USAID's $331 Million Initiative
On June 9, 2022, during the Ninth Summit of the Americas, Samantha Power, administrator for the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) announced that USAID will allocate $331 million to help bolster “medium-to-long-term food security and resilience in Latin America and the Caribbean.” USAID’s $331 million initiative to address food insecurity in Latin America and the Caribbean also includes direct emergency food assistance to vulnerable populations in the region. In addition to emergency food assistance, USAID will allocate more than $198 million in related assistance including sanitation and hygiene intervention. Subject to congressional approval, USAID will also spend more than $132 million on resources for smallholder farmers.

Powers explained, “The food crisis in the Americas will not be solved solely through emergency food assistance — far from it. It requires a long-term solution, one that sees Latin and Central American communities as partners rather than recipients.”

How Food Insecurity Impacted Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean

Food insecurity has negatively affected the livelihood of families and individuals in Latin America and the Caribbean. For instance, the Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) reported that more than 3.9 million Guatemalans “experienced high levels of food insecurity” between March and May 2022. Furthermore, the IPC also predicts that the number could increase to 4.6 million from June to September 2022. In addition, a 2022 Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and United Nations World Food Programme survey found that 40% of the English-speaking Caribbean population suffers from food insecurity. That is a sharp increase from 2020. USAID’s $331 million initiative aims to reverse this trend.

On-the-Ground USAID Operations to Help Smallholder Farmers

USAID’s $331 million initiative also includes on-the-ground operations to tackle the issue head-on. A model for this type of support was the Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation program in Guatemala, which helped smallholder farmers access new and commercially-viable agricultural technology. From 2015 to 2018, the Feed the Future program helped more than 1,400 Guatemalan producers improve access to quality potato seeds. This illustrates the type of assistance USAID will be conducting in its effort to help Latin American and Caribbean countries tackle food insecurity with its $331 million initiative.

On-the-Ground USAID Operations to Help Households

USAID also has programs to support households in Latin America and the Caribbean struggling with food insecurity. For instance, USAID supported the 2015 – 2018 Más Riego program in Guatemala which aimed to improve smallholder family nutrition and income through training youth, smallholder businesses and families. Specifically, this project helped Guatemalan households and youth by training them on how to use low-pressure drip irrigation. This is the type of program USAID will support with the new $331 million initiative.

Looking Ahead

The influx of USAID funding for operations in Latin America and the Caribbean highlights an increasing prioritization of international development in U.S. foreign policy. As the Biden administration commented during the summit, the new USAID initiative “will result in big deliverables on issues for Latin America and the Caribbean such as migration, democracy, economic recovery and climate change.”

– Abdullah Dowaihy
Photo: Flickr

Expanding El Salvador's MarketsFor several years, El Salvador’s farmers have struggled to meet the increased demand of local supermarkets and restaurant chains. Food safety standards have been particularly difficult to meet, especially with a lack of local processing plants. However, these issues are being addressed by Accesso El Salvador’s partnerships with Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation, Super Selectos and Spring Genetics. Together, Accesso and these partner organizations are expanding El Salvador’s markets to improve the quality, quantity and profit of local Salvadoran products.

4 Partners Expanding El Salvador’s Markets

  1. Acceso El Salvador. Accesso originated in 2007 as the Clinton Giustra Enterprise Partnership (CGEP), which specialized in building social businesses and other development programs in Latin America and the Caribbean. In 2020, CGEP became Accesso, an independent entity that focuses more specifically on establishing local agribusinesses to build markets and ease poverty conditions. Acceso has established businesses in El Salvador, Columbia, Alimentos and Haiti. Accesso El Salvador specializes in introducing smallholders to market networks and increasing their profit margins. Three ways it does this is by providing suppliers with sourcing and traceability services, supplying better-quality fertilizers and seed and by offering programs that teach agricultural skills. By improving smallholders’ output and sourcing their products to local businesses, Accesso El Salvador strengthens local markets. Since its establishment in 2014, this agribusiness has assisted more than 1,000 farmers and fishers.
  2. Super Selectos. Super Selectos is an example of a supermarket chain working in alliance with Acceso to expand El Salvador’s markets. The Cultivating Opportunities program, which began in 2012, is a prime example of the economic boost that such a partnership creates. In 2019 alone, Super Selectos purchased $11 million worth of products from more than 2,500 local smallholders. This marks a 50% increase in the supermarket chain’s local sourcing. Another aspect of the program is technical training. This, combined with the increased demand, allows farmers to dramatically diversify their crops and implement profitable planting rotations.
  3. Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation. In 2019, Accesso El Salvador partnered with Feed the Future Partnering for Innovation to expand Accesso’s agricultural programs and processing services, with the goal of adding 150 new farmers to Accesso’s network. A notable breakthrough was their joint project to establish the first vegetable processing facility in El Salvador for smallholders to meet the quality standards of major local supermarkets and restaurants. This not only secured a reliable market for farmers as well as suppliers for food chains but also increased the variety of crops that farmers can produce and the profit that follows such diversity. The new jobs that the plant created especially benefited women, allowing many to involve themselves in the agricultural community for the first time. Despite COVID-19’s impact in 2020, the partnership between Feed the Future and Acceso remained prolific, selling more than a million pounds of produce even in a time of restricted supply lines.
  4. Spring Genetics. Growing demand for high-quality tilapia spurred a 2019 partnership between Acceso and Spring Genetics, a world-recognized tilapia breeder that specializes in introducing beneficial methods and technologies to small-scale fisheries. Previously, El Salvador’s smallholder fisheries lost more than 75% of their final product value due to inefficient operations. Spring Genetics’ advanced technology and the introduction of its genetically-superior tilapia strain, promises a dramatic increase in these smallholders’ fortunes. Accesso holds up its end of the bargain by providing sole distribution services and making plans for a new fish processing plant. As tilapia makes up the majority of El Salvador’s aquaculture products, this partnership should prove lucrative for all involved.

Partnerships Benefit All

Each of these partnerships demonstrates the immense impact that can be made through economic collaboration. Simply providing local smallholders with reliable market networks not only meets the demands of local businesses but also dramatically improves the opportunities for Salvadorans to pull themselves out of poverty. And the benefits are not one-sided. Supermarket chains like Super Selectos also profit from local sourcing. Even internationally-acclaimed companies like Spring Genetics, with its ties to the United States and Latin America, can benefit from expanding El Salvador’s markets.

– Andria Pressel
Photo: Flickr