USAID announced an expansion of the Feed the Future Innovation Labs network – including two new Innovations Labs and a new research collaboration – for a total of 17 Innovation Labs across the United States. Feed the Future, the U.S. government’s global hunger and food security initiative, will utilize these critical investments to broaden research and innovation to strengthen small-scale farmers’ resilience to climate change and other shocks. Feed the Future Deputy Coordinator and Assistant to the Administrator for Resilience, Environment, and Food Security Dina Esposito made the announcement today at the World Food Prize.
This expansion, over five years, includes up to $37 million for a new Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Climate Resilient Cereals, led by Kansas State University, and up to $40 million for a new Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Irrigation and Mechanization Systems, led by the University of Nebraska subject to the availability of funds. Additionally, two existing Feed the Future Innovation Labs – the Livestock Systems Innovation Lab, led by the University of Florida, and the Animal Health Innovation Lab, led by Washington State University – have teamed up to work on a nearly $2 million initiative over three years to explore One Health Approaches to Mitigate Brucellosis, a globally widespread zoonotic disease that affects both livestock and humans.
The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Climate Resilient Cereals will work to develop new climate-resilient varieties of cereal crops such as rice, wheat, sorghum, and millet. Climate change and extreme weather conditions such as drought and excessive heat negatively affect crop yields, particularly for smallholder farmers who depend solely on rain to water their crops. With more than 60 percent of the world’s cereal grains produced by rain-fed agriculture, advancing this work is critical to generate a pipeline of climate adapted varieties for current and future needs. The Climate Resilient Cereals Lab will work with USAID’s country partners to focus on meeting the unique needs of small-scale farmers, as well as the needs of women and youth, who typically have limited access to innovations and technology.
The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Irrigation and Mechanization Systems will research improvements in irrigation, mechanization, and water resource management systems for small-scale farmers. In sub-Saharan Africa, the majority of farm households rely on manual labor, with only 3.5 percent of agricultural land irrigated and less than two tractors for every 2,500 acres. The Irrigation and Mechanization Systems Lab will support farmers to identify suitable technologies and access services which are proven to boost yields and use water more efficiently. As a result, farmers can grow more food and earn greater income, thus strengthening their resilience to shocks and spurring broader economic growth.
The One Health Approaches to Mitigate Brucellosis initiative is a collaborative effort between the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Livestock Systems and the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Animal Health to better understand how this infectious disease is spread in East Africa and to identify effective, locally-adaptable, and gender-responsive control strategies. Brucellosis infections in livestock cause devastating losses for pastoralists and small-scale farmers, including up to a 30 percent reduction in fertility and milk production. More than 500,000 new cases of brucellosis are also reported in humans each year, typically affecting those who consume unpasteurized milk and work around livestock. Through this work, USAID will support small-scale farmers with approaches to mitigate threats to both their livelihoods and health.