From Global Momentum to Local Action for a Food-Secure 2030

Donkeys are a critical part of the value chain in rural Ethiopia and serve as a common means of transportation. /CNFA

Nearly 15 years ago, I showed up at the USAID office in Ethiopia in the middle of a devastating drought. I quickly went to work, helping to provide food to the thousands who were starving. It seemed so futile. As a young Foreign Service Officer, I remember how helpless I felt providing aid to people who I knew would likely be back for more within a week or a month. But people needed to eat, and that was how we responded to crises back then.

Ten years later, amid a global food crisis, President Obama launched the U.S. Government’s Feed the Future initiative to change this and help put an end to extreme poverty and hunger once and for all. I was privileged to be a part of the team that helped get Feed the Future off the ground, and I am honored to serve as its Deputy Coordinator for Development today.

Through Feed the Future, we are proactively partnering with developing countries to revitalize their agriculture sectors — transforming their economies and pulling their citizens out of poverty and hunger in the process.

Feed the Future empowers farmers like Raymonde (left), Mathilia (center) and Anita, helping them adopt innovative tools to increase yields and improve their incomes. /David Rochkind

In the words of a young woman I recently met on her farm in rural Zambia, “There’s money in the soil.” I love that, and we are seeing just how true that is as millions of people working across food systems continue to feed themselves and climb out of poverty.

When I met that woman, I smiled and agreed with her. What is equally true is that it is entrepreneurs like her who are creating new wealth, who are our hope for the future and for a food-secure world.

Global Commitments, Local Action

Last year, the global community committed to achieving 17 bold, interconnected goals. These Sustainable Development Goals are more than well-meaning targets — they are goals that must be met if we are all going to have a prosperous and peaceful future.

Over the last year, there have been many new commitments from donors and much talk about what the development community needs to do to meet these goals. And these things are incredibly important.

Ultimately, though, for lasting, large-scale change to occur, it has to happen at the local level. It has to start with the farmer, who launches and grows her business, who goes on to employ multiple people within her community and begins to connect them in a meaningful way to new markets and worlds beyond what they could have imagined.

Economic transformation starts with agricultural development.
Feed the Future helps empower women in Cambodia with better livelihood opportunities. /Fintrac, Inc

What Feed the Future’s journey to date has shown me is that our job has to be to help create the environments that enable the entrepreneur, the small business owner, and the smallholder farmer to grow and expand their enterprises.

Beth Dunford (center background) visits resilience project sites in Kenya in September 2016. /Jen Cupp, USAID

Earlier this month, I was talking with a young Kenyan entrepreneur, Eric Muraguri. When Eric noticed women and children collecting chicken byproducts outside the poultry processing plant where he worked, he saw an opportunity.

Eric quit his job and launched Chicken Choice, a company that today prepares safe and affordable chicken products from processing plant leftovers for those most vulnerable to malnutrition like the women and children he saw. With a small investment through Feed the Future, we helped Eric keep up with growing demand — providing low-cost nutritious foods to people across Kenya in a much more sustainable way than we ever could.

As food systems and the challenges people face become more complex, it is people like Eric and the farmer I met in Zambia who will find new and transformative ways to move their communities and countries forward. Our job is to make it easier for them to do that.

There is so much more we can do to help entrepreneurs start and expand their businesses. We in the development community can use our resources in more targeted, catalytic ways to increase financing for businesses like these.

Our partners in governments can improve policies and invest in public goods to make it easier for these companies to grow. Those we work with in the private sector can bring in new technologies and help connect people and businesses to new markets. And our partners in civil society and the university community can help build capacity and spark innovation.

Feed the Future helps empower women in Guatemala to increase agricultural production and earn more for their families./USAID/AGEXPORT

With this in mind, Feed the Future recently launched A Food-Secure 2030, which is our expanded vision for what it will take to achieve a world free of hunger, poverty and undernutrition, and a call to action for others to join us in making this vision a reality. A big part of that vision is rallying our partners to help create the environments where entrepreneurs, innovators and businesses can thrive.

We know that by all of us working together and making strategic choices, we can help empower people and create sustainable progress. But it is going to take all of us, so we hope you’ll join in as we work toward a food-secure 2030!


About the Author

Beth Dunford is the Feed the Future Deputy Coordinator for Development and Assistant to the Administrator for USAID’s Bureau for Food Security.