Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s global hunger and food security initiative, is establishing a lasting foundation for progress against global hunger. With a focus on smallholder farmers, particularly women, Feed the Future supports partner countries in developing their agriculture sectors to spur economic growth that increases incomes and reduces hunger, poverty, and undernutrition. Feed the Future efforts are driven by country-led priorities and rooted in partnership with donor organizations, the private sector, and civil society to enable long-term success. Feed the Future aims to assist millions of vulnerable women, children, and family members to escape hunger and poverty, while also reaching significant numbers of children with highly effective nutrition interventions to prevent stunting and child mortality.
Over the next five years in Malawi, Feed the Future aims to help an estimated 281,000 vulnerable Malawian women, children, and family members—mostly smallholder farmers—escape hunger and poverty. More than 293,000 children will be reached with services to improve their nutrition and prevent stunting and child mortality. Significant numbers of additional rural populations will achieve improved income and nutritional status from strategic policy engagement and institutional investments.
USG investments in legume and dairy value chains are designed to boost competitiveness and promote diversification into higher-return value chains that will also spawn non-farm employment opportunities. While these investments in economic growth will be necessary to reduce poverty and hunger, they will be insufficient by themselves. Beyond growth, poverty reduction will require targeted interventions that address the needs of smallholder farmers (the rural poor) as well as more vulnerable populations. A significant smallholder need is to produce more from a very limited resource base. Conservation farming practices offer promise in this regard, by increasing yields, soil fertility and soil moisture content per unit area. Importantly CF offers a window of opportunity to increase yield from a fixed unit area, freeing up land for diversification of both other cereals and legumes. Improving market and input access and the affordability of business development and financial services tailored to the needs of smallholders is critical in order to ―pull‖ rural households into income-raising activities.
Integrating Nutrition with Value Chains (INVC)
INVC is designed to combine the livelihood benefits of an agricultural value chain approach with the nutrition benefits of increased dietary diversification. This centerpiece of Malawi’s FTF strategy will invest in the competitiveness of food staple value chains in which large numbers of smallholders, over 56 percent of whom are below the poverty line, participate, and link increased household production of nutritious crops to household consumption and improved nutritional status. INVC will link value chain development and increased household income to improved nutrition through diet diversification, and improvements in food storage, preparation, and consumption practices at the household level.
INVC’s value chain approach will focus on legumes (groundnuts and soy) and dairy, and is designed to facilitate change in both the individual value chains and the broader market and household-farming systems, looking for synergies across value chains such as common constraints and/or actors. A strong emphasis will be placed on improving the demand side of the value chain, by working to improve market linkages between input and output dealers through improved and more reliable services, including financial, business development, agronomic and livestock-related services. While most of INVC’s efforts will further develop and strengthen Malawi’s existing input and output markets serving the legumes and dairy value chains, the program will also include strengthening the capacity of processors and agribusinesses to meet export market demands, as well as building the capacity of smallholder suppliers to meet buyer demands. At the same time, INVC will work to mitigate the risks for rural households to diversify their income and food sources beyond maize through an option of conducting a vulnerability assessment for its target population and to access nutritional education that will help them translate a more diverse basket of food into improved nutrition. INVC will place a particular emphasis on women’s economic empowerment across all of its activities, including additional support and guidance to women owned businesses and women producers.
INVC will spur investment and innovation in the legume and dairy value chains through an Innovation and Investment Facility meant to provide INVC a tool to identify and support specific opportunities that can further strengthen the selected value chains and market systems within which they operate. An important use of the facility will be to buy down risk for a firm, farmer, or other value chain actor in order to encourage early adoption of new technologies, such as CF by smallholders, and spur sector-wide innovation. Facility partners may include private firms, GoM agencies, research institutes, NGOs or other local organizations, as well as other donors best placed to identify new solutions to key value chain and systemic43 constraints. This Innovation and Investment Facility will be a key instrument for developing the capacity of the private sector and will also have targets and incentives for the participation of women-owned enterprises or individuals.
A core principle of INVC will also be to build the capacity of the key value chain actors to address the competitiveness of their value chain through their own projects and interventions. As such, INVC will place a strong emphasis on building local capacity to contribute to and invest in agricultural transformation. While Malawi has numerous small businesses, local NGOs and private sector and civil society organizations, few, if any, have both the technical and administrative capacity to implement USAID projects without support. As such, INVC’s approach to capacity building will be to invest resources in local partners while leveraging their local knowledge and capacity to generate results. The project will have a target for graduating local partners to independent status that would allow them to receive USAID funds directly. As partners reach this independent status, they would take on current functions of INVC.
An important element of the multi-year FTF Strategy is monitoring and evaluation, which is an iterative learning process that will put into place the principle of a sustained and accountable delivery approach. Program activities must be monitored through periodic field visits by Mission staff and ongoing monitoring and learning by implementing partners. Mission staff has a key role to play in monitoring and learning from partners both through oversight and input to design of project level M&E plans and systems and also through follow-up on quarterly reports and other communication with partners.
The integration of agricultural, nutrition, and health elements into a joint strategic plan provides a unique opportunity to innovate, document, and demonstrate best practices associated with a concurrent multi-sector investment model. Also, the Malawi FTF Strategy will foster linkages among existing programs, which will harmonize key agriculture and nutrition and indicators across relevant areas of focus.
Building on this collaboration, both the Health and Sustainable Economic Growth (SEG) teams at USAID/Malawi will work together to integrate M&E systems and processes in order to track synergies and multiplier effects between the two sectors not captured through the agriculture/nutrition overlap. There is currently significant USG investment on the part of USAID through PEPFAR and GHI in health systems strengthening, family planning, and malaria and tuberculosis reduction among others in the geographic areas targeted through FTF. We believe it is critical to capture at the highest level the combined impact of FTF and GHI/PEPFAR in order to reduce duplication, increase the applicability of data across interventions and most importantly, learn across programs in order to improve and increase efficiency and impact of all USAID investments in Malawi. This integration of M&E function may take the form of harmonized M&E plans at the implementer level combined with joint monitoring visits by SEG and Health team members.
Reliable and well-defined monitoring, reporting and evaluation methods, roles and communication channels result in improved project and program management, promote ongoing learning and testing of development hypotheses and ensure accountability. A fully functioning M&E team and system further help to illustrate the Mission’s value added to overall development not only to key stakeholders in the USG, but also to the GoM and other development partners.
USAID/Malawi is currently refining Mission processes in line with the requirements and recommendations of the newly announced USAID Evaluation Policy. To that end, and in preparation for the Country Development Cooperation Strategy (CDCS), SEG will identify further impact evaluation questions and set aside funds for impact evaluation in 2011. This will serve as solid preparation for FTF-focused evaluation activities in subsequent years.
Percent change in agricultural GDP (monitor national trend); Per Capita expenditures of rural households (proxy for income) of USG targeted beneficiaries; Gender index; Gross margin per unit of land or animal of selected product; Value of incremental sales (collected at farm- level) attributed to FTF; Percent change in diversity of agricultural commodities produced by households; Number of newly created jobs attributed to FTF Value of new private sector investment in the agriculture sector or food chain leveraged by FTF
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