USAID, Corteva sign memorandum as part of private sector engagement strategy

Members of Tuamini farmers group of Njia Panda village in Mafinga, Tanzania, undergo practical orientation in integrated pest management. Photo by: Feed The Future / USAID

WASHINGTON — The United States Agency for International Development and Corteva Agriscience signed a memorandum of understanding to expand collaboration on scaling agricultural technology to smallholder farmers in Africa, as part of the agency’s focus on increasing private sector partnerships.

USAID Administrator Mark Green said the five-year partnership will allow both Feed the Future — the U.S. government's global hunger and food security initiative — and Corteva to make progress toward goals they wouldn’t be able to reach alone.

“USAID brings to the table our ability to mobilize and catalyze private capital and de-risk investment,” Green said at a recent signing ceremony in Washington, D.C. “Corteva brings unparalleled technical expertise and innovative approaches that help smallholder farmers become more productive and, yes, more self-reliant.”

Corteva, the spinoff agriculture division of DowDuPont, has a presence in 131 countries and is expected to be a separate company by mid-2019. It is one of about a dozen companies that USAID anticipates partnering with in the short term to get their products into developing country markets. Negotiations with other companies are underway, with a focus on getting U.S. products into foreign markets and on getting the right technology to farmers that need it.

USAID has signed memorandums with private sector companies in the past, some of which are country and crop specific. This memorandum will focus on expanding access to improved seeds, crop protection, and digital products; improving the regulatory environment for smallholder farmers to gain access to such technology; and empowering women farmers.

USAID and Corteva will also work together on research pursuing seeds that are resistant to climate variabilities as well as improving the nutritional value of crops.

One focus of the partnership will be combatting Fall armyworm, found across Africa and which has recently spread to India, said James Collins, who will head up Corteva when the company separates next year.

“I know we can fix it today with tools we have today. We don’t have to go invent something five years from now,” Collins said. “The urgency to work in that space is certainly very well felt by our team. This is something that affects billions of dollars of production and certainly nutrition across the content.”

Green said past USAID partnership with DuPont Pioneer in Ethiopia led to demonstrable improvement of smallholder yields, leading to a tripling of the corn output of 250,000 Ethiopian farmers. That pilot, the “Advanced Maize Seed Adoption Program,” will be used as a basis for creating new country-level implementation that improves access to seed- and crop-protection technologies.  

According to Feed the Future, there were more than 800 million hungry people worldwide in 2017. The U.S. initiative to combat global hunger currently partners with more than 60 U.S.-based companies to help them understand the navigation of operations in developing countries and new markets, and connect smallholder farmers to markets and innovative finance.

The memorandum aims to increase smallholder farmer access to credit and financial services by working with the newly created U.S. development finance corporation, 

“Our collaboration will help ensure that developing countries will have better access to America's greatest agricultural innovations and technologies,” Green said. “Innovations like advanced seeds and better harvest storage. American businesses will have more predictable, profitable access to new and growing markets for their products and services.”

USAID plans to work with Corteva on existing agency projects as well as collaborating on future opportunities. The memorandum doesn’t contain any financial commitments on behalf of either entity and does not legally bind them from entering into contracts.

The agency expects to announce more details of its private-sector engagement policy in the coming weeks.

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    Teresa Welsh

    Teresa Welsh is a reporter with Devex based in Washington, D.C. Prior to joining Devex, Teresa wrote about Latin America from McClatchy's Washington Bureau and covered foreign affairs for U.S. News and World Report. She worked as a reporter in Colombia, where she previously lived teaching English. Teresa earned bachelor of arts degrees in journalism and Latin American studies from the University of Wisconsin.