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USAID looks to expand public/private partnerships

Article-USAID looks to expand public/private partnerships

World Food Prize USAID administrator Mark Green speaking at World Food Prize
Partnerships with Syngenta and Keurig highlight successful endeavors to expand reach to improve food security.

In a keynote address at the annual World Food Prize in Des Moines, Iowa, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Mark Green said one of the exciting revolutions underway in the field of development is the rapidly changing relationship between private enterprise and the development community.

“Leaders in both sectors are finally figuring out how to take the unique capabilities of each -- public and private -- and apply them to problems that neither could take on fully alone, and this is making challenges that once seemed insurmountable very real and very achievable,” Green said during a keynote speech.

For years, USAID and others saw donors and governments as the proper drivers of progress, Green said.

“Private enterprise was something to keep at a distance or, if you could, bend it to your will. We welcomed donations from private enterprise. We were even willing to contract with private businesses to obtain goods or receive services,” he noted. “Today, we have moved beyond grant-making and contracting, and instead, we're collaborating. We're recognizing that agencies like USAID don't need to be the sole actors in sectors, if we can be the catalytic actors in those sectors.”

USAID announced a new collaboration with Keurig Green Mountain and Root Capital to strengthen the global coffee supply chain and help small-scale producers in Uganda, Rwanda, Colombia, Peru and Indonesia grow higher-quality coffee and connect with financing and buyers.

In addition, Syngenta and USAID signed an updated memorandum of understanding to support agriculture and food security activities in Africa, Asia and Latin America. A partnership with the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture, in collaboration with the African Agricultural Technology Foundation, will help smallholder farmers in Senegal, Mali, Kenya and Malawi gain access to affordable, high-yielding seeds through local businesses.

This renewed collaboration, which started in 2013, aims to promote food security among smallholder farmers by cooperating on improving research and development, technology adoption and farmer know-how to boost farm productivity -- while also tackling new challenges like the recent invasion of the fall armyworm pest in Africa.

A key focus will be to improve the capacity of smallholder farmers to trial, adopt and safely use inputs to boost their yields as well as to identify and equip young men and women interested in farming as a business. Selected projects will incorporate the use of advanced digital and satellite technology to enhance pest prediction and surveillance, support decision-making and improve project evaluation. Programs on environmental sustainability and smallholder capacity training will further underpin Syngenta’s Good Growth Plan.

Syngenta chief executive officer Erik Fyrwald said, “We place great value on our continued partnership with USAID, which has helped us reach and train more smallholder farmers across the world than we would have been able to achieve alone. USAID’s work in supporting partnerships like this helps deliver real change for farmers in terms of sustainability and profitability.”

Green called on the private sector, universities, foundations, international research centers and other development partners to join together to combat the fall armyworm, an invasive pest that is spreading rapidly through Africa. If not addressed, the armyworm has the potential to exacerbate food insecurity significantly in dozens of countries.

The U.S. government will mobilize investments from the public, private and nonprofit sectors to help control the pest. To support this effort, USAID will also incentivize innovators to develop and adapt digital tools that provide timely information to farmers to identify, track and access information on how to combat the pest.

Green said in the U.S., tools were able to control the armyworm from crops with built-in resistance to smart, safe pesticide use. USAID is calling on public, private, civil society, research and university partners to channel those tools and enlist the tools to take on this problem, Green said. “Let's control the fall armyworm in Africa before it becomes a true food security crisis,” he added.

“At USAID, we want to move beyond grant-making, beyond contracting, and embrace collaboration, co-design and co-financing,” Green said.

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