Washington — The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has partnered with innovation giant DuPont and the government of Ethiopia to help 30,000 smallholder farmers in Ethiopia produce more maize.
The maize improvement partnership was announced January 24 in Davos, Switzerland, in conjunction with the World Economic Forum, an annual gathering of public, private sector and academic leaders. DuPont said it will invest more than $3 million over the next three years in the collaboration, which USAID says is expected to increase smallholder maize farmers' productivity by up to 50 percent and reduce their post-harvest losses as much as 20 percent.
USAID supports Ethiopia's efforts to encourage collaborations to produce more commodities, including maize, an important food source and a significant contributor to the country's economic development, USAID says.
"Investing in smallholder farmers remains the key to unlocking agricultural growth and transforming economies," said USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah.
The announcement caps a year of activity involving USAID, DuPont and Ethiopia.
In January 2012, USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah visited DuPont's agricultural research facility in Delaware. He said that USAID is "harnessing the power of this research" by partnering with DuPont's subsidiary Pioneer Hi-Bred and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to develop varieties of maize that efficiently use nitrogen. Pioneer is the second-largest seed company in the world.
"By partnering together, we are able to reach more smallholder farmers, helping them dramatically improve yields with less fertilizer," Shah said.
In May 2012, President Obama and other leaders of the Group of Eight (G8) major industrialized nations, African leaders and corporate leaders introduced the global New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition at the G8 summit in Washington. The alliance initially endorsed the plans of Ethiopia, Ghana and Tanzania to coordinate public and private investments with national agriculture development priorities.
In its plan, Ethiopia said it would facilitate foreign and national private sector investment and technology transfers in agricultural production and marketing, including improved seeds, fertilizer, irrigation, crop protection, training, post-harvest processing, storage, roads and financing.
DuPont said that it would work through the New Alliance to join Ethiopia's government to help the country's smallholder farmers benefit from its research and produce more food.
In September 2012, representatives of USAID, the World Bank, Ethiopia's government and other stakeholders met in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, to discuss ways to advance Ethiopia's New Alliance aims and to build commitments and accountability into the country's agricultural and investment policies.
"We understand that local solutions, local acceptance and community collaborations are critical to improving food security in Africa and around the world," DuPont Chief Executive Officer Ellen Kullman said in May 2012. She added that DuPont also would recruit local talent to run its African research and operations and ensure that its development solutions are economically, socially and environmentally sustainable.
"The USAID and DuPont collaboration with the government of Ethiopia marks a significant step forward toward improved productivity of Ethiopian maize farmers through enhanced agronomic practices and inputs," James Borel, the company's executive vice president, said in Davos.