The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has recently funded startup programs aiming to address global poverty at several universities. The agency hopes investments will promote innovative projects that will be economically sustainable once start-up dollars run dry.

“The old model was we need something built, we hire a contractor,” USAID head Rajiv Shah said. “The new model is solve these huge and challenging problems with innovators and entrepreneurs who can come together and create the kind of solutions that can scale up to reach tens of millions of households.”

Development labs at seven major universities so far have received funding from USAID. The labs are field-testing a variety of new products, ranging from hand-held medical diagnostic technology to sanitation devices.

While diverse, all products are consistently cheap enough to dispense broadly and efficiently, according to a report from the Los Angeles Times.

Most recently, the agency granted Kansas State University $50 million towards their Feed the Future Initiative.

“With four Feed the Future Innovation Labs now hosted by the College of Agriculture and K-State Research and Extension,” said dean of the College of Agriculture at Kansas State University, John Floros. “USAID is making a nearly $100 million investment in Kansas State University’s ability to provide leadership to the global food systems research, teaching and extension efforts.”

Feed the Future works to promote research and innovation, expand proven workable technologies, and expand nutritional programs for global food producers and their families. Last year alone, the campaign expanded new technologies and management to more than 7 million farmers

Another project endorsed by USAID is Gram Power, an entrepreneurial firm considered a pioneer in off-grid renewable energy in India. This project was kickstarted by Yashraj Khaitan, a UC Berkeley student originally from India.

“I wanted to use technology to work on something high impact,” said Khaitan.

The firm’s model is projected to vastly expand electrical power to Indian homes, according to vice president of infrastructure at Google and guide to the Gram Power effort, Eric Brewer.

“We are looking for ways to find more Gram Power type projects,” said Ticora Jones, director of university-based projects for USAID. “We want to populate a pipeline of innovators.”

Gabrielle Sennett

Sources: USAID, LA Times
Photo: The Guardian,

poverty in africa
A new report released by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) claims the Feed the Future program has bettered the lives of millions of people who suffer from poverty and chronic hunger. In 2013, Feed the Future reached 7 million farmers, teaching them how to achieve a higher crop yield by using new technologies, and provided vital nutrition to 12.5 million malnourished children.

The program, which is the U.S. government’s global health and food security initiative, was established by the Obama Administration in 2010 and aims to reduce extreme poverty and starvation around the world. Feed the Future asserts hunger and poverty are inextricably linked and cyclical, and breaking this cycle will promote global prosperity and stability. Currently, the initiative focuses on 19 countries, which were selected based on level of need, opportunity for partnership, potential for agricultural growth, opportunity for regional synergy and resource availability. These countries are located in Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean.

Feed the Future is led by USAID, and works alongside other federal agencies, including such organizations as the Peace Corps, the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the U.S. African Development Foundation, to achieve its goal of reducing poverty and hunger by at least 20 percent in each area that the program is established.

In order to break the poverty cycle, the program establishes important relationships with impoverished countries to strengthen their agricultural growth, empower women, educate people on proper nutrition and eco-friendly farming and create partnerships between the private sector, civil society and research community. By working on the ground, Feed the Future has made real, tangible progress.

Countries where Feed the Future has achieved the most success are Senegal, Bangladesh and Honduras. In Senegal, dependence on food imports has fallen significantly, specifically in regard to rice. The country’s rice imports have fallen by more than 20 percent and the country has grown enough rice to feed 400,000 Senegalese for one year. In Bangladesh, rice crop yields increased by 20 percent, and in Honduras, horticulture sales increased by 125 percent, which enabled more than 4,300 families to move above the poverty line of $1.25 a day.

In addition to these advancements, Feed the Future has also brought in billions of dollars of fundraising. For agricultural progress in African countries alone, $7 billion in private sector funds were raised. The organization also holds events, such as symposiums and summit meetings, to educate audience members on different branches of the initiative, and meet with world leaders to discuss further advancements of Feed the Future.

According to USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah, Feed the Future is not only “pioneering a new model of development,” but “delivering results that are changing the face of poverty and hunger.” The full progress report released by USAID can be found here.

– Taylor Lovett

Sources: All Africa, Feed the Future, The New York Times

Small Farmers New Agriculture Methods
When this issue of global poverty and hunger is discussed, one topic is often central to the conversation is the impact of small-scale farmers. In the developing world, these farmers are essential not only for providing food for their communities, but also for creating jobs and improving the local economy. While many experts are adamant that encouraging small farmers to participate in the “global cash economy” – meaning that farmers operate primarily to sell crops for cash – is the most effective way to diminish global poverty, others are advocating for a new approach.


New Methods Aid Small Farmers


This new method focuses on “non-mentised agriculture” and acknowledges other factors besides the sales of surplus crops as a way to alleviate hunger and poverty. Another term for this new method is the concept of ‘value-chains,’ the link between “input suppliers, farmers and markets.” The Gates Foundation, the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, USAID’s Feed the Future, and the G8’s New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition support the utilization of value-chains and are confident in its ability to decrease global poverty.

Value-chains differ from the cash economy model by acknowledging that, although farmers need to earn money from their crops, not all of the crops will be sold on the market. One way farmers are doing this is by switching from growing cotton, which is strictly a cash crop and harmful to the environment, to other types of food crops (like rice, maize and soybeans in Ghana). Value-chains also call for more interaction between small farmers, markets, financiers, equipment services and other forms of agriculture training.

By working with these other groups, small-scale farmers will be able to better financially manage their farms and decrease production costs in order to increase surplus crops and earn a profit. With this method, financers also have the opportunity to invest in small farms. It is through improving agriculture strategies and creating business-minded farmers that profits will begin to increase not by farming primarily cash crops. However, because the chain-value method does not rely on many cash transactions, any economic improvements for farms go widely unreported. Once government officials develop a better tool for measuring such progress in the agriculture community, the impact of the chain-value will be better understood.

– Mary Penn

Sources: Al Jazeera, Vibe Ghana
Photo: Vocabulary

Many think of them as a fun salty snack for baseball games, or a key ingredient in the classic PB&J, but for a large group of women in the eastern province of Zambia where nearly 85 percent of the labor force works in agriculture, peanuts are a way of survival and the means to a better life. Peanuts are the number one crop grown in this area by women. To improve the efficiency of the production and sale of this crop would mean a huge increase in their quality of life.

One project by President Obama’s Feed the Future initiative is working to teach female peanut farmers how to double their yield of peanuts, and increase their product market by producing a variety of different peanut products, like peanut oil and peanut butter. The initiative is partnering with the Zambian Government Agricultural Research Institute to train the women to become certified to grow higher quality hybrid seed varieties. Selling these seeds will bring in a much higher profit than the seeds the women were originally producing.

In order to help the women create different peanut products, Feed the Future provided a grant to the Katete Women’s Development Association, an organization that empowers women to grow crops like peanuts, for a peanut oil expeller, which will help the women enter into the market of peanut processing. The new presser will help the women’s work to remain sustainable even after their donors have left. As long as they have the expeller, they can work themselves to turn their peanuts into profitable peanut products.

Not only will the higher quality peanut crop and new processing technologies help the women increase their quality of life, but they will be working in a business usually reserved for men. In most other countries, men are primarily in charge of producing and marketing the product, giving them all of the opportunities for further success. Feed the Future’s work is giving women the same opportunities, and breaking the social boundaries of agricultural work in Africa.

– Emma McKay

Sources: USAID, CIA World Factbook
Photo: Delcampe

As President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama prepared for their trip to Senegal, South Africa, and Tanzania, Oxfam created a list of issues President Obama and African leaders should focus on. The main theme of this to-do list was to transform African institutions into models of transparency and accountability specifically when it comes to resources.Fe

Raymond C. Offenheiser, President of Oxfam America said, “Now it’s time for the President to help Africa realize its full potential by investing directly in local governments and citizens, helping to increase transparency of budgets, extractive industry revenues, and tax systems for governments.”

Extracting resources – and billions

Over the next decade over $1 trillion in natural resources will be extracted from the African continent. Africa currently exports more that four times the amount of aid the continent receives each year. But the money from exports is not being used to build roads, schools and hospitals for the African people. Booming extractives industries often cause suffering to the African people. Many have lost access to agricultural land and several have not even received adequate compensation when they were forced off their lands.

The Resource Curse

 Millions of Africans live on less than $2 a day. How can this be when there is an immense amount of resources in Africa? This resource curse has led to immense amounts of environmental damage and human rights abuses.

Offenheiser urges the President, “Tell your African counterparts to work to increase transparency in their budgets. Open payments from oil and mining companies to the light of transparency. Give African citizens knowledge about revenues from oil and mining companies. Let those citizens decide how to put their money to work for their own futures-let them claim their rights and fight for their own development.”

Lead by Example

 If America expects African institutions to be transparent and accountable than it must be transparent and accountable as well. Offenheiser explains, “President Obama should publicly announce when his own administration will release US government aid data, setting a ton on institutional transparency. As one of the largest aid donors in the world, The United States shouldn’t be one of the least transparent.”

Feed the Future

Offenheiser stresses the importance of agriculture in Africa. “The President’s Feed the Future initiative recognizes the central role that agriculture can play in driving economic growth and poverty reduction, but initiatives like the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which promote private sector investment in select African countries, must not distract from badly needed development aid to this critical sector. The President must address legitimate concerns raised by civil society organizations about this initiative.”

– Catherine Ulrich

Source: Oxfam, All Africa
Photo: Huffington Post


USAID is leading a project in Botanga that has significantly improved the country’s agriculture sector by aiding rice farmers. The program, The Agricultural Development and Value Chain Enhancement (ADVANCE), works by partnering large marketing companies and produce buyers with small rice farmers to expand rice varieties to meet consumer demand.

Since the program’s implementation two years ago, Botanga’s rice production has vastly increased and over 600 farmers have participated in ADVANCE. The Chairman of the Botanga Farmers Association, Mr Sule Alhassan, boasts higher rice yields, improved harvesting techniques and few losses after rice harvests.

Some of the ways ADVANCE has improved farming strategies is by introducing rice nurseries and increased spacing between rice plants to increase yields. The project has also helped farmers by providing assistance with pest control and diseases.

This project has been important in combating hunger in Botanga and is a successful model for other countries to adapt. By taking the approach of marketing, farmers are able to grow rice based on what is in demand that season. This not only ensures economic growth in the agriculture sector, but also increases food security in the region.

The Ambassador to Ghana, Dene Cretz, praised the project as being part of the solution to global hunger and poverty in accordance with President Obama’s Feed the Future initiative. Now that over 29,000 low-income farmers are participating in the ADVANCE program, all of Botanga can experience the benefits of the project.

– Mary Penn

Source: Ghana Web

USAID Zambia
A Zambian Government official, Bert Mushala, praised the American government for its foreign aid initiatives at the launch of two new USAID health programs in Zambia in June. According to USAID Mission director for Zambia, Susan Brems, the two projects, Thrive and Mawa, are aimed at strengthening nutrition within small farming households and with those living with HIV. The initiatives would also focus on enhancing economic opportunities for poor households, encouraging crop diversification.

The Thrive and Mawa programs, funded by USAID and the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), would benefit 21,500 people in the Eastern Province of Zambia. This runs parallel to USAID’s Feed the Future program which is aimed at assisting 200,000 smallholder farming households rise out of poverty, decreasing the percentage of malnourished children, and augmenting the production and consumption of nutritious crops. Zambia was selected as a Feed the Future country because of its vast capability for agricultural growth, along with its large food insecurity.

The Feed the Future program and the Thrive and Mawa programs are all focused around the Eastern Province due to the high prevalence of poverty there. As the Eastern Province Permanent Secretary Bert Mushala has witnessed USAID health programs in this poor region of Zambia and commended USAID’s support of Zambia.

USAID’s programs in Zambia, working under the US Global Health Initiative, have several other focuses besides nutrition and empowering small farmers. Under PEPFAR, USAID works with the Ministry of Health to prevent mother-to -child transmission of HIV. The amount of infants born with HIV has dropped from 39 percent in 2005 to 5 percent in 2010, and over 400,000 Zambians are now on regular antiretroviral treatments for HIV. USAID has also addressed gender-based violence and supported over 500,000 orphans and vulnerable children.

These USAID health programs in Zambia are all part of a larger network of the USAID initiatives in Zambia. USAID also focuses on economic growth, education, and creating a just and democratic government in the country. These initiatives have led to a longer life expectancy for Zambians along with 12 straight years of notable economic growth. As a country that has such potential for growth, particularly in agriculture, a prosperous Zambia is crucial to stability in a region which includes the war torn Democratic Republic of the Congo.

– Martin Drake

Source: USAID
Photo: USAID

The U.S. Department of State recently hosted a number of government officials in a conference on nutrition and hunger in Guatemala. Attendees included representatives from USAID, the Guatemalan Health Minister, officials of the Government of Guatemala, a panel of nutrition experts, and private sector leaders.

As part of the larger Zero Hunger Pact, started by the President of Guatemala in 2012, Guatemala’s goal is to lower chronic malnutrition in children throughout the country by 10 percent by 2015.

In addition to representatives from the United States and Guatemala, members from the World Bank, the World Food Program, and other high-profile organizations appeared at the event. Participants of the event gathered to discuss and strategize on Guatemala’s implementation of the Zero Hunger Pact, which included planning the necessary next steps for the country to take to reduce malnourishment.

Guatemala has one of the highest rates of child malnutrition in the world as nearly half of all children in the country under five years of age suffer from chronic malnourishment; the issue is particularly bad in the Western highlands of Guatemala. U.S. government officials praised the Guatemalan government’s efforts to tackle child nutrition at the conference and also praised their efforts for sustainable results in fighting hunger.

In addition to the Zero Hunger Pact, Guatemala is also a focus area for the United State’s global hunger and food security initiative called Feed the Future.

Christina Kindlon

Source: State Department

Earlier this week, Acting Special Representative for Global Food Security Jonathan Shrier along with the Assistant to the Administrator for the Bureau for Food Security and USAID representatives met with Guatemala’s Minister of Health to discuss possible plans for fighting child malnutrition in Guatemala.

The Guatemalan president has made it a national goal to decrease the country’s rate of child malnutrition by ten percent before 2015. Other organizations that are also working to address the issue are the 1,000 Days partnership, The World Bank, The World Food Program, and the Inter-American Development Bank. Guatemala’s government has set up a Zero hunger campaign through which they hope to fight malnutrition by not only increasing food production and food security but also providing access to foods with the necessary nutrients.

Guatemala suffers from the Western Hemisphere’s most frightening rate of child malnutrition. This is an especially serious problem for a country with a population as young as Guatemala’s, nearly 37% of Guatemalans today are 14 years old or younger. USAID is also working through their own Feed The Future project to help fight malnutrition in the Guatemalan highlands. Learn more about the Feed The Future program.

– Kevin Sullivan

Source: U.S. Deparment of State, CIA World Factbook
Photo: Hunger Into Health

Kenyan Flowers
Giving flowers is a globally symbolic gesture.

Red roses mean love and romance, yellow daisies and sunflowers symbolize friendship and joy; but how do all, if any of these, mean that you’re helping fight poverty?

The story starts with Feed the Future, a US government initiative to end global hunger and increase global food security. Feed the Future has partnered with Kenyan farmers to cultivate crops for sustenance, such as potatoes, as well as cash crops, such as “smallholder-grown cut flowers,” writes Ian Chesterman, Chief of Party for USAID-funded Kenya Horticulture Competitiveness Project.

Partnering with Kenyan flower farmers has lifted thousands of farmers into an economic situation that helps them produce crops that sustain both their wallets and their stomachs, meaning that thousands of families can afford previously unavailable medical care and that thousands of children can go to school, where they will learn skills to affect prospects for their futures and hopefully lift themselves safely out of poverty.

For about two years now, this USAID project has partnered with Wilmar Flowers Ltd., a private business that was looking to expand its ventures more thoroughly in Europe and worldwide, to hire thousands more farmers for the project.

Wilmar has been able to “invest in collection centers, research and development trials of new flower varieties, and new technologies such as shade nets, charcoal coolers, water harvesting dams, and grading sheds,” expanding the company’s private business while simultaneously creating jobs in Kenya.

A long cry from Feed the Future’s initial investment in the partnership, Wilmar has taken over the project, meaning that USAID’s involvement has remained minimal at best while private industry manages itself.

Wilmar’s advancement might have never happened without the involvement of USAID, a foreign aid-giving entity of the United States Federal Government, once again demonstrating the value of the meager portion of the US budget dedicated towards foreign assistance.

– Nina Narang

Photo: Hortidaily