SALINE, Michigan — A recent USAID report, released on May 19, has shed new light on the progress of the U.S. government’s Feed the Future initiative. The program was created in 2009 in response to rocketing food prices and aims to, as stated by the report, reduce “hunger and undernutrition by recognizing the link between nutrition and agriculture.”
The initiative currently operates in 19 countries selected by need and potential opportunities for growth. It works to bring improved agricultural management practices as well as agronomic technologies to areas still using time-consuming and inefficient methods. This approach increases food security and incomes, and intends to make countries less dependent on food imports by boosting production.
Why target agriculture?
In a World Bank report, evidence was found that “growth in agriculture is on average at least twice as effective in reducing poverty” as growth in other sectors. Agricultural improvements may be a way to tackle what many view to be a root cause of poverty: food insecurity.
One of the main ways in which Feed the Future hopes to generate food productivity is by “scaling up the use of agricultural technologies,” many of which, while seemingly commonplace, are not being utilized in less-developed countries. To accomplish this in the selected countries, the initiative has introduced new machines, engineered drought, heat and disease-resistant varieties of crops and established methods of agriculture that produce larger yields while doing less damage to the soil.
A farmer in Bangladesh, who has benefited from the introduction of new farming technologies by Feed the Future, pinpointed the direct results of the program’s work, saying, “This modern technology reduces my time in the field. Before, I used traditional methods. I needed more people to work during planting and harvesting. That increased my production cost. But now, I use this machine and I make more profit.”
USAID’s report on the progress of Feed the Future over the last few years contains many similar stories of success. In Senegal, maize production is a central focus of the initiative and has doubled since 2011. In Bangladesh, the number of hectares benefiting from U.S. assistance has jumped from just under 300,000 to 1.2 million. Last year in Honduras, net income from horticulture increased by 125 percent. All of these countries benefit from Feed the Future assistance, which has supported farmers on the ground in efforts to bolster the agricultural sector.
The initiative’s model of supporting agriculture to fight hunger seems to be producing results. Farmers in Feed the Future zones across the globe are profiting from the introduction of proven agricultural technologies as well as the development and research of new ones. Reactions to the program’s success are positive and conjectures about its future seem hopeful.
According to the report, “Under Feed the Future, the U.S. Government continues to keep global food security at the forefront of international policy discussions and harness the global momentum directed at ending global hunger and poverty in this lifetime.”