NAIROBI, Kenya — As President Obama finishes his tour of Ethiopia, he illustrates that “the goal is to drastically increase the productivity of smallholder farmers all throughout Africa.” The U.S. Government’s Feed the Future program has reached 1.3 million children in Ethiopia and helped decrease child stunting by nine percent between the years of 2011 and 2014. The White House put food security at the top of the U.S. global agenda.
Undernourishment pertains to 53 percent of child deaths in Ethiopia. Out of 89.4 million people living in the country, 30 percent live below the poverty line and 44.2 percent of children under the age of 5 are stunted.
Africa holds the highest rate of stunting in the world. Two of every five children are stunted within the first one-thousand days of life, which is a critical time for physical development. Stunting makes it difficult for children to grow and learn, thus trapping people in the loop of poverty.
Poor Ethiopian communities are lacking access to basic health, education and infrastructure. A few reasons why their access is limited relates to underdeveloped communication networks, transport, marketing systems, technological production and household support services. They have a degraded environment and do not pay attention to decisions affecting their way of life in and outside their communities.
Poor families have access to cheap food with very little money to engage in nutritious dieting. Families do not have access to more nutritious food because marketing connectivity is low and crop yields are less than the regional average. Limits are making seeds, fertilizers and pesticides less accessible to small-scale farmers.
Despite Ethiopia’s challenges, agriculture generates 45 percent of the Gross Domestic Product and makes up 90 percent of Ethiopia’s exports. In addition to Ethiopia’s 9 percent drop in child stunting, Ghana has seen a 33 percent drop between 2008 and 2014. Kenya has also witnessed results in the West with a reduction of 25 percent between 2009 and 2014. A third of the rate of child stunting has declined in African countries where Feed the Future is housed.
Feed the Future works primarily in Uganda, where poverty levels have decreased by 16 percent between 2010 and 2013. A focus on smallholder farms and their productivity is feeding those with limited resources or access to nourishing foods. The goal of the New Alliance for Food Security initiative through Feed the Future is to lift millions out of poverty by rounding up $10 billion total contributions and uniting two hundred international companies.
In Ethiopia and other countries, Feed the Future is working at ground-level with farmers and households to increase agricultural productivity with proper training methods. They encourage producers to stay informed and participate in economic events and activities.
The program has helped more than 218,000 farmers utilize new technologies and management skills. Twenty thousand adults were also given health and nutrition training to keep children well fed.
The goal for Ethiopia is to reduce poverty by 30 percent and reduce stunting by 20 percent in its invested regions. In order to reach this goal in addition to 2014 accomplishments, Feed the Future will build resilience and strengthen environments as well as to help build efficient marketing systems.
The program highlights the importance of gender integration, vulnerable populations and scaling innovations. These innovations include high-yielding crops like chickpeas, maize and wheat. Other initiatives are addressed and overseen by Feed the Future such as milk cooling and storage, dairy consumption, commercial farm service centers and improved financial services.
Feed the Future is investing in smart-technology in Africa. The key to sustainable development is conservation, so climate-smart production saves farms from temperature changes, rainfall, drought, disease and saline soil. Feed the Future paves the way for efficient use of resources, land and energy in this initiative.
In 2014, there was an increase in half a billion agriculture-related sales, 12 million children were affected and 7 million farmers adopted proper tools and procedures. Feed the Future has a packet of investments totaling $40 million that supports productions, marketing practices and climate-resistant seeds. From now to 2018, 11 million families are expected to benefit from the efforts of the United States Government’s Feed the Future and its partnerships.
– Katie Groe