March 10, 2016
Morgana WingardFeed the Future has helped Ethiopian farmers like Dhaki Wako Baneta connect to reliable markets. With a higher income from selling milk, she's able to save during the rainy season so she is more resilient during the drought season.

As a foreign service officer at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), I’ve worked in a variety of countries throughout my career, including Ethiopia, where I learned first-hand how recurrent drought pushes people further and further into poverty. And, having worked with the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative for the past 6 years, I’ve also had the opportunity to see just how far the country has come in recent years in its development.

Between 2011-2014, Ethiopia reduced child stunting by nine percent. Now, livestock herders are earning more. Ethiopian farmers have boosted their maize and wheat yields to feed more people and make more income to rise out of poverty. The United States has supported Ethiopians to achieve these advances.

As Ethiopia faces one of its worst droughts in decades, many of these gains are being put to the test. And, this drought is different from those past:

  • The current El Niño weather event has compounded the drought’s severity and scale, outstripping Ethiopia’s capacity to cope on its own and leaving an additional 10.2 million people in need of emergency food assistance and many farmers without seed to grow more.
  • Ethiopia is more prepared than ever to face such a crisis, thanks to leadership of the Government of Ethiopia and its commitment to improving resilience, food security and nutrition—which we’ve supported through efforts like the Feed the Future initiative.

Rapid Response

USAID’s response is also different from those in the past. We’re responding sooner rather than later to prevent a worse emergency and to help Ethiopia protect its hard-won development gains. What’s more, we’re responding with the full force and tools of USAID. Our humanitarian efforts are providing immediate food and water.

Our development efforts—which benefit from already being on-the-ground and, in the case of Ethiopia, being pre-programmed with built-in emergency response tools when needed—are adapting to help families prevent income loss and meet their needs while maintaining assets like livestock instead of offloading them at rock-bottom prices for quick cash. And, when families do need to offload cattle, that livestock traders are able to offer them a decent price.

We’re also helping farming families in drought-affected areas of Ethiopia get the seed they need to grow more food. Poor rainfall last year has left many farmers without seed, so USAID announced last week that we are rapidly expanding an existing partnership with the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and the Ethiopian government to provide urgently-needed seed to drought-affected maize and wheat farmers. USAID’s nearly $4 million investment in this effort leverages an additional $1.5 million from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to help purchase seed and deliver it to more than 226,000 of the hardest-hit households—comprising 1.35 million people—as the current planting season ends and the next begins.

Through pre-existing Feed the Future projects in Ethiopia, CIMMYT has established strong partnerships with seed growers and farmers in Ethiopia and will purchase most of the emergency seed from these sources, which include public and private seed companies, farmer cooperatives, and seed associations.

This effort also makes newer, more disease-resistant wheat varieties and nutritionally-enhanced and drought-tolerant maize varieties available to farmers. These conventionally bred varieties reflect years of USAID investment and CIMMYT’s work to develop improved seed for Ethiopia and are a complement to the existing local markets.

Farmers Help Farmers

The drought has—so far—had less of a negative impact in the areas where Feed the Future programs are located. Farmers, organizations, and systems in these areas are also stronger, having benefited from Feed the Future activities to strengthen agriculture systems. These areas are proving critical to Ethiopia’s own response to crisis within its borders.

The Ethiopian government and the World Food Program (WFP) are buying maize from farmers and farmers’ groups, who have a greater supply to offer thanks to Feed the Future’s investments.  This surplus will help feed Ethiopians in areas of need during the current drought. Additionally, farmers’ groups supported by Feed the Future are supplying maize to the Ethiopian government and regional governments, who will distribute it to families in need in drought-affected areas.

Partnership plays an important role. A USAID and DuPont Pioneer partnership has helped smallholder maize farmers increase their yields of improved maize varieties with heartier seeds and optimal growing techniques. Farmers’ groups in Ethiopia are currently sourcing maize from these farmers to sell to the WFP for distribution to drought-affected areas in the country.

We remain committed to helping Ethiopia build local capacity for lasting food security. Time is of the essence, and even as we act now to meet immediate needs, we must not lose sight of the fact that investing in long-term food security—which the U.S. Government supports through efforts like Feed the Future—makes a difference.

Our development efforts help countries grow stronger, making them better able to respond to, mitigate, and recover from disasters when they happen. And, as we’re seeing in Ethiopia, they can give us a springboard from which to rapidly respond, with our partners, to help stop a bad situation from getting worse.

This post originally appeared as a guest commentary on the Chicago Council for Global Affairs'  Global Food for Thought blog. 

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October 3, 2015
Ellie Van Houtte, USAID

Last week, world leaders officially adopted 17 new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the U.N. General Assembly to build on progress made through the Millennium Development Goals. The SDGs, or Global Goals as they’re called, aim to focus and spur action toward making the world a better place by 2030, including ending extreme poverty and hunger.

To achieve such aspirational goals, everyone will need to work together. Governments can’t do it alone and we need the private sector to play an increasingly significant role. This is nothing new for Feed the Future — we’ve been pioneering a new model for development that draws on partners from all sectors, including business, to make an impact in a short amount of time against poverty and hunger.

We had the chance to talk with one of these Feed the Future business partners during a USAID event around the U.N. General Assembly. Lystra Antoine, the director of Sustainable Agriculture Development at DuPont Pioneer, shared how collaboration between governments and businesses (and others) can drive impact.

What’s an example of a partnership effort you've seen that’s demonstrated impact? 

I was so honored to be a part of President Obama's recent trip to Africa, where he met a smallholder farmer named Gifty. Gifty is planting DuPont Pioneer seed through participation in a program called the Advanced Maize Seed Adoption Program, which is jointly funded by the U.S. government's cornerstone global food security initiative, Feed the Future, and DuPont in conjunction with the Ethiopian government's Ministry of Agriculture and Agriculture Transformation Agency. 

Through this program, Gifty obtained access to higher-yielding maize seeds and training services on how to more efficiently produce crops. With these tools, she was able to produce enough for her family and sell excess at market, increasing her income and going from barely making ends meet to being able to pay for her husband's medical bills, her son's education and her daughter's wedding. She — and many others in her community group that she has since introduced to the program — have transformed their lives by participating in this program.   

This is just one example of how partnerships that involve host country governments, donors like the United States, private sector, local civil society, and smallholder farmers can make a tremendous difference. In Ethiopia alone this program aims to reach 100,000 Ethiopian farmers and is expected to generate more than $25 million in additional income per year, and to increase the availability of food and basic nutrition for nearly half-a-million children by 2018.

What innovations has DuPont developed that others organizations can use to advance global food security?

We know that the United States and many other donor and development partners are looking into ways to use technology as a tool to improve the lives and livelihoods of others, and access to data is central to that. 

At DuPont, we are very proud of our partnership with the Economist Intelligence Unit to develop the Global Food Security Index, which is an open source of rich information that anyone can use to better analyze the complexity of food security — including food availability, affordability, nutritional quality, safety and the impact of price volatility in more than 100 countries. That data can in turn be used to assess risk factors, influence policy and drive action to address food and nutrition security at the country level. 

How do you think efforts like Feed the Future and DuPont's Sustainable Agriculture activities can best promote achievement of the SDGs? 

It is important to recognize that tremendous progress has been made, in large part because we all share a common goal. Thanks to U.S. leadership through President Obama and partners involved in Feed the Future, the issue of food security remains high on the global agenda. And it has again been formalized in goal 2 of the SDGs, which aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improve nutrition and prioritize sustainable agriculture.

At DuPont, through our commitment to innovation, we are contributing to the achievement of several of the SDGs, from food security and health, to sustainable water management, access to clean energy and sustainable industrialization. Without access to healthy, nutritious foods, we cannot expect communities to be able to be resilient in times of crisis, nor able to fully prosper and participate in the global economy. 

Working collaboratively, we will support access in ways that consider the need to feed a growing population while remaining sensitive to a planet facing climate change and limited natural resources. 

Involving the private sector helps to further market-based solutions, leverage innovation and insight, and hasten results on the ground. No one company, country or actor can do it alone; but together, we can achieve a well-fed, healthy and sustainable planet for this and future generations.  

July 28, 2015
Daniella Maor, USAID

Gifty Jemal Hussein met President Obama this week during his visit to Ethiopia. Read on to find out how she transformed her life from a subsistence existence to extraordinary success that’s benefiting her entire community—with a little help from the United States.

Gifty was a typical smallholder farmer in Ethiopia. She grew Ethiopian banana, corn and a few coffee plants in her backyard to feed her family and earn a meager income to make ends meet.

Harvests were low and unpredictable. Land was limited. This was life.

But 2013 was different.

In 2013, Gifty planted her small patch of land with new corn seeds, using techniques she’d learned from a development program in her community. She used just the right amount of fertilizer and checked on the corn stalks as they grew. When it came time to harvest them, she exclaimed to herself: Thank God! Her crops had yielded three times as much corn in a single season as before.

It seemed almost too good to be true. She touched every ear of corn she’d harvested. The results were real.

Gifty was so surprised, happy and proud of her harvest that she laid the ears of corn out in front of her house for all to see. She went door-to-door telling others and inviting them to see it with their own eyes. She took a quarter of the harvest to her four adult children in the capital city.

Her neighbors, impressed and happy for her, wanted to know how she’d managed to turn a sparse backyard garden into an abundant farm.

Unlocking Agriculture’s Potential

Gifty had been a leader in her community before 2012, but it took on new meaning now. People were paying more attention. She had newfound confidence that life could change—and she would be the one to make it happen.

Gifty went to the local government and asked to lease one hectare of land – for free – for her women’s group to farm. She rented a tractor with her own money to plow the land. She gathered other women in her community to help her sow the corn seeds that had given her a bumper harvest last season and then apply fertilizer, which she bought on her own.

As the corn grew, she brought the 20 women in her group to show them how tall the plants were getting. Then she asked each to invest in this farming venture – to become stakeholders in their shared success. Each woman paid a portion to compensate her for the cost of the tractor and fertilizer. The following season, they also helped buy the seeds.

“It isn’t reasonable to invest in something that doesn’t give you a return,” Gifty said. “So I don’t invest in the [old seed], instead I invest in the new hybrid seed.”

Gifty and her group opened a savings account for the income they were earning from better corn harvests. With it, they’re making investment plans for the future and have a safety net for tough times.

Women representatives visited from other districts to see the group’s bountiful corn crop. They were so impressed that they gifted Gifty a set of farm tools to honor her for her initiative and entrepreneurship.

Taller plants and larger ears of corn translated into more income for Gifty. She’s invested the returns into her farming enterprise, buying a cow, which she’s leveraged into an additional revenue stream by selling the milk and calves. With this money, she’s purchased extra seeds to grow more nutritious and lucrative crops liketeff, cabbage, carrots and potatoes. She’s expanded the number of coffee plants she grows too.

Gifty is also using her income to improve her family’s standard of living. She built a new home—her proudest undertaking. She’s paid for her husband’s medical treatment for a disability he has and for her son’s final years of high school. She even had enough to contribute to one of her daughters’ weddings.

From Individual Success to Global Impact  

Fortunately, Gifty’s story is less and less unique these days. Rural communities across countries like Ethiopia are establishing a new normal: One with less poverty and hunger and with more prosperity and opportunity.

Smallholder farmers, with help from the United States, are moving from barely surviving off their farms to running profitable farming businesses—ones that give them enough income to pay for things like school, health care and new homes.

Rural communities across countries like Ethiopia are establishing a new normal: One with less poverty and hunger and with more prosperity and opportunity.

In Ethiopia last year, the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative helped more than 218,000 producers like Gifty use new technologies and management practices to increase their yields.

And through nutrition programs, the U.S. Government reached more than 1.3 million young children in Ethiopia with help—including training more than 20,000 adults in child health and nutrition.

Results like these add up to impact, in the lives of individual farmers like Gifty and – increasingly – nationwide. Between 2011 and 2014, stunting – a measure of malnutrition often associated with undernourishment – among young children dropped in Ethiopia by 9 percent. This impact reflects the leadership and efforts of the Government of Ethiopia as well as U.S. Government.

The United States has led the world in taking hold of the tremendous opportunity to unlock the transformative potential of agriculture to connect more people to the global economy and pave a path out of poverty through initiatives like Feed the Future and partnerships like the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.

In fact, as President Obama was meeting with Gifty today, we announced that the program that helped Gifty jumpstart her success with new seeds – a public-private partnership between Ethiopia, the United States and DuPont Pioneer – is expanding to reach 100,000 more farmers and help them flourish, much like Gifty has.

The work is far from finished, but the results and impact are promising. The future looks bright for rural families like Gifty’s.

This post originally appeared on the USAID blog.

Related Links 

March 30, 2015
Lauren McCarty, USAIDFarmer Debela Ofosea, center, poses with his four sons on the front porch of his home. Left to right: Abiyhomi, Waygyi, Iffyi and Desalegn

As two of the oldest farmers in their village, brothers Debela and Bedasa Ofosea have spent their entire lives farming in a small village outside Nekemte, Oromia, in Ethiopia. Both brothers, in their fifties, have seen only gradual improvements in farming techniques over their lifetimes, however, the biggest changes have come in just the last couple of years.

“After attending training, we started row planting instead of just plowing with oxen. We are also using improved types of fertilizer and new seeds,” said Debela. “All of these improvements will make for better yields, not one part alone.”

The brothers are two of the initial participants in the Advanced Maize Seed Adoption Program (AMSAP), a New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition partnership between USAID, DuPont Pioneer and the Government of Ethiopia. Launched in 2013, AMSAP aims to increase the productivity of smallholder farmers by giving them new, high-quality options for maize seeds as well as improving seed distribution and post-harvest storage.

Increasing farmer productivity is important for Ethiopia’s economy, with more than 80 percent of the population earning a living from agriculture and more than 8 million smallholder maize farmers. Yet, the demand for maize currently outpaces supply. Ethiopia’s smallholder farmers are unable to take full advantage of this market opportunity because they struggle with poor yields due to low-quality seeds, and post-harvest losses due to insufficient storage, mold, vermin and theft.

“Farmers in Ethiopia are very similar to farmers in other countries. We view them as change agents and consider that their role is very significant in ensuring food security in Ethiopia,” said Lystra Antoine, director for agricultural development at DuPont Pioneer, an Iowa-based company that develops hybrid plant seeds for farmers around the world to best fit the conditions in which they will be grown. “Through AMSAP, we are giving these farmers a risk-free way to experience a new technology. Once they experience the technology, they are then willing to invest in it.”

In addition to providing improved maize seeds, the AMSAP partners use demonstration plots to show lead farmers in Ethiopia the hardiness of the new hybrid seeds, as well as best practices for planting, weeding, fertilizing and harvesting to generate the highest yields. These lead farmers serve as guides to other farmers in the surrounding communities who want to purchase new seeds.

USAID’s Agribusiness Market Development project, funded by the U.S. Government global hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future, and operated by ACDI/VOCA in Ethiopia, trains extension workers, farmers’ cooperatives and agriculture training centers to disseminate information on the improved seeds, post-harvest loss prevention, storage, marketing and best farm management practices. USAID also worked with the non-profit CNFA to create the Ambo Community Farmer Service Center, the first resource of its kind in Ethiopia where farmers can buy quality inputs and learn new techniques.

“In one day, we could have more than 100 people come to get service here,” said Gadisa Gobona, owner of the Ambo Community Farmer Service Center in Oromia.

With the success of the first center, five more centers have opened in Ethiopia to provide additional support to local farmers.

Previously, most farmers bought their seeds and inputs from cooperatives, which usually did not offer any choice of seeds. Now, through the centers, farmers have options for quality tools and inputs as well as getting agronomic and veterinary advice. The DuPont seeds sold in Ethiopia are genetically modified to produce greater yields in the country’s climate.

“The AMSAP partnership is actually a fantastic example of a very well-functioning public-private partnership in Ethiopia,” said Khalid Bomba, CEO of the Agricultural Transformation Agency. “AMSAP brings together one of the world’s leading agriculture companies, DuPont Pioneer, along with one of Ethiopia’s most important development partners, USAID, to bring to fore a market-based solution for smallholder farmers.”

The AMSAP partnership illustrates how to make operational government and corporate commitments made under the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition launched at a G-8 meeting in 2012, and achieve the goals of Feed the Future.

“The AMSAP model highlights the potential of countries and companies to work together to grow markets in countries like Ethiopia with tremendous agricultural potential and lift poor smallholder farmers and their families out of poverty with better and steadier incomes,” said Dennis Weller, USAID mission director in Ethiopia.

Bedasa and Debela both attended agriculture extension training in 2013 and planted their fields using the new hybrid seeds and updated farming techniques. With measurable growth in their yields after one season, the brothers planted even more improved maize seeds in 2014 and look forward to greater harvests in the future.

Each brother has about 4 hectares of land, half planted with maize as of 2013. They planted only a portion of the maize crop with the new seed that first year. After the success of the first season, the brothers will plant maize almost exclusively with the new seed.

Since 1926, DuPont Pioneer has been working in agricultural communities to help local farmers increase their yields and promote sustainable farming practices. The company now operates in more than 90 countries around the world, expanding its mission to help as many farmers as possible.

“The growth of the corn is faster and more vigorous this year [2014]. We expect better yields than we had before,” said Bedasa. “The maize this year has one to two more ears per stalk and is a deeper green when we look at the leaves.”
Across Ethiopia’s Amhara, Oromia and Southern Nations, Nationalities and People’s regions, farmers have seen similar results from the new maize seed and improved farming techniques. In 2013, the AMSAP program started with 320 lead farmers whose average yields more than doubled. In 2014, the program grew to 10,000 farmers, and AMSAP partners expect to reach 32,000 farmers by the end of 2015.
With so much early success, in February 2015, USAID, DuPont Pioneer and the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture signed an amendment to the original AMSAP agreement to scale up the project with additional resources to reach 100,000 farmers through 2018.
Improved yields mean big changes for the brothers’ households and their community. After planting new seeds and using new farming techniques last season, Debela has been able to do home improvements.
He proudly tells visitors, “We improved the condition of our house last year, changing a grass roof to a corrugated tin roof.”
Both brothers see more long-term gains as well.
“With better yields, we will be able to continue paying for school for our kids and keep improving our lives. In our community, many have already been able to construct new houses in town,” said Debela. “We will also be able to save money in the bank and use it to buy farm tools in the future.”
“We currently shell by hand and it is very tedious,” said Bedasa. “We will improve even more when we can afford a mechanical sheller.”
With better harvests from quality seeds and improved farming techniques, the brothers and other farmers in the community say they will move beyond subsistence farming and strengthen their ability to withstand increasing weather or economic shocks. Greater income also means the farmers can pool their resources to invest in new, especially mechanized, farming equipment that will substantially increase efficiency and accelerate productivity for years to come.
When asked how well they get along working so closely together, each brother starts laughing. “We will continue to work together if our yields continue to improve,” said Debela.
This article, by Lauren McCarty, originally appeared in USAID's Frontlines.
February 26, 2015
Ipyana MwakasakaZubeda Mduruma explains the benefits of using high-quality seed to a group of women in Tanzania.
The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) is implementing the Scaling Seeds and Technologies Partnership (SSTP), with support from Feed the Future through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), in order to help smallholder farmers in developing countries gain access to seeds and fertilizers that can raise agricultural productivity. 
The partnership works in six of the 10 countries that are part of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition – Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Mozambique, Senegal and Tanzania – where it helps governments strengthen their agricultural value chains and increase production and storage of high-quality seeds to help farmers grow superior crop varieties. 
To achieve these goals, the partnership works through grantees with proven on-the-ground capabilities. A little more than a year after the initiative began, SSTP’s efforts are paying off, and women-led seed companies are among the key beneficiaries. Three of these enterprises in Ghana and Tanzania illustrate the successes.
Janet Gyimah-Kessie, founding chief executive officer of Josma Agro Industries Ltd. in Ghana, is a seed business entrepreneur who is changing smallholder farmer lives with large quantities of high-quality cassava planting material. Formerly a banker, she ventured into seed production after realizing that the country had a huge appetite for cassava and cassava-derived foods such as fufu (boiled and pounded cassava), but farmers were not growing improved varieties because they thought the roots were not suitable. In 2011, Josma approached AGRA for support in multiplying and disseminating 280 tons of certified cuttings of improved cassava to more than 1,000 smallholder farmers. Building on this success, SSTP in 2014 provided over $200,000 to scale up improved cassava dissemination and reach 12,000 smallholders farmers. 
Another Ghanaian firm, Innovations Village Seed Company Ltd., is producing high-quality maize and cowpea seed, as well as cassava cuttings with SSTP support. Afua Ansre, a development specialist, runs the company, which empowers women in her community to be more food-secure through profitable farming. Her plans are ambitious: produce 450 tons of maize seed, 30 tons of cowpea and 1.2 million cassava cuttings to reach more than 60,000 smallholders. 
In Tanzania, local seed company Aminata is achieving similar results. Led by Zubeda Mduruma, a career crop breeder, Aminata is producing high-quality seeds for staple food crops such as maize and sunflower. Working with groups of women farmers, the company initially produced seed on contract for other established firms. However, through a grant from SSTP, Mduruma has improved her firm’s capacity, increasing annual production to 500 tons, all of which is sold to Tanzanian smallholders. Her business also provides agricultural training and support to local women, some of whom have started agribusinesses of their own. 
Through this partnership, Feed the Future is helping smallholder farmers, especially women, access improved seeds and transformative technologies, so they can produce more nutritious food to reduce poverty and achieve agriculture-led economic growth. 
January 30, 2015

Ah, Super Bowl Sunday. It’s an American tradition! I have to admit, I’m a die-hard football fan and I, like millions of Americans, look forward to this weekend all year. If your household is anything like mine, Super Bowl Sunday is not just about football, it’s about gathering friends, cheering on your team (Go Hawks!), and indulging in a day away from those New Year’s resolutions.

I’m talking snacks. Lots of snacks.

From chips and dip to pizza and spicy wings with ranch dip, food is definitely at the forefront of the American conscience this, of all great American weekends. In fact, next to Thanksgiving, Super Bowl Sunday is the top day for food consumption across the United States.

In case you missed it, this past Thanksgiving we challenged Feed the Future’s fans to help raise awareness about global hunger -- and how solvable of a problem it is -- by entering a sweet potato recipe contest featuring an MVP (and football shaped!) tuber, the mighty sweet potato.

Now, with the big game upon us, consider this: Just as your Thanksgiving meal wouldn’t be complete without all the fixings -- stuffing, mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie -- your tasty snack splurge wouldn’t be possible without a thriving agriculture system as well.

Feed the Future’s game plan is to help improve agriculture systems around the world as a way to reduce hunger, poverty and undernutrition -- from farm to market to table (or the couch, as it were, this Sunday).

As you gear up for the big day, check out some of the star players in our lineup of foods we’re helping farmers make a better living from that just might feature in your game day snack spread too -- or, if you’re looking for menu ideas, provide some inspiration. Whether you’re hosting a party or meeting up with friends, they’re sure to secure the top spot as snack time MVP:  




Challenges: Chickens are susceptible to infectious diseases and heat stress from climate change.

Forward Progress: Feed the Future has teamed up with the University of California, Davis, to identify genes for breeding heartier chickens that resist a devastating disease and tolerate hotter climates.

As Seen on Snack Menus: Chicken wings (a game day classic!)


Common Beans


Challenges: Soil pathogens and heat stress from climate change both hurt the common bean.

Forward Progress: The U.S. Agency for International Development and U.S. Department of Agriculture have teamed up with U.S. universities such as Michigan State University and Penn State to breed better beans.

As Seen on Snack Menus: Bean dip and chili.




Opportunities: Chickpeas are nutritious, delicious, and use less water than other crops.

Forward Progress: The U.S. Agency for International Development has teamed up with an Ethiopian food processor to help them launch a nutritious chickpea product using chickpeas purchased from local farmers.

As Seen on Snack Menus: Hummus with pita chips.




Opportunity: Breed goats that thrive in challenging climates.

Forward Progress: As part of Feed the Future, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has teamed up with the global research community to develop and share data on goat genomics. This data can then be used to breed better goats that are resilient to climate change and could even produce more milk.

As Seen on Snack Menus: Red pepper and feta dip, cheese plates.




Challenge: Maize severely impacted by drought and climate change.

Forward Progress: Feed the Future has teamed up with the international research community and businesses to develop maize varieties that grow well even when water is in short supply (including during droughts!).

As Seen on Snack Menus: Corn chips and salsa.

Strong agricultural systems are made up of farmers, businesses, organizations, governments and consumers that produce, buy, consume, regulate and use foods like the ones listed above. Through Feed the Future, we’re working with all those groups in select developing countries to strengthen their contributions and connections -- from farmers’ fields to the global economy -- to tackle hunger and poverty and end them, for good.

While you’re celebrating the big game this weekend, join me in taking a second to reflect on the progress we’ve made as a global community in ending hunger and poverty. We have quite a few more yards to go, but for the first time in history, the end zone is within our reach.

How are you helping tackle hunger? What counts in your playbook as a touchdown against poverty and hunger? Let us know your thoughts this weekend on Facebook and Twitter.

January 29, 2015
CIMMYT-IndiaHeat-resilient hybrid varieties of maize (right) are better able to survive rising temperatures that can seriously damage traditional varieties (left).
Climate model studies show South Asia is heating up, with often devastating consequences for smallholder farmers. Sharp increases in temperatures adversely affect maize production in tropical regions, so varieties that will thrive despite water deficits and soaring temperatures play an important role in adapting agriculture to a changing climate. 
That’s why Feed the Future supports the Heat Tolerant Maize for Asia (HTMA) project, a public-private alliance that targets poor farmers in South Asia whose crops are vulnerable to weather extremes and climate change. By developing and deploying heat-resilient, hybrid (i.e. produced by cross-pollinated plants) varieties of maize, the project gives these farmers a chance to thrive in the face of increasingly volatile weather conditions. 
One of the project’s strategies for increasing the scale of heat-resilient maize varieties is to link up with companies that are already established among farming communities and local markets, including DuPont Pioneer, Kaveri Seeds and Ajeet Seeds. These private sector partners give HTMA greater access to regional marketing networks, vastly increasing the project’s reach and impact.
Companies who participate in the HTMA project contribute expertise in product evaluation and marketing as well as both in-kind and cash resources. For example, DuPont Pioneer has committed to generating 1,000 improved genetic lines per year as part of the project in order to accelerate the pace of heat-tolerant maize development. As a result of this collaborative research and investment, one new set of elite, stress-resilient hybrid varieties is rolled out every two years and becomes available for large-scale adaptive trials followed by broad dissemination. Companies find this approach very attractive because they have access to unique heat-resilient hybrids that are rarely available to their competitors.
In consultation with all project partners, HTMA devised a well-defined product allotment and licensing policy. According to the policy, partners are allotted exclusive rights to specific, marketable hybrid seed varieties, while the source lines remain international public goods that can continue to be used for future research. Partners are also encouraged to use early generation lines from which proprietary lines could be developed. Thus, HTMA is leveraging pre-commercial products for marketing and helping partners strengthen their germplasm base, which will enable continued development and delivery of stress-resilient products after the project concludes. 
The new varieties that have resulted from the Heat Tolerant Maize for Asia project show great promise to be taken to scale and deployed in tropical climates beyond South Asia.
November 6, 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced new data today demonstrating the impact of the U.S. Government's innovative global hunger efforts, including the Feed the Future initiative led by USAID in partnership with 10 other federal agencies. Just weeks after the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced the number of chronically undernourished people in the world has fallen by more than 100 million over the last decade, new data in Zambia and Ethiopia underscore the impact of U.S. leadership in the fight against global hunger and undernutrition.

With Feed the Future support in Zambia for policy reforms and work with smallholder farmers, Zambian maize farmers more than doubled their use of fertilizer and significantly increased their adoption of high-yielding hybrid seeds. This contributed to a 32 percent rise in maize production between 2013 and 2014. And in Ethiopia, Feed the Future and other U.S. Government initiatives have contributed to remarkable declines in stunting; preliminary data from a recent national survey reflects the stunting rate has dropped an estimated 9 percent over the past three years-resulting in an estimated 160,000 fewer children under five chronically malnourished

"Through Feed the Future, we are harnessing the power of science, technology and innovation to unlock opportunity for the world's most vulnerable people," said USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, who serves as coordinator for the whole-of-government initiative. "By creating and scaling cutting-edge solutions to our most pressing agricultural challenges, we can help the world's most vulnerable people move from dependency to self-sufficiency-and out of the tragic cycle of extreme poverty." 

For more than 60 years, the United States has provided consistent global leadership in addressing food security and investing in agricultural development, research, innovation and humanitarian assistance. Between the 1950s and 1980s, American support for the Green Revolution helped the world more than double cereal production, helping millions of people gain self-sufficiency and transforming the economies of countries in South Asia and Latin America.

Continuing that legacy, Feed the Future serves as the United States' flagship global hunger and food security initiative. Led by USAID, Feed the Future draws on the skills, expertise and resources of 10 other U.S. government agencies in a coordinated approach to reduce global hunger, poverty and undernutrition. The primary objectives are to improve food security by increasing productivity and incomes as well as reducing undernutrition in 19 priority countries. Feed the Future focuses on improving the lives of smallholder farmers, especially women.

In 2013 alone, Feed the Future helped nearly 7 million farmers and food producers use new technologies and management practices-such as high-yielding seed varieties-on about 9.9 million acres of land. Moreover, Feed the Future reached more than 12.5 million children with nutrition interventions that can help ensure a stronger and more successful future. Feed the Future and its complementary efforts, such as Grow Africa and the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, have helped to leverage $10 billion dollars in responsible private sector commitments in African agriculture-the majority from African businesses.

A recent FAO report on food security found that, globally, over 805 million people lack enough food to eat and approximately 165 million (or 1 in 4) children under the age of five are stunted due to lack of proper nutrition received between pregnancy and a child's second birthday.  The reduction in stunting rates in Ethiopia has been supported by Feed the Future's approach that focuses on this critical 1,000-days period-the most important time for a child's cognitive, intellectual and physical development. Every year, undernutrition contributes to 3.1 million child deaths-45 percent of the worldwide total. It also costs low- and middle-income countries up to 8 percent of economic potential. While the world has seen a 37 percent drop in stunting since 1990, Feed the Future is committed to a world where every child has the potential for a healthy and productive life.

Feed the Future reflects a new model for development that leverages partnerships with a wide range of stakeholders, including leadership from countries themselves. In Zambia, Feed the Future promoted local government policies that encouraged private-sector competition to buy smallholders' maize and by helping local farmers access improved seeds and fertilizers through private-sector providers. These policies helped the country achieve its largest-ever maize harvest.

Last month, bipartisan members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives introduced legislation to codify and strengthen Feed the Future's comprehensive approach to cultivating the potential of agriculture-sector growth. Senators Bob Casey (D-Pennsylvania), Mike Johanns (R-Nebraska), John Boozman (R-Arkansas), Christopher Coons (D-Delaware), Ben Cardin (D-Maryland), and Johnny Isakson (R-Georgia) sponsored the Senate bill (S. 2909). Representatives Christopher H. Smith (R-New Jersey) and Betty McCollum (D-Minnesota) sponsored the House bill (H.R. 5656). The legislation seeks to codify the U.S. Government's commitment to the productivity, incomes and livelihoods of small-scale producers, particularly women, by working across agricultural value chains and expanding farmers' access to local and international markets. It strengthens the initiative's existing accountability mechanisms and establishes parameters for robust Congressional oversight, as well as monitoring and evaluation of impact toward this commitment. For details on each bill, view the news releases on each from Sen. Casey and Rep. Smith.

This press release originally appeared on the USAID website. Learn more about sustaining Feed the Future progress on the USAID website. 

August 13, 2014

In May 2014, the Government of Zambia reported that the country achieved a record harvest of 3.4 million metric tons of maize for the 2013-2014 cropping season – a 32 percent increase over the previous year’s harvest. In Zambia, maize is the primary staple crop, and over 90 percent of smallholders rely on it for food security and income.

This year’s record bumper crop is partly thanks to good rainfall patterns, but it was also made possible through the Government of Zambia’s leadership on market-friendly policy in the agriculture sector, which it has adapted over the past year with support from Feed the Future.

In the past, government subsidies to smallholder farmers and millers helped keep maize prices low, but they also drove private sector maize buyers out of the market. When the Government of Zambia announced last year that it would eliminate subsidies for maize millers (a move advocated by Feed the Future through support for the government’s National Agricultural Investment Plan), some groups worried about the impact the policy change would have on staple food prices. But with reinforcement and guidance on pricing and market activities from the Indaba Agricultural Policy Research Institute, an independent agricultural think tank supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development and Michigan State University under Feed the Future, the Government of Zambia rode out the lean season and refrained from intervening in the maize market.

While this policy change was initially controversial, the payoff for Zambian smallholders has been remarkable. With the government having significantly reduced its role in maize interventions, the private sector responded by moving into the market immediately: competition for smallholder maize production increased, and farmers received an average of 56 percent higher prices in cash for their harvest.

These higher prices incentivized smallholder farmers to invest in their production by purchasing more improved inputs, such as hybrid seed and fertilizer, further boosting yields. In the 2013-204 growing season, smallholder farmers bought 106 percent more commercial fertilizer than in the previous season. With private sector channels servicing the needs of farmers, fewer farmers needed to rely on the overburdened government input program.

The Government of Zambia’s perseverance in grounding agricultural policy on a strong evidence base despite some political challenges is now paying dividends in food security and income for smallholder Zambian farmers and their families. The policy change has also improved both maize prices and market conditions, creating a wide array of new efficiencies and opportunities along the agricultural value chain.

August 8, 2014
Stephane Tourné

It’s been a year since Nimna Diayte met President Obama in Senegal when he stopped by for a chat at her booth at the Feed the Future Agricultural Technology Marketplace.

The president was impressed by Nimna’s can-do attitude and the way she had become a community leader and entrepreneur.

Nimna made quite the impression! In fact, President Obama even mentioned her earlier this week during a discussion at the U.S.-Africa Business Forum in Washington, DC.

As she told President Obama, a few years ago she decided to convene other women farmers to form an association because she realized that by working together, they could leverage skills, tools, and products to become more competitive in the agriculture sector. She received support from Feed the Future through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to access bank credit to buy seed and fertilizer, enabling her to boost her yields and earnings. By the time she met the president, she had made enough to even buy a tractor!

“When I met President Obama, he challenged me to drive it myself,” said Nimna, noting that she’s so busy running her business now that she hires drivers to help. She generates additional income by renting the tractor to other farmers when she isn’t using it.

Since the president’s visit last year, Nimna has paid off the loan she secured with Feed the Future’s help. The farmer association she was heading at the time has changed its legal status and is now a full-fledged limited liability cooperative – one of the first in Senegal to adopt this innovative business status. Nimna is the current president of the association, and its 2,023 members accessed loans to buy enough seeds and inputs last year to sow 4,000 hectares and produce 11,000 tons of maize, achieving yields that were double the national average.

Nimna reports that all members sold their maize very well this year. The association was awarded a short-term loan of $150,000 so members collectively could produce and sell high-quality maize to an industrial buyer. “It was difficult to convince our members to sell through the co-op because business is good in their own communities," she said. "But since we are increasing our production, it’s important for the future that we build relationships with the large millers."

In total, the association’s members made more than $2 million last year in revenues from selling maize. Nimna yielded 63 tons of maize out of the 23 hectares she planted; some of it certified as seed, which sells at a premium.

“[The association] gives a good service and farmers now accept that we charge a small fee on the inputs as well as on the sales to cover management costs,” she said, adding that they have started training farmers in other communities about quality control. “We also use clean new bags that have an association brand on them,” she said.

The miller we sold to is very pleased – our maize is just like the imported one now.

She suggested that this helps make their products more competitive. “The miller we sold to is very pleased – our maize is just like the imported one now. At one point there will be a lot of maize to sell and [the association] must be ready with high quality maize to be taken seriously by the very large mills.”

Nimna has encouraged the association to adopt new practices to mitigate risks associated with external factors that can impact farmers, such as the effects of a changing climate. The association is adopting a new rain-index insurance promoted by Feed the Future, for instance, which pays farmers automatically when rainfall totals are low.

“Last year, 47 farmers got a payment because rain in their area was not sufficient. This way they could cover their loan and start again next year,” she said. “This year [the association] is promoting this new insurance service to all farmers getting loans. And we get a little fee from the insurance company for the trouble.”

Her passion for farming and ability to support others’ success as a leader inspired Nimna to run for mayor in her local rural district. Ultimately, she was not elected, but she sees it as a good experience and maintains the upbeat, positive outlook she shared when she met President Obama, saying of her mayoral run, “Better luck next time!”

With business acumen and a little support from Feed the Future, Nimna is just one example of many entrepreneurial farmers thriving in Africa.  

Additional Reading

Jeff Leitner, EngilityNimna (center right) and her board of directors. Their association is fast becoming a major player in the Saloum region’s maize sector in Senegal.


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