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