Dhaki has three young children and another one on the way. She lives with her family in rural Ethiopia, where— until recently— she walked 90 minutes a day just to earn a meager income selling milk. Dhaki could work an entire day without making a single sale, forced to return home empty-handed. Recurrent droughts would make matters worse, wiping out her livestock, and with it, her only means of keeping her children well-nourished.
Hapsatou is also a mother of four, living in a small village in Senegal – a village whose children were noticeably small for their age. Hapsatou recognized that despite her community’s attempts at farming, children were still growing up weak and hungry, as chronic malnutrition had put an entire generation at risk.
Taroni grows rice in Bangladesh, farming the same paddy day after day— just like his father before him. Attending school was never an option, as he has always relied on a healthy rice yield to support his wife and two children. But without anyone to show him how to grow rice more efficiently, Taroni was left with small yields, just trying to makes ends meet.
Dhaki, Hapsatou, and Taroni live worlds apart, and yet, all three know what it feels like to be severely food insecure. Despite their tireless work, keeping food on the proverbial table is a challenge they confront daily – or at least it was.
Feed the Future – the United States’ lead global hunger initiative – empowered Dhaki, Hapsatou, and Taroni with the knowledge, skills, and resources they needed to improve their lives and livelihoods.
Dhaki was introduced to a local milk processor who had recently expanded his operation as a result of a Feed the Future grant. His expansion enabled him to buy from more local suppliers like Dhaki. Selling to a regular buyer guarantees that Dhaki profits every day. She now covers all of her household expenses, has plenty of milk for her children, and is better prepared for future droughts. And Dhaki has big plans for her future: she hopes to one day expand her milk business and open a shop of her own.
Hapsatou is also benefiting from a Feed the Future program. Today, she shares the new farming techniques, hygiene habits, and nutritional information she learned with other members of her village. She encourages farmers to grow sweet potatoes for their vitamin A, she manages a livestock program that breeds lambs for more families, and even teaches mothers hand-washing and nutrition. A result of Hapsatou’s effort and the Feed the Future program, her village no longer has any reported cases of malnutrition.
And when Taroni heard of a training opportunity through Feed the Future, he jumped at the chance to improve his farming techniques. After learning how to better utilize fertilizer, Taroni reports that he has doubled his rice yield. And after using his new found knowledge to grow vegetables, he has grown more than enough to feed his family and sell the surplus. With his extra income, he’s making sure his daughter and son both have the chance to go to school and choose any profession they want – chances he never had.
These are three incredible stories of lives that have been changed for the better, but Dhaki, Hapsatou, and Taroni aren’t the only people whose lives have been impacted by Feed the Future programs. Far from it. There are more than 9 million stories just like these. Since 2011, Feed the Future has lifted 9 million people out of poverty.
Feed the Future has impacted so many people in a relatively short amount of time in large part because it leverages the resources and expertise of the private sector to ensure programs produce a ripple effect to reach more people. For example, companies like Cargill are teaming up to help improve Africa’s food processing sector, so that more producers like Dhaki can find regular buyers and more families can access nutritious foods.
As we mark World Food Day and celebrate the incredible progress Feed the Future has made possible, we are reminded that there is so much left to do. 800 million people will go to bed hungry tonight, and over 20 million people are at risk of starvation from the threat of famine. Increasing food security and building resiliency has taken on a new sense of urgency— but with continued investment and support, Feed the Future is well on its way to ending hunger once and for all.
Dhaki, Hapsatou, and Taroni’s stories originally appeared here.
main image photo credit: Photos and video by Morgana Wingard and Josh Estey for USAID