President Obama celebrates innovative approach to reduce hunger, poverty
As part of President Obama’s tour of Africa last week, he visited an Ethiopian food processor, Faffa Food Share Company, where he received an immersion into the power a unique public-private partnership between the USAID, TechnoServe and General Mills-founded non-profit Partners in Food Solutions (PFS) can have in promoting nutrition and food security in Africa.
Chronic food insecurity and malnutrition are serious concerns in Sub-Saharan Africa and Ethiopia, in particular, where two of five children do not receive critical nutrients to support growth.
While the Ethiopian economy is based largely on agriculture, millions of people require humanitarian assistance to survive. Making food more readily available, nutritious and affordable helps improve the lives of children and families and supports economic development.
Setting out to develop a sustainable solution, the innovative partnership between PFS, TechnoServe and the USAID was established in 2012 as part of the U.S. government’s Feed the Future Initiative, focused on reducing global hunger and under nutrition and increasing food security. In Ethiopia, the program sought to increase the quality and competitiveness of the Ethiopian food processing sector and on expanding the availability of affordable and nutritious foods by bringing together technical expertise, on-the-ground support and funding from the three organizations.
As part of its support for Feed the Future, PFS leveraged the technical and business expertise of more than 100 volunteer employees from four global food companies – General Mills, Cargill, DSM and Bühler— to assist 20 Ethiopian food processors on 72 projects aimed at improving their product’s nutrition, safety, efficiency and affordability. In addition, PFS and TechnoServe delivered 12 multi-day training sessions to 700 participants working within the food sector in Ethiopia.
Recognizing the remarkable success and progress toward a more sustainable food supply and healthier children, President Obama elected to visit the Faffa Food Share Company, who is both a client of PFS and the leading supplier of baby food for children over the age of six months in Ethiopia.
“We are honored to host the first visit by a sitting U.S. President to Ethiopia,” Zeko Kassim, Faffa Food Share CEO told PFS. “From the beginning of the company, we have tried to fight the debilitating effects of malnutrition on Ethiopian children by producing low-cost, high-protein weaning food and supporting nutrition for children and families, so we are fundamentally aligned with President Obama’s Feed the Future Initiative. Our partnership with USAID, PFS and TechnoServe is helping to substantially improve our quality and boost our growth.”
Through ongoing communication between PFS volunteers and Faffa’s leadership, we are working to provide sustainable solutions for the production and distribution of affordable, nutritious food for families, while also growing markets for African farmers. For instance, due to seasonal supply and demand, one of Faffa’s processing lines has typically been idle for several months each year. Faffa leaders are working with PFS to identify and add new products that will help make more effective use of existing equipment.
Other improvements facilitated by PFS food industry experts include making the Faffa facility more energy-efficient, updating manufacturing processes such as extrusion and drying and increasing the quality of products such as cornflakes and other breakfast cereals.
“We know that improvements in the food-processing sector have the greatest multiplier effect throughout the local and regional economy.” says Jeff Dykstra, co-founder and CEO of PFS. “We focus on companies like Faffa that create markets for smallholder farmers and have a big impact on well-being by producing safer, more nutritious, more affordable food for consumers. Moreover, we are leveraging $2 for every $1 of U.S. taxpayer investment in Ethiopia.”
Jeff, who was on hand for President Obama’s visit, says it’s important to do more.
“While we celebrate this visit and the great recognition of our work, it primarily serves as a strong encouragement to do it even better in the future. Africa will be key to feeding the 9 billion people that are expected on our planet by 2050. We know that Africa will not be able to play its part in feeding itself, and ultimately the world, without a stronger, more robust food industry. PFS has a unique opportunity to help build a strong and vibrant middle of the food value chain.”
Long after Air Force One and the President departed Africa, the relationships and knowledge shared between PFS volunteers and hundreds of promising food companies throughout Africa will continue to add value to the whole African food chain – from the farmer to the consumer – and it is this truth that we celebrate the most.
Editor’s Note: Partners in Food Solutions (PFS) is a nonprofit founded by General Mills that links the technical and business expertise of volunteer employees from four global food companies – General Mills, Cargill, DSM and Bühler – with small and growing food companies in sub-Saharan Africa. Since 2008, PFS has assisted more than 700 food companies in Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia, providing markets for more than 829,000 smallholder farmers, reaching nearly 5 million people.
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