ADMINISTRATOR POWER: Good morning everyone, and thank you, Sunday, for that introduction. It’s been the highlight of my trip to Zambia so far to hear about all that Good Nature Agro has accomplished in the fight against food insecurity and poverty, and thank you for the tour of the warehouse. I can honestly say, I’ve learned more about legumes than I ever thought I would!
It was also wonderful to speak with Samson Nyendwa from Corteva Agriscience. Samson and his team work closely with USAID and our coalition of private sector partners to provide smallholder farmers with healthy seeds, fertilizers, and pesticides, while also working with global NGOs and partners like John Deere to increase access to updated farming equipment. Thank you for being here Samson.
It was a pleasure to meet the rest of the Good Nature team, and I was fortunate enough to hear a little bit about how they got started.
Back in 2014, Sunday Silungwe, Carl Jensen, and Kellen Hayes started Good Nature Agro to solve a problem: 90 percent of the food in Zambia is produced by smallholder farmers. But they lacked access to good, high quality seeds that could reliably produce what they expected.
So Sunday, Carl, and Kellen founded a business to produce seeds. They started by recruiting commercial farmers to grow key legumes like soybeans, groundnuts, beans, and cowpeas—crops that reduce the need for nitrogen fertilizer and actually replenish the soil, and whose seeds can then be sold to smallholder farmers.
Of course in Zambia, a healthy seed is half the battle. If their harvest was successful, farmers rarely had means of storing and selling their crop, and lacked access to capital or lending to pursue upgrades. So Good Nature Agro sought to address those problems too. They gave each of their partner farmers a customized package of agricultural inputs tailored to meet their individual farming needs—and they gave them access to the financing to help them produce as many seeds as possible.
But it doesn’t stop with a packet. Throughout their time with Good Nature, in both the growing season and off-season, farmers receive advice and assistance from a network of agents. And they get access to competitive markets where they can sell the seeds that they’ve harvested, resulting in profits that are higher than what they could achieve elsewhere.
In 2017, we at USAID took notice of Good Nature’s success. Through Feed the Future, the U.S. Government’s principal food security program, we gave Good Nature a grant of less than $500,000.
And with that relatively modest investment, Good Nature used it to launch a new program, Good Nature Source, to provide the same services they give to commercial seed growers—customized inputs, financing, agricultural extension services, and a guaranteed market to sell their output—to smallholder farmers.
In just a few short years, and with a little jumpstart from USAID, Good Nature has helped to feed literally millions of Zambians and established an entire network of farmers who made enough money to escape poverty and enter the middle class.
Good Nature is such a strong testament as to why private sector engagement is crucial. As much as I wish we could, the United States cannot tackle the problem of global food security alone. The commitment and resources it will take to tackle food insecurity here in Zambia is going to take far more than government assistance alone.
Before the war in Ukraine, more than 1.2 million Zambians were food insecure, and that number is surely higher now with skyrocketing food, fertilizer and fuel prices.
The United States understands the acute needs and unpredictable repercussions stemming from the war in Ukraine, so with our allies in Congress, we are pledging an additional $9 million to immediately address the high cost of fuel, fertilizer and food in Zambia.
But Zambia’s potential is such that we must not only work to overcome this crisis, but bet on the country’s future as an agricultural power. Zambia can not only grow enough food to feed its people—it already grows 84 percent of calories consumed in the country—it can become a leading exporter of food across its eight regional neighbors.
As we know, Good Nature Agro is embracing this opportunity, marshaling our support and that of other partners and investors to generate new and creative solutions that will help meet the needs of the people of Zambia and beyond.
And USAID is eagerly looking for the next Good Nature throughout Zambia, so that in this time of crisis, we can stretch our development dollars to tackle food insecurity.
A few weeks ago, in partnership with the U.S Development Finance Corporation, we launched a $20 million loan guarantee with ABSA Bank that will spur them to extend badly needed credit for small and medium-sized enterprises that are advancing food security and climate solutions in the agriculture, manufacturing, tourism, and clean cooking sectors, with a specific focus to lend to underrepresented borrowers.
This partnership will lead to further investments into agribusinesses throughout Zambia that will bolster food production domestically while providing high-value exports to surrounding neighbors.
And I’m pleased to announce that today, USAID will launch a new, $30 million trade and investment program that we are calling TradeBoost Zambia. This program is designed to bring expertise to Zambian agricultural enterprises to help them boost their productivity and fuel regional exports. Though we’re launching this program today, this work is already beginning. We crafted export deals with two Zambian trading companies––Zdenakie and NewGrowCo––to provide Kenya and Rwanda with 17,500 metric tons of Zambian-grown maize and soybeans valued at $8.5 million. By next week, at least 1,300 metric tons will be exported to East Africa, with the ambition to move an additional 30,000 metric tons of grain.
TradeBoost is also making deals to expand other agricultural sectors that have the potential to produce high-value exports.
In partnership with the South African investment company Foxfin, we will make an investment in Zambia’s growing macadamia nut sector. Because of a $200,000 investment from USAID, Foxfin has committed $4.5 million to purchase a 165 hectare farm and build an irrigation system, install solar panels, and plant 45,000 macadamia nut trees, creating nearly 100 jobs, more than three-quarters of them designated specifically for women.
Here in Zambia, women make up over half of the rural labor market, but entrenched social norms have locked them out of not just employment, but accessing the tools they need to start their own business.
With the support of our allies in Congress, we plan to launch a five-year, $14 million Business Enabling Project, focused on making it easier for women to start businesses. Through this effort, we will work with key ministries within the Zambian government to break-down structural barriers that inhibit womens’ ability to access capital, legal services, marketing assistance and digital tools they need to start competitive businesses.
And earlier this week, President Biden announced that the U.S will expand our Feed the Future initiative—the U.S. government’s landmark food security initiative—to eight new target countries, including Zambia. As a Feed the Future focus country, our teams will work with Zambia to identify targets and goals for its agricultural sector and provide increased levels of data collection and market analysis that we can use to drive more and more effective private and public investment.
In the coming months the global fight against food insecurity will be daunting, no doubt. All told, the world will invest billions to attend to the emergency humanitarian needs that are spiraling around the world in dozens of countries.
But what Good Nature’s success demonstrates is that ingenuity exists throughout our world to end global hunger and drive agricultural productivity. With just a little effort—a small grant or loan at the right time, the right connections, a dose of expertise, a better enabling environment, or access to new markets—that ingenuity can quickly be harnessed to feed millions of people, and help smallholder farmers escape lives of grinding poverty.
Thank you, and with that, I look forward to your questions.