28 May 2014

The US Feed the Future program: nutrition interventions, input-based agriculture and private investment facilitation

The 2014 ‘Feed the Future’ progress report highlights achievements made by this programme launched in 2009 by President Obama, soon after his election:

  1. Nutrition interventions reaching more than 12.5 million children (for example the program delivered 1.6 million micronutrient powder sachets in Bangladesh and supported an Ethiopian company to develop nutritious chickpea products, including a ready-to-use supplementary food)

  2. Help provided to 7 million farmers and food producers to adopt new technologies and management practices on more than 4 million hectares (seeds and other crops genetics, fertiliser, irrigation and water management, horticulture development)

  3. Support to private investment along the principles of Responsible Agricultural Investment (RAI) [read more on land and investment issues here].

The program so far disbursed USD2.3 billion, to be compared with initial commitment of USD4.2 billion (55% disbursement rate). In the framework of the program, some limited proposals have also been made to improve the way food assistance is provided [read here]

Feed the Future also plays an active part in the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition whose action has been strongly criticised on the ground of poor participation of the population, creating conditions favourable to foreign companies to the detriment of local communities, concentration of investments in the production of traditional tropical exports and lack of  specific rules of governance of natural resources, notably land, to protect rural communities. Feed the Future also has partnerships with Grow Africa.

Feed the Future works together with these partners to scale proven technologies and activities, expand nutrition interventions and programs, and conduct research to create the next generation of innovations for food producers.

Feed the Future adopts a model of development that emphasises partnerships with the private sector, linkages and access to tools, technologies and the global economy through market development. For Feed the Future, farmers must learn how to be entrepreneurs.

Other key partners include :

  1. the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) that invests in in agriculture, land tenure and roads in several countries including Mozambique, Tanzania and Senegal, but also works in Burkina Faso, Benin and Niger

  2. the United States African Development Foundation (USADF)

  3. the Overseas Private Investment Corporation

  4. the Office of the United States Trade Representative, particularly active in helping to foster policy reforms.

The strategy of this program appears to be one of picking the winners: priority is given to countries in Africa that have more than tripled their public investments in agriculture over the past 10 years, a rate of growth more than double that of the other 25 African countries for which data are available. Beneficiary countries also have to be willing to commit to market-oriented policy reforms.

In the area of nutrition support, an important component is the promotion of the use of supplementary food and distribution of micronutrient powder sachets, for immediate results, rather than developing sustainable changes in diet based on local production. In this approach, the hungry are considered more as potential clients for manufacturers of food supplements rather than actors who need support to exit from a hunger situation.

In the area of production, emphasis is on the promotion of an intensive input-based agriculture that is presented as a ‘sustainable intensification’ alternative leading to a more affordable use of fertiliser by decreasing the amounts used because of improved application methods. The program also cooperates with multinationals to tap their technical and business expertise: General Mills, Cargill, Royal DSM and Bühler have thus provided customised technical assistance, but the report says very little on other ways in which these corporations are involved in the program.

This report shows that this US program is based on similar principles and objectives as those promoted by Africa Progress Panel or AGRA, which we have had opportunities to comment earlier [read comments on the Africa Progress Panel and on AGRA].


Read the full progress report here


Last update:    May 2014

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