On Monday, NCBA CLUSA President & CEO Doug O’Brien joined InterAction in celebration of ten years of the Feed the Future program.
Feed the Future began ten years ago as an initiative under the Obama Administration to take a whole-of-government approach to invest in food security and agricultural development to reduce hunger, malnutrition, poverty and food insecurity. The program was then codified under the Global Food Security Act in 2016, and the reauthorization in 2018 was signed into law by President Trump.
With nearly 200 participants joining the conversation, Monday’s event opened with remarks from InterAction CEO Sam Worthington. NCBA CLUSA is a proud member of InterAction, the largest alliance of international development and humanitarian NGOs. Worthington noted some of the program’s many successes, including that in its ten years, Feed the Future has helped to bring 23.4 million people out of poverty. Feed the Future has also led to 5.2 million families no longer suffering from hunger and more than 3 million children living free from stunting. Worthington discussed the positive ways in which the agriculture investments supports this important work because, “quality food is the heart of human development” that links individuals, families, and communities. He also noted the early impacts of COVID-19, millions of people could face food insecurity, potentially erasing the decades of progress and reaffirms the importance of the work done through this program.
Next, the event featured Senator Bob Casey (D-PA), a member of the Senate Agriculture Committee and lead Democratic sponsor of the Global Food Security Act. Senator Casey discussed the strengths of Feed the Future and the critical role implementors play in making this success possible. Like Worthington, Senator Casey also remarked on the potential threat of COVID-19, and discussed five priorities going forward: ensuring Feed the Future adapts to climate change; strengthening global food systems from top to bottom; expand Feed the Future target countries to include fragile contacts; continue ag research partnerships with US land grant universities, especially to combat invasive pests; and to advance women’s participation in agricultural systems.
The conversation also featured USAID Assistant to the Administrator Dr. Jim Barnhart, who serves as the Deputy Coordinator of Feed the Future. Dr. Barnhart remarked the bipartisan support Feed the Future has earned from Congress that has supported the sustained progress of the program possible. Dr. Barnhart described agriculture-led economic growth as the engine the drives economies –locally, regionally and internationally—and is the best way to both bring people out of poverty and improve nutrition. He said, as he looks ahead, progress is still possible, and that the strong foundational work that has been done through this program will help to build a more resilient future.
Bread for the World Director Asma Lateef moderated the discussion featuring Dr. Barnhart, Kathy Spahn, CEO of Helen Keller International, and O’Brien. The panel discussed many of the positive impacts of the Feed the Future program, including the Kawolor project on which NCBA CLUSA and HKI partner. The panel discussed the ways in which the integrated approach of Feed the Future breaks down silos and creates a good pressure to work together to meet goals across human, environment, and economic development.
Other themes of the discussion were centered on building resilience and trusting and respecting the local partners without a cookie-cutter approach so that the program remains true to their goals and desired outcomes. “They pre-date [our projects] and are going to be there after [the field staff is] gone, so it is important to listen and to have respect,” Spahn said. O’Brien also discussed the unique role that cooperatives play in supporting governance and capacity building to promote resilience because it is ingrained in the principles of the model.
While Feed the Future programs have seen supply chain disruptions, early stages of work have helped projects to pivot to meet new demands, including having a network of entrepreneurs ready to build out their networks and move sanitization equipment to reduce the spread of COVID-19.
Dr. Barnhart said that for each dollar of US investment, there is a $3 ‘savings’ on humanitarian assistance that would have otherwise been needed, making Feed the Future a sound investment for the federal government. He also noted that crises are not individual events, rather, they are a convergence of shocks and stresses, and reiterated the need to elevate resilience as a priority across sectors and throughout all USAID programs.
NCBA CLUSA has two active Feed the Future projects, REGIS-ER and Kawolor, funded by USAID. REGIS-ER is a multisectoral project which aims to increase the resilience of chronically vulnerable populations in marginal agricultural and agro-pastoral areas of Burkina Faso and Niger, ending in March 2021. This program seeks to strengthen livelihoods, governance and improve health and nutrition, and to help communities prepare for and recover from shocks such as droughts, economic stressors and other chronic problems, thus breaking the cycle of humanitarian crises and emergency responses. Thus far, the work has supported the creation of 5,056 full-time equivalent jobs, and 84 percent of project households reported an increase in income from off-farm economic opportunities. The program has also focused on using networks of civil society organizations to educate communities about the pandemic and help to break the chain of transmission. You can read more about the REGIS-ER project here.
In Senegal, NCBA CLUSA’s Kawolor project is set to conclude in September 2022. Kawolor contributes to the Senegalese Government’s strategy to fight malnutrition, food insecurity and poverty by empowering organizations and regional resources partners to scale up the Nutrition Led Agriculture. The overall activity objective is to increase within beneficiary communities the production, consumption and commercialization of healthy and nutritious foods while encouraging household level consumption of diverse diets, focused primarily on women of reproductive age and children under two years of age. You can read more about the Kawolor project here.