzo’s dairy farmers, incomes have risen 35 percent in the last quarter alone.

The cooperative is also using funds from the grant to improve its financial and business management systems. The Chitsanzo members hope to use these systems to increase profits by producing higher-value commodities, such as yogurt and cheese. Mercy says that before receiving grant funding, Chitsanzo was operating without any formal financial management systems. Since 2011, when the grant was awarded, she has doubled milk production, saved significant money, and can now invest directly in her dairy business.

Under Feed the Future, USADF has invested $1 million since 2009 in Malawi’s dairy sector to improve production, develop domestic and export markets, and provide a nutritional food supply in several marginalized communities. This investment is expected to generate more than $3.5 million in new economic activity and support 3,900 farmers and their 20,000 family members.

Mary Malunga, partner director of Malawi’s National Association of Business Women, sees the Feed the Future investment as a major component of reducing extreme poverty in Malawi. “More farmers are now able to increase their household incomes because USADF has provided both the capital and the training needed to move small farmers to the next level, especially women,” Malunga says.

The dairy sector projects include working with local farmers to expand animal feed production and milk bulking stations (enabling dairy farmers to travel shorter distances to have their milk processed and tested before selling it). Working together with the Government of Malawi’s development priorities, Feed the Future is mitigating food shortages and strengthening sustainable market growth at the grassroots level.

USADF’s efforts under Feed the Future are part of the initiative’s whole-of-government approach. USADF is an independent federal U.S. Government agency devoted to increasing incomes, creating jobs, and giving hope to Africans in the most vulnerable households and communities. More than 75 percent of USADF grants assist local communities to increase food production as a means of generating greater incomes and helping improve access to nutritional food for local consumption.


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