From a USAID press release, “USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah Announces 20 Feed the Future Initiative Focus Countries“:
In 2008, the Lancet identified just 36 countries that are home to 90 percent of all children whose growth was stunted for lack of adequate food. Based on this global burden of undernutrition and other criteria that examined the prevalence and dynamics of poverty, country commitment, and opportunities for agriculture-led growth, the 20 Feed the Future focus countries are: Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia in Africa; Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal, Tajikistan in Asia; and Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, and, Nicaragua in Latin America.
These countries experience chronic hunger and poverty in rural areas and are particularly vulnerable to food price shocks. At the same time, they demonstrate potential for rapid and sustainable agriculture-led growth, good governance, and opportunities for regional coordination through trade and other mechanisms. USAID will work with strategic partners Brazil, India, Nigeria, and South Africa to harness the power of regional coordination and influence in these focus countries.
Certainly it is encouraging that USAID finds Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Rwanda to present potential for rapid improvement–and perhaps the potential of the EAC itself is significant to this. The listing is also a good reminder for Kenya that in spite of its significantly higher level of aggregate and per capita GDP, and overall growth, rural hunger remains all too common. While this seems a constructive approach for USAID, I am skeptical that donors will change the situation dramatically in Kenya until Kenya’s leaders share the priority to a greater extent than they have seemed to in recent years.