August 8, 2018

Fueling Rural Economies Combats Global Hunger, Benefits America

By Sung Lee

For decades, herders at Oldonyiro livestock market in Kenya’s Isiolo County traded just 300 goats every other week, remaining vulnerable to droughts with limited access to a market. Today, the same herders trade 2,000 to 3,000 animals in just a single week thanks to America’s initiative to combat global hunger: Feed the Future. Built with support from the United States and the Kenyan government, a new and modern livestock market in Oldonyiro operates weekly, connecting the rural herders to a major market in Nairobi, and greatly increasing economic opportunities for local residents.

Progress towards Ending Hunger

Kenyan herders are one example of many benefiting from Feed the Future, which just released a report highlighting the cumulative results and transformative impact of America’s investment to tackle global food insecurity since the program launched in 2010.

Since 2010, Feed the Future has helped an estimated 23.4 million people escape poverty and has prevented 3.4 million children from suffering from the devastating and irreversible effects of stunting. Furthermore, the program helped unlock $3.3 billion in agricultural rural loans, enabling farmers to generate $10.5 billion in new agricultural sales from 2011 through 2017. In fact, Feed the Future target countries achieved greater growth in agricultural output overall – worth $42 billion – than other countries, contributing to healthier and stronger communities and fueling a growing middle class to generate economic growth.

Ensuring America’s Economic Prosperity

This economic growth has also created new markets for American businesses. For example, the J.M. Smucker Company, a company founded in Ohio that employs 7,500 workers across the United States, has partnered with USAID and TechnoServe to train 6,000 coffee farmers in El Salvador and Nicaragua to counter the effect of a devastating disease – known as leaf rust – that destroys coffee yields. This helps protect the $225 billion U.S. coffee industry.

With Feed the Future leveraging the expertise of more than 60 U.S.-based companies, U.S. food and agricultural exports to its partner countries have also increased by more than $1.4 billion since 2010, supporting millions of American jobs at home and strengthening American economic prosperity. As USAID Administrator Mark Green said, “Feed the Future harnesses the best of American ingenuity and innovation to create solutions, ease human suffering, and put communities and countries on a path to self-reliance, while simultaneously bringing benefits back home.”

Accelerating America’s Commitment

Sustaining America’s leadership in global food security today is more important than ever given that the progress in food security remains fragile and uneven. For the first time in 15 years, world hunger has increased with 815 million people going to bed hungry every night. And the increasing frequency of insecurity and conflict – which is responsible for 10 of the 13 largest food crises today – threatens to increase food insecurity. As Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue said, “Food security is a key component of national security, because hunger and peace do not long coexist.”

The administration is now implementing the second phase of Feed the Future, concentrating America’s investment in 12 target countries. According to Administrator Green, the program will “help people harness the power of smart agriculture to jumpstart their local economies and lift themselves out of poverty,” building on previous Republican and Democratic Administrations’ support for more transparent and accountable foreign assistance programs that deliver results.

The good news is that the strategic benefits of investing in global food security are well recognized on Capitol Hill. With the passing of the Global Food Security Reauthorization Act, Senator Isakson said that global food security is “an investment in our national security and helps ensure a maximum return of investment on the dollar in foreign assistance. It helps our neighbors abroad and our farmers and researchers in Georgia.” The time is now for the House to reauthorize the Global Food Security Act to affirm America’s commitment to fight poverty and work towards a hunger-free world.