26 November 2012

Africa: Agricultural Development Gets Doubled U.S. Investment

Washington — Through the Feed the Future initiative, U.S. government research investments in global food security more than doubled from $50 million in 2008 to $120 million in 2011, according a report released in October.

In addition, the 3-year-old Feed the Future has reached close to 9 million children through nutrition programs, helped nearly 2 million farmers adopt improved technologies and spurred private-sector partnerships in agriculture. It aims to reduce poverty and stunting in children under age 5 by 20 percent in its 19 focus countries by 2014, states the report Boosting Harvests, Fighting Poverty (PDF, 4MB), from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the lead agency for the initiative.

President Obama established Feed the Future in 2009 following a pledge of $3.5 billion over three years to help poor countries fight hunger through agricultural development. The initiative's focus countries were selected based on their level of need, their opportunity for partnerships and regional cooperation, their potential for agricultural growth, and their agricultural resources. Twelve of the countries are in Africa, four are in Asia, and three are in the Western Hemisphere.

The report shows increases in 2012 over 2011 in the number of rural households that benefited directly from U.S. support for agricultural development and in the number of people and organizations that applied new technology or management practices after receiving U.S. assistance. The value of agricultural or rural loans also increased, the report says.

The report states that by 2014, as many as 7 million children and women can improve their nutritional status as a result of U.S. investments in food security and coordination with other donors.

RESEARCH PARTNERS

The Feed the Future research strategy was jointly developed by USAID and the U.S. Department of Agriculture with experts from the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, which includes U.S. universities that specialize in agriculture.

The strategy has re-energized partnerships between U.S. universities and research institutes in the focus countries. For instance, a partnership between the University of California-Riverside and Burkina Faso's Environmental and Agricultural Research Institute developed drought-resistant cowpeas with the potential to increase yields of the crop in sub-Saharan Africa tenfold.

In another partnership, the University of Oregon is helping researchers in Cambodia and Vietnam develop an aquaculture management program to protect small fish in the Mekong River, a source of protein for people in the region.

The University of Florida and Michigan State University are working with the Brazilian Cooperation Agency and the Brazilian Agricultural Research Agency to help improve agricultural growth and nutrition in Mozambique.

PRIORITIZING WOMEN FARMERS

Another Feed the Future priority is promoting investments that empower women farmers. For example, it works to increase women's land rights in Tanzania and trains women to grow crops such as mangoes and cacao that can generate income and reduce hillside erosion in Haiti.

In February Feed the Future joined with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) to launch the Women's Empowerment in Agriculture Index. The index is the first tool to measure women's growing role In decisionmaking about farm production, their ownership of land, their leadership in their communities and their control of their incomes.

GOAL FOR 2022

In May 2012, the industrialized nations of the Group of 8, along with African countries and private-sector partners, launched the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition to lift 50 million people out of poverty in Africa by 2022 through inclusive and sustained agricultural growth. The private sector has committed $3 billion to the new alliance.

"The whole purpose of development is to create the conditions where assistance is no longer needed, where people have the dignity and the pride of being self-sufficient," President Obama said at the Symposium on Global Agriculture and Food Security in Washington on May 18.

An October 11 webcast featuring Jonathan Shrier of the State Department and Greg Gottlieb of USAID accompanied the release of the report.

More information about the Women's Empowerment in Agriculture Index is available on IFPRI's website.

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