Born out of a speech by President Obama at a 2009 G-8 meeting in response to a multi-decade long decline in agricultural investment and recent price spikes, the United States’ Feed the Future initiative seeks to advance global food security. This task is undertaken through programs such as USAID’s Yaajeende, which is designed to improve rural small scale agriculture and nutrition in Senegal (1).
The Yaajeende initiative was launched in 2010 with a 5-year mandate and budget of $40 million from the government via USAID, and implemented by the National Cooperative Business Association’s international arm, the Cooperative League of the USA. CLUSA notes that Senegal, with a large rural population, is heavily dependent on food imports, which account for 70% of consumption, and that many families struggle to consume a nutritionally diverse diet or do not understand the problem of nutrient deficiency (2).
Yaajeende is not a nation wide effort, rather it focuses on one million people in rural communities across four eastern regions of the African nation, which has a total population of around 14 million (3). Nor does it put money in the hands of officials at any level of the government, instead acting as a sort of NGO. Improvements are organized around smallholder farmers, women, children, and overall household wellbeing. Much of this is done by fostering local private sector growth and knowledge sharing among individuals. The initiative’s original goals for the targeted population were to reduce the number of children stunted due to poor nutrition by 25%, reduce the number of underweight children by 35%, and increase household incomes by 250% (2).
Three major components of Yaajeende are promotion of best practice for agriculture, increase of household assets (e.g. reclamation of previously unusable land or animal provision), and dissemination of information encouraging a more well-rounded diet, such as through educational initiatives in schools.
On the cornerstone issue of food security, via agricultural best practice, the creation of Community Based Service Providers, or CBSPs, is a crucial element. In essence, these are local entrepreneurs that bridge the gap between the farmers in their community and suppliers that sell agricultural inputs. They are given rudimentary business training by Yaajeende, and the program brings in private sector firms to teach them relevant technical skills (4). Not only can CBSPs get farmers access to higher quality seeds and fertilizers, but they can also help farmers use tools they purchase through them, as well as acquire financing to facilitate sales from suppliers. The initiative imagines them as jacks of all trades that can help uneducated farmers improve their methodologies and yields.
Two major midterm evaluations published in 2014 both gave very positive reviews of the Yaajeende project. The first, commissioned to development company Chemonics by USAID, states that “Yaajeende has been highly successful in reaching its target groups and beneficiaries: the poor and the vulnerable,” and “Yaajeende’s achievements are universally recognized by government officials at the central, regional, and local levels in Senegal (5).” The report goes on to laud the effectiveness of CSBPs in propagating innovation and efficient farming techniques, and the success of projects to increase household assets, such as bio-reclamation of degraded land. Separately, the USAID Office of Inspector General audited Yaajeende and reported that it was on track in all regards, quite impressive for any government program (6). These measures of success included a number of active CSBPs that was easily on track to meet the program goal of 1,000 in 5 years, and these CSBP’s economic activity was beyond what was expected at the mid point of the program (7).
Yaajeende’s numerous successes recently garnered it a two-year extension to 2017, and its implementers are touting it as an example of how effective community level interventions can be in improving agriculture, nutrition, and health outcomes for women (8). CLUSA has reason to be proud of itself: it reports a child stunting decrease of 36%, a tripling of children under 2 who are deemed to be achieving a minimally acceptable diet (to a meager 40%), and that 73% of households now receive a dietary score of “high”.
There is still considerable work to be done, but Yaajeende’s strategy is working, and should be studied by others in the international aid community. Local level encouragement of conscientious entrepreneurship, combined with education on nutrition and better agriculture, is an effective way to improve the lives of the world’s most impoverished rural populations, and ought to be further pursued by governments and NGOs.
(1) “Feed the Future: 2015 Year in Review.” Feed the Future. Web. 28 June 2016.
(2) “Project Profile: USAID Yaajeende Agriculture and Nutrition Development Program for Food Security in Senegal.” National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International. Web. 28 June 2016.
(3) “The World Factbook: Senegal.” Central Intelligence Agency. 16 June 2016. Web. 28 June 2016.
(4) “Yaajeende Community Based Solution Providers.” US Agency for International Development. 22 June 2016. Web. 28 June 2016.
(5) “Yaajeende Agricultural Development Project Mid-Term Performance Evaluation.” US Agency for International Development. 9 June 2014. Web. 28 June 2016.
(6) “Audit of USAID/Senegal’s Yaajeende Agricultural Development Program.” Office of Inspector General, US Agency for International Development. 8 August 2014. Web. 28 June 2016.
(7) “You ARE what you EAT – Nutrition Led Agriculture in Senegal.” Seed-Africa.org. 5 May 2014. Web. 28 June 2016.
(8) “Project Profile: USAID Yaajeende Food Security and Nutrition Program.” NCBA CLUSA. Web. 28 June 2016.
Image: © David Snyder | Dreamstime.com - <a href="https://www.dreamstime.com/stock-image-female-farmer-zimbabwe-image7883881#res14972580">Female Farmer in Zimbabwe</a>
Rye is a senior at the University of Southern California earning a B.A. with a double major in International Relations and Economics, while also earning a specialization in Computer Programming through the school of engineering's Information Technology Program. He is heavily interested in international politics, economics, diplomacy, and law. Rye plans to attend law school with an eye on a future career as a lawyer in the realm of international trade and business. He has interned with Sandia National Laboratories for 2 years as a Foreign Policy Analyst supporting the Nonproliferation Research and Development Group, with specific work regarding the JCPOA with Iran and US-Russia Arms Control. Rye grew up in a boisterous household in New Mexico and loves hiking, camping, and any physical activity outdoors.